a history of (dis)belief

So I’m writing this play that has Jeremiah in it, something that I started writing little bits of over the summer, and I found this thing that I wrote that I like a lot but won’t be able to use exactly in the play simple because it is too personal, too specific to me to be applied to someone else, even if there’s a lot of myself in this character.  But I want to keep it… for future reference…  so I’m sticking it up here.

You know, back when I was religious, you were one of my favorite prophets.  

I guess because you were what I thought a prophet ultimately was supposed to be.  Your entire life, you know?  The fact that you suffered so much, from all sides, from carrying what you knew was the truth to these people who hated you for it, and worse than hating you, they didn’t believe you, so they ran to the destruction you saw so clearly despite of, or maybe because of, everything you tried to do.  And even worse, you weren’t even really given hope that anyone would listen, were you?  When you got the truth, you got the whole truth.  He didn’t keep anything from you, even to make things easier.  So… uncompromising.  So… unmerciful.
But you stuck with it.  Maybe you didn’t have much of a choice, but you stuck with it, and you stayed mostly sane.  Despite knowing all of the terrible things that would happen, to you and to everyone and to the city, and then seeing them happen.  You had such sadness, who couldn’t have such sadness, seeing their entire world destroyed, and you suffered so much, but you still had faith.  You still had the truth burning in you.  And sometimes I want that, I want that truth that isn’t mitigated or muddied or softened, I want that knowledge and firebrand certainty instead of all of this… equivocation, even if it means I suffer, even if it means that people think I’ve gone mad, even if it means that I do go mad, I want a faith that has that power, that life, even if it means that there’s pain.

My parents raised me Presbyterian?  I’m not even sure if I know what that means exactly.  It seems like the more religions schisms there are, the further they get from what they’re meant to be, you know?  There’s no fire in Prebyterianism, at least not anymore.  That doesn’t mean that I think burning people at the stake should come back, or anything like that, but, well, I want something that’s not so… pedestrian.  My church, or really, the church my parents go to, the church my parents took me to, talks about “nurturing faith that works in everyday life,” but isn’t that the exact opposite of what faith should be?  Religion is the emergence, or the emergency, of the incredible, the whirlwind, the divine, the breaking open of “everyday life,” the life that is not everyday.  And no, you can’t build a, a capital campaign, or a government, or any sort of establishment on that.  You were never supposed to.  I always thought that religious faith should be like art.  They share the word inspiration, don’t they?  Something vitally necessary, something that startles us, that is unlike any other part of our life because of its intensity.  

And when I was younger, much, much younger, I think I had some of that spark in me, but more than a spark, a fire that lasted.  I believed in God.  Not just that he existed, but that he was good, that he was trustworthy.  That ultimately everything had a reason, everything made sense, because he was in charge, and he was good.  I had faith in him, like I would a person.  A person that I trusted to take care of me.

But then – I was fourteen, or nearly – then I fell in love, in stupid unrequited love for the first time, and that fell apart.  Because I couldn’t believe that God could do this to me, that he could make me feel this way about this person, despite me knowing that he didn’t deserve it, and not make that person feel that way about me too.  No matter what I did, no matter how I acted, or what I said, or how much I listened, he didn’t feel that way for me.  The possibility of it didn’t even cross his mind.  And I felt betrayed.  Not by the boy, but by God.  That I, who had trusted him to be good, to be kind, to make things make sense, didn’t.  Who hurt me.  

And all of this must seem so… juvenile to you, so petty.  You watched a city fall, and I was a stupid teenager who fell in love with another stupid teenager.  But even though it’s little and petty and stupid, it was my world.   


the lineage

somehow, very unexpectedly, almost inperceptibly, i have become a theater kid.

