Sally Potter’s YES (Potter Wrote the Entire Thing In Iambic Pentameter)

Self’s favorite scene in the movie is when SHE (played by Joan Allen) goes to visit her dying aunt in a hospital in Belfast.

Aunt:

The thing is, no-one told
Me I’d have all this time, but far too late
To use it for the things I dreamed of. Fate
Delivers upside down and back to front.
I’ve more to say than ever, but they shunt
Me back and forth all day from bed to chair
And back to bed again; it isn’t fair.
All this experience I’d like to share.
Not that it all adds up. Not that you care.
I’d better stop — it’s time for you to go
Already, isn’t it? Five minutes — oh,
Well maybe ten . . . you see, I never know
When you’ll be here again. It’s such a blow
Each time you leave, it’s hardly worth your while
To come at all. I mean it! Don’t you smile
Like that! Oh, you’ll be sorry when I’m dead.
I’m only joking, dear. I only said
That for a laugh. Although of course it’s true.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Most Amazing

The London Review Bookshop has a film club. Once a month, they show a film, and bring in the director for Q & A. When self was there, earlier this year, she caught a showing of Sally Potter’s Yes.

The entire film is told in iambic pentameter. Self gets goosebumps just remembering. She asked Sally Potter at the reception: “Is the screenplay available?” When Sally said yes, self wanted to do cartwheels. As soon as she could, she ordered a copy of the screenplay.

The heart of the movie is a woman played by a luminous Joan Allen. She visits a dying aunt in Belfast. The SHE in the excerpt below is Joan Allen’s character. The setting is a hospital:

Aunt:

You’re late again. Don’t worry. Never mind.
I know you’re busy. It’s the kind
Of life you lead. But then you chose it, so
I guess you want it. Always to and fro,
You never stop.

SHE tiptoes into the ward and stands looking down at her aunt who lies immobile, her eyes closed, in the bed.

Aunt (cont’d):

Unlike myself. I’m here
To stay. For just how long, who knows. I fear
It could be ages. It creeps up on you,
This funny business. First a creak or two,
Your knees, perhaps, and — bingo! — then you’re old
And in a bed.

SHE kisses her aunt’s forehead gently, pulls up a chair and sits down by the bed.

She (whispering):

Oh, auntie . . .

When you’re watching the film, you’re aware of the rhyme, but instead of distracting you, it helps you concentrate. Amaaaaazing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What Is Life But a Bowl of Cherries

  • Let’s celebrate the cherries on top! — Michelle W., The Daily Post

The good news: self was back in London in the spring. The Cherry on Top? She was there during the week of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Just look at the fresh flowers framing the entrance to the Bloomsbury Hotel!

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The Bloomsbury Hotel, London: May 2016

The good news was: Self was in Philo, CA. She found a small market that sold delicious potato salad. And the cherry on top? The ceiling lights were things of beauty. From a glass studio in Fort Bragg, the checkout lady told self:

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Ceiling Light, Lemon’s Philo Market, California

The good news was: self was spending another winter in Mendocino, CA. The cherry on top is that she got to see “Quills,” a play about Marquis de Sade, performed by members of the local community (It was a very entertaining production!)

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“Quills,” a drama about Marquis de Sade

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIND: Sylvain Landry – Week 46

Saw “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Globe this evening, accompanied by Joan McGavin.

What. A. Fantastic. Production. Self can’t even.

The setting was modernized to Ireland, 1916, and the Irish music was so lively and helped keep up the tempo of the production.

The actress who usually plays the lead was “indisposed,” so the role of Catherine/Kat was played by the understudy. Who was terrific.

At the intermission, self went outside to look at the view.

There was a stiff wind.

Good thing she remembered the Sylvain Landry Photo prompt this week: WIND.

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View From Behind the Globe Theatre: 1 June 2016. Self and Joan McGavin watched “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

SPARE: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 27 May 2016

Spare landscapes are often quite beautiful in their minimalism (if you choose to look)

— Krista, The Daily Post

Below are a few pictures that struck me as evocative of this week’s theme, SPARE:

Self took a walking tour of Oxford, day before yesterday. The quadrangles in front of the main buildings are surprisingly spare: free of fountains and monuments. Pristine.

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The building used to house Oxford University Press.

The India House was of course a very important building, especially during the days of the British Empire. With true British understatement, there are no signs indicating the building’s historice function: only the elephant on the weathervane:

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Weathervane on top of India House, Oxford, UK

Finally, the Weston Library is a moden structure directly across the street from the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Oxford. The facade is spare, with one banner announcing the current exhibit (in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death): Shakespeare’s Dead:

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A banner announces the Weston Library’s current exhibit.

