Letter as Plot Device

I am curious how people manage to keep parallel projects going. How to keep interest in something when you aren’t actually obsessed.

There are stories I keep returning to. That lie in the back of my mind waiting to be picked-up and made real. I am afraid of many of them. Like Doctor Frankenstein: What if my creatures are twisted mistakes.

If you love something enough it becomes real. And it lasts for always. There’s a lesson that has stuck. An academic lesson in one sense, but in another the truth of devotion. I have been devoted to an idea or a perspective and it has become real in every sense that matters. These are the monsters in my writing room.

Always question our gurus. External and internal. Be no more devoted to them as you are to the oxpeckers with their good intentions and singular focus.

The artistic director is on board with my project of sampling Shakespeare. I don’t see it as being any less respectful than a total modernizing of the language. I am making no absurd claims of authorship of the original text. I could argue I am picking up Shakespeare’s own practice of “lifting” from other works.

The theater website has published my working title – but not my logline. Am I writing an adaptation, or am I writing a play that expands on the original work? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead isn’t considered an adaptation of Hamlet. I’ve seen it described as a parody. And as a play that expands on minor characters. But the themes are entirely different. The purpose of the storytelling almost unrelated. I am working more closely tied to the moral to the legend, and the play. At least as I understand them/it.

People I have talked to who “know” the play say that I’m an idiot and the play is all about Lear “going mad”. Is it? It makes me wonder what the real definition of drama is. I mean, I am reading through the dramaturgy books on my shelf and all – but in layman’s terms, as the dictionary describes it, a drama can be “an emotional event”. But an event is not a story. Dramaturgy is sometimes simply defined as the structuring of the events in a story. In the first scene, Lear’s daughters say that their father in “[…] the best and soundest of his time hath been but rash. Then must we look from his age to receive not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition..” So the audience witness irrational behavior and then is told that this is nothing new. Lear slides in and out of his rational mind.

But Lear is the storm that knocks everything around him out of orbit. Gloucester loves him and, being the kind of man who follows his desires rather than his contracts, he destroys himself by loving him. It’s kind of his pattern. Gloucester’s story is tragic. His love child is his demise. And the son he sired out of obligation (whom he describes as a son “by order of law” -thus not desire) suffers, too, but overcomes it all to lead the next generation into future. For all the bawdy laughs and lusty language, Shakespeare moralized an awful lot. In another package, I wonder if we would swallow it.

A bit like the letter tropes, really.

I am in no way criticizing Shakespeare – just as not being able to figure out how any of the characters in The Bacchae fit the role of academic “rules” of a tragic figure is a criticism of Euripides. It is all about play – rules as tools – and different perspectives on familiar stories. Not even Euripides handled the actual gods with god-like reverence. Thank god. I sometimes wonder what Shakespeare would have done had the Queen not said that religious stories were forbidden. What plays are we missing out on? How would he have his cake and eat it too in our day and age?

Having said that – that is not at all what I am trying to do. Maybe I identify too much with the batshit crazy side of Lear – the shitty parent – to want to go there.

I have fallen in love with Edmund, in a way. At least, developed a kind of devotion to him. Now her. This is her coming of age story.

Oh, and Oswald. It was my son’s suggestion that Oswald should be a teenager. They won’t make it through, I’m afraid. No “coming of age”. Or will their be a kind of death-bed-quantum-leap into maturity? Oh, who knows.

But I’ll be damned if they are going to fob off a letter as their dying gesture.

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