i know the steps of how it happened, but i still don’t quite understand.  i’ve always looked upon ‘the theater kids’ as a social group which, while not without its problems and dramas by any means, was both cool and largely inaccessible except through friends; i hung out with some of them sometimes because my friends from freshman year got involved in theater and knew them.  friends by proxy, if that makes sense.  guilty by association.
but then i had to fill my fine arts core, and i decided to take it with one of my favorite professors, geoff proehl, and he happened to be teaching ‘the theatrical experience.’  so i got even more caught up in the psychology of theater than i had in my brief introduction through the humanities program.  and then when it came time to sign up for courses, i was reluctant to take ‘introduction to poetry’ because so many of the intro-level creative writing teachers are iffy, and playwriting filled the same requisite…
and then at the beginning of the summer geoff emailed me saying that he was going to to teach the dramaturgy course, and that it would probably be the last chance to take it before graduation, and i couldn’t refuse an invitation like that…
and then i realized that i loved writing words for people to say, and i wrote the first draft of ataraxia…
and then i loved the dramaturgy class, writing, collaborating, acting…
and then i emailed geoff and asked if there was anything i could do to help out with the department, dramaturgy or research of just office work, and he told me to apply for theater scholarships, and i did, and i got them…
and after working on ‘one mad day,’ after seeing my play performed, i saw people acting and thought, ‘could i do that?’ and i auditioned for directing class one acts, and apparently was pretty okay…
life is weird.
I’m working on my full-length, sort of.  I’ve kinda hit a wall in writing for the moment; I know thematically how it all ties together, I just can’t get the nitty-gritties straightened out.  Here’s a little brain ramble about what I’m trying to say:
Narrator has been in an accident and is now confronted by her own subconscious that raises issues about her past, often in terms of other people’s words that she’s memorized – primary issue is the conflict of artistic vs. divine inspiration vs. maintaining either in ‘everyday life’.  Issue is first raised by the prophet Jeremiah, who suffered much for his prophetic inspiration; narrator reveals the dissatisfaction she has with the fumbling ambiguity of her own life in comparison to his, as well as her faith being shaken by falling in love; he suffered tremendously but still had contact with that unambiguous reality of Truth and God.  He quotes entirely from the Book of Jeremiah, which after a bit she recognizes, and then says the Emily Dickinson line about Art being a House that tries to be haunted.  Narrator is startled; Jeremiah exits.  
Transition of some sort that makes sense!
Next is Hamlet; Ophelia is mixed with the image/language of Dickinson as well as other troubled female poets/prophets: Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf (who also drowned herself), Sylvia Plath, as well as the narrator herself.  Begins with twist on “to be or not to be”; narrator unwillingly takes over Hamlet’s lines when Ophelia enters, turns it into an indictment of Hamlet and the men in her life in general, and urging Ophelia to leave while she still can.  
Ok, here things get a little tricky, because I really want to put in this section on Satie and I don’t know if it fits anymore.  He’s a kid that gave up everything to be an artist, essentially, and he had a very strange and very intimate relationship with God and Art and everything… and the boy she fell in/out of love with is there and they dance to Gymnopédie #1 because it’s a waltz; she hates dancing in front of people and he looks out to the audience directly and says, no one’s here… i have it written out, I see it in my head, but I don’t know if it’s in this play.
Then Ophelia’s madness (poetry?) scene, this bit is still sketchy…
And then she meets Mary Magdalene from George de la Tours’ “The Penitent Magdalene,” the one with the book and the mirror and the candle, and they have a chat.  I think.
And then it ends with Hamlet answering his own question – it’s in the text actually, I had never seen it before, but it’s there, when he says
Not a whit, we defy augury.  There is special providence in the fall of the sparrow.  If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come.  The readiness is all.  Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is’t to leave betimes?  Let be.”  poetry/prophesy/faith/life/death all mingled together

and there’s “the rowing endeth”

and she get’s ready for what happens next, and i think that what happens next is that the funeral in her brain comes to an end and she dies


anne sexton, ‘when man enters women’

When man

enters woman,
like the surf biting the shore,
again and again,
and the woman opens her mouth in pleasure
and her teeth gleam
like the alphabet,
Logos appears milking a star,
and the man
inside the woman
ties a knot
so that they will
never again be separate
and the woman
climbs into a flower
and swallows its stem
and Logos appears
and unleashes their rivers.
This man,
this woman
with their double hunger,
have tried to reach through
the curtain of God
and briefly they have,
though God
in His perversity
unties the knot.

exactly what i meant to say

Hamlet is going to be part of the play that I am writing, so I needed to buy my own copy.  I went to the used book store near Safeway and found an old copy for $1.50.  I didn’t have cash with me so the old man working there said that I could just owe him.