Hope these are suitable examples of SPARE.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death (3 May 1616)

It is also the 400th Anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’s death, what a coincidence!

Seriously mind-blowing.

Self is in Oxford. She went racing to Victoria Bus Station two days ago, lugging the Mother of All Suitcases, only to find that the bus she had tickets for had left at 1:30 a.m. She got in line at the ticket booth (30 minutes wait) and then explained to the lady that she was from America, she made a terrible mistake, she was aiming for 1:30 p.m., not 1:30 a.m. The woman was so kind, and put self on the 1 p.m. bus. She also booked self’s return trip: 15:30. “That’s 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “All right?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry to be such a stupid American!

The last time self was in Oxford was to attend the Saboteur Awards, which were held in a tavern. That was a fun time. She was a finalist in the novella category.

That was two years ago. How quickly time flies! Of course, she did not win, but it was such an honor just to be a finalist.

Yesterday, self went to a fabulous open-air market on Gloucester Green, and then she caught the last showing of Captain America: Civil War at the Odeon. What a great movie. Sorry, but Marvel cornered all the sass: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle,. The women are great actresses: Scarjo, Ellen Van Kamp, Elizabeth Olsen. (Not that J-Law isn’t. Self loves J-Law. And also Sophie Turner).

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, though, she thinks that Fox should really do their utmost to hang on to Evan Peters(Quicksilver), as he is the only element in their whole Brit-actors-chewing-scenery cinematic universe who is capable of delivering sass on the level of, say, Robert Downey, Jr. And Lord knows, the X-Men could do with a bit more sass.

Now, where was she?

Oh, right, Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary! So, she has determined that she must see at least one thing today that is connected to Shakespeare. As it would be pretty lame of to leave Oxford having only seen Captain America: Civil War.

She does a little internet search and finds that there are quite a number of Shakespeare exhibits in Oxford, operating concurrently. Mama Mia! What an absolute plethora of riches!

She’s going to spend the entire day rushing from one exhalted library to another.

Starting with the Weston. Because the Weston has, in addition to an exhibit on Shakespeare, a map of Middle Earth, annotated by Tolkien himself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day 2: Sir Tyrone Guthrie Himself

Self owes so much to the dear fellow, who passed away in 1971.

She learned he was an only child, he used to spend childhood summers right here in Annaghmakerrig (His mother was a grand-daughter of Tyrone Power, Hollywood matinee idol). His paternal great-grandfather was Dr. Thomas Guthrie of Edinburgh.

While rooting around in the bookcase in her unit (Self loves how there is always a different collection of books. She thinks her first time to visit the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, she was in Unit #3. Last year, she was in Unit # 2. This year, she’s in Unit # 1), she discovered:

TOP OF THE LADDER

A Play

by Tyrone Guthrie

The main character is a man. His name is Bertie. He is not much described in the stage notes. Surprisingly, much more time is devoted to the women characters. For instance, this is said about Katie, Bertie’s wife (Excerpt from the stage directions):

Of the women, Katie is the most difficult part because she covers far the widest emotional range. Some of her scenes are rather satirically written, but the actress must be careful to present a brief for, and not against, her character. She must be silly, but an endearing silly, and not an irritating one.

Then there is Mookie, Bertie’s old nurse:

Mookie embodies some such personification of Nursehood as Mother Earth or Dame Nature: her work with scissors and thread is intended to relate her to the Three Fates.

Fascinating, wouldn’t you agree?

Stay tuned.

New York: Highline and Chelsea

Still looking for landscapes.

Here are pictures self took during a memorable walk on New York City’s Highline, December 2015:

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Near the Start of the Highline, on a cold December Day

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Still Near the Start of the Highline

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Near the Start of the Highline, on a cold December Day

And here are things she loved about New York during her Fall 2015 sojourn:

  • The Asian American Writers Workshop
  • The Whitney
  • The Highline
  • Therese Raquin with Keira Knightley
  • Seeing Penny
  • Seeing Luis and Midori
  • Seeing the Picasso exhibit in the MOMA
  • Catching a concert of Trio Solisti at Carnegie Hall
  • Watching Mamie Gummer’s scorching performan in Ugly to the Bone
  • Seeing nephew Chris Blackett and watching movies with him and reading his novel-in-progress
  • Eating Cuban in Hoboken, New Jersey
  • Walking around Central Park
  • Mockingjay 2 in the Lincoln Center Cinema
  • Losing self’s wallet twice and having it returned to her twice — nothing missing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Emma Rice, Artistic Director Designate, The Globe Theatre, London

“Being childlike is underrated. It takes commitment.”

