Over the next year I'll be working with fellow Bay Area theatre artist, Stuart Bousel, to create a stage adaptation of Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh. He'll be adapting the book into a script and I'll be directing the production itself. Reading the book and listening to Kristin Hersh's music is making me rethink my own relationship with music and the creation of art.
This weekend I had the unbelievable luck to hear my play The Carmine Lie read out loud with an audience thanks to Performers Under Stress (also known as PUS). PUS describes themselves as:
"...composed of Scott Baker, Valerie Fachman and Charles Pike, with help from other
performers and technicians. PUS concentrates on barebones productions of Samuel
Beckett’s works, re-imagined selected classics, and projects of our own
creations. PUS is dedicated to explore the unknown, the undocumented, the
unspoken, and the unexpected." I can also tell you they are kind, energetic, intelligent and creative artists. Valerie and Scott have been so supportive of me and my work over the last few years. I owe them a great debt. Not to mention one of my favorite moments in theatre is in large part due to Scott who stood up after a production of "Oily Replies" and yelled "FUCK YEAH!"
The Carmine Lie is a complicated play and possibly overly ambitious for my mean talents, but it has been a fulfilling project since its first yellow pad scratchings in the summer of 2003. I worked on the play all through graduate school where I turned it in as my thesis in 2006. I worked on it for two more years as I put the poor thing through the submission process, but having no bites I put it back into a drawer. A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine, Neil Higgins, asked if I had any plays hanging about ready for a reading he was directing for PUS. On a whim I sent him Carmine and in the space of what seemed like a blink, I found myself sitting in The Garage performance space listening to ghosts of my writing past replaying my memories for me. And somewhere in the background, I could hear a song playing too.
Often when I write there's a song that seems to match the process or the characters or the mood of the piece of writing. When I was re-writing Water Line Mumford and Son's "White Blank Page" fit the mood and the theme. Found Objects was retitled as It Ain't Me specifically because Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" was the only thing playing in my ears during that process.
For The Carmine Lie it was Tori Amos's "Marianne" off of Boys for Pele. The play had been created out of a curiosity to investigate the lives of runaways who traveled to Peru to poach Carmine bugs. The initial scenes centered around a young woman who was such a runaway. Slowly the play started turning and it became about the family that the runaway had left behind and what it meant to know a "missing" person. Somewhere around that time I purchased Boys for Pele and began listening to it on a loop. I was drawn to Tori Amos's use of Christian imagery, the sexual tones, and her almost dada use of language as well as her piano playing.
But one song in particular stuck out. "Marianne" was a quiet and haunting tune that resonated deeply with me. I'm not going to lie, it's a weird song. Most of the time the words seem to be just sounds that fit the music more then they have meaning. But what I took from the song was a mourning of a deep and personal friendship that was now gone. It felt like the song of a survivor who was haunted by the good memories while everyone around her focused on the tragedy. I named my missing character after the Marianne in the song.
After the reading I left with a heavy work list and a real excitement to think about the play again. I also left knowing the girl who started writing The Carmine Lie didn't exist any more. I feel like an outsider to my own memories. It's possible I'm not going to be mourning the girl who was Marianne, but the girl I was when I created her.
a little blubber in my igloo
and I knew you pigtails and all
girls when they fall
and they said Marianne killed herself
and I said not a chance
don't you love girls ladies babes
old bags who say she was so pretty why
why why why did she crawl down in the old
c'mon pigtails girls and all those sailors
get your bags and hold down won't you just
hold down cause Ed is watching my every sound
they're watching my every sound
the weasal sqeuaks faster then a seven day week
I said Timmy and that purple Monkey
are all down
at Bobby's house
making themselves persters and lesters and jesters and my
traitors of kind
and I'm just having thoughts of Marianne
she could outrun the fastest slug
quickest girl in the frying pan
- From "Marianne" by Tori Amos