Went back again yesterday to pay him back, among other things, and we started talking about poetry.  He pointed out a Complete Works of Emily Dickinson.  I’m usually not much of a fan, but a radio program that I had heard over the summer about her, reading other strange women poets like Anne Sexton, and the “art is a house that tries to be haunted” made me pick it up.  She really is a very strange poet for her time – deceptively sing-song with odd breaks and capitalization, and I’m wondering more and more about her as a person.
Read Hamlet last night and realized that Ophelia is a poet, or a prophet… which ties in even more with the stuff I’ve already been looking into.  It’s a strange and beautiful thing when connections turn up like this.  But anyway, here’s a Dickinson poem that I probably had heard before but now seemed exactly right:
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here – 
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then – 

I gotta say, I do, but I love the version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from Across the Universe.  Somehow in that recording I realized what a completely beautiful and complex song it is.  

In fact, by and large I’m kind of in love with the Across the Universe soundtrack.  While the movie wasn’t perfect, a few of the images associated with some of the songs continue to rattle around in my head and define the song for me.  Like “I Want You” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”
“One Mad Day” opened tonight, and I thought that it went really pretty well.  Aside from a few muffed sound cues and so on everyone did a lovely job.  I just… wish that Bill had edited the script one last time.  I know that I’m a snot-nosed kid that doesn’t have any previous experience with this, but I felt like he had fallen too in love with the script to see the plot holes that he glossed over.  A few motivational/ plot points only really made sense if you were already familiar with the work if you thought about what was strictly said and shown; I thought one of the instrumental sub-plots was tacked on kind of shoddily, not keeping in with the logic of the greater narrative.  People react certain ways, certain things happen not because it really makes sense but because it’s necessary for the next plot point.  While the production wasn’t what I would have done with it were I (ha) in charge, I’m not that qualified to judge it; I like to believe that I have a certain amount of skill in narrative structure, and so that’s what I would have changed.
Talked to the Hum 120 students about it today and wondered about how much of a nerd I must have sounded.  My research had been pretty thorough even if I wasn’t able to use the majority of it in either my program notes or display, and so I appreciated the opportunity to mention things that I had noticed in the original work that did not exist in “One Mad Day,” simply because it focused on different things.  I enjoy and appreciate “One Mad Day,” but I think that I would have been more comfortable – and maybe more useful – for a different adaptation.  Jac wanted me to find my “inner Bugs Bunny;” if I have an inner Looney Tunes character it’s probably a lot closer to Daffy Duck – stressed, harried, caustic, prone to failure and sarcasm.  Then someone asked me about what dramaturgy was and I went off about it and tried to keep it short enough so that their eyes wouldn’t glaze over, but why answer a question at all if you aren’t going to do it properly?  I care about conveying information correctly too much sometimes; what I’m saying generally isn’t important enough for people to understand every nuance of meaning.  But I do like to talk about what I find interesting, because honestly there’s so much that’s interesting and important in the world that people don’t think about simply because you have to take time to know them.  I just hope that other people want to listen to me, or at all.  

i want my love to be like ‘brand new colony’

“One Mad Day” previews tomorrow, opens Friday.  I should be working on my display for it, or practicing guitar for ensemble practice tomorrow.  

I think for my involvement in the show going home for fall break was kind of a bad idea.  I was already fringe to begin with, and missing cue-to-cue and the first dress rehearsals I think pushed me to the edge completely.  In any case the ‘what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here’ feeling was particularly strong, in part because one person (jokingly, I know) pretty much asked me that question.  Which brought up all the doubts I had been trying to quell – am I doing anything?  Have I really helped at all?  Maybe more to the question – is there really anything of myself that can be seen in it?  Which is more an issue of ego than the point at hand.  But it is true; throughout this entire thing I’ve never really known what exactly my job was supposed to be, what my place was… what I was doing there.  Jac told me from the beginning that she doesn’t use a dramaturg, and I guess that was fair warning.  But for some reason I was chosen for the scholarship, that particular position, over other people.  And whether that’s because of my skill or of Geoff Proehl vouching for me I don’t know.  I wish I did, maybe it could tell me then how much I’m really involved… or at least how much the people with whom I’ve worked think I’ve been involved.
I guess this is becoming a worry because I’m thinking of trying out for directing class one-acts next week, and it’s been a terribly long time since I’ve auditioned for anyone, put myself out there like that.  Interviews, yes, but not something where I just had to be myself only with cleaner language and instead relied on other people’s judge of my talent.  I don’t want to suck, and I don’t want to be pitied, or seen as a theater wanna-be.  I want to see if I can actually act, I want to see what that experience is like because I want to write plays and I need to know what I’m writing, and I want to be good at it.  I want to be good at embodying other people.  I want to be part of that process.  
So a little dark and a little tired right now.