— Emma Rice

Short Stories, Plays, Process: An Interview With Playwright Penny Jackson

Penny and self have been friends for a long, long, long time. Since before either of us were even married.

Self remembers having Penny over to her little one-bedroom in Menlo Park. She met Thomas, Penny’s then-boyfriend, soon-to-be-husband.

We were in the Stanford Creative Writing Program together. Penny lived in the City. She hitched rides to the writing workshops with Jeffrey Eugenides and his dog. They split on the gas.

In recent years, Penny has been writing plays at a terrific rate. Her most recent production was during last fall’s Solo Festival in New York City.

Self wrangled an interview out of Penny. No mean feat, as Penny is terrifically busy. Here are some of her answers to self’s questions:

What attracts you to playwriting as a form as opposed to, say, writing a novel or a short story? What was the first genre you started writing?

I first began writing stories when I was in college (Barnard). I am very comfortable with writing in short forms, and I have adapted three of my plays from three stories, All Alices, Louise in Charlestown, and Before, which have worked very well onstage. Although I wrote a novel, Becoming the Butlers (published by Bantam when Penny was a 20-something), I find writing a novel to be more challenging. Keeping track of the plot and characters over a length of time is difficult. Perhaps I like playwriting now because each scene is like a short story to me, with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say I won’t return to novel writing. I still love fiction writing, and unlike playwriting, you have a sense of control you have to somewhat relinquish when you hand your play over to your director and actors.

Are there conditions that need to be present before you feel you can write your best?

Absolute quiet and no distractions. I joined The Writers Room, which provides a haven for writers. I wish sometimes that the Internet did not exist. When I was at MacDowell, there was no Internet, and I could really focus.

What keeps you writing?

The world. I am inspired all the time by the news and what I see in the city and hear from my friends. I write to be able to understand the complexities, the unfairness, and also the joys of life. If I didn’t write, I think I would go a bit crazy. I hear the same sentiment from actors: if they don’t act, they can’t handle the world. Right now I’m sick about the gun violence in our country, and writing about the issue really helped me with my sadness and disgust at our politicians.

What is the biggest difference between playwriting now and playwriting when you were just starting out? Does it get easier? Why or why not?

Playwriting is becoming somewhat easier. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with several brilliant directors, actors, and dramaturges. I understand the form better now. What is not easier is finding a theatre to produce your plays if you are a female writer who is not a recent Yale graduate. Ageism and sexism very much exist in theatres, when I began and still today.

Do you experiment with form and/or dialogue? Who or what inspires you?

Because I’m trained in fiction writing, which is character-based, I always begin with people. An old lady drinking in a decrepit Irish bar. Two teenage girls talking to a mysterious older man at Starbucks. A drag queen waiting for his show in Las Vegas and having to talk to his daughter about marriage.

I love dialogue. I write down snippets of dialogue I overhear in the streets of New York City all the time. And if you follow me on Facebook, you can frequently read about remarkable conversations with New York cab drivers.

In your opinion, what is the best play ever written?

I am a huge Eugene O’Neill fanatic, so I will say Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Family secrets and family guilt and pure poetic language. But of course, King Lear is top of the canon. King Lear howling about his dead daughter still takes my breath away.

Which playwright has taught you the most about your craft?

Rogelio Martinez is a wonderful playwright who has taught me so many important aspects about playwriting. I also love the Lark Development Center which gives you the space and time to try out new works in a safe environment.

Did you have a mentor? Do you think playwrights need one?

Yes, having a mentor is important. So many women directors have been my mentors: Joan Kane, Gloria Kadigan, and Shira-Lee Shalit are three tremendously talented women artists who inspire and instruct me. Writing is a very lonely business. You need a cheerleader!

What’s the worst thing about being a playwright?

That it’s just too damn expensive to produce a play in America. Unlike Europe, we don’t have government funding for theatre. The costs are astronomical. As a female playwright, I face other challenges. Walk down Broadway or The West End. Do you see any female playwrights on the marquee? My organization, The League of Professional Theatre Women, is working so hard for gender equality in theatre, but it’s a very long, frustrating, and seemingly endless battle.

 

 

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