–The Grace of Mary Traverse, Timberlake WertenbakerThere are so many marvelous lines and stunning passages in this script, I hesitate to pull out one bit to represent. Put this on your reading list. Better yet, stage the thing. Especially recommended for feminists and women’s studies scholars.
His work matters, means something to a lot of people… they want more of it. Let them have the stories. What harm could come from it? How bad could they possibly be?
The rest of us could only hope that anyone would care to read anything we created in our lifetimes after we are gone. I can’t help but wonder, “who does this guy think he is?”
Is his reputation going to be ruined because of these stories? I doubt it. For some reason, I never got around to reading Salinger and I find this prudish selfishness enough of a turnoff that I might not ever bother.
What a play is and isn’t according to Tony Kushner (who appears to have abandoned theater for screenwriting, at least for the meantime …)
in playwriting, the argument, the dialectic, is the key. The narrative follows from that, supports that. If you find the right narrative for the battles you’re trying to put onstage, you’ll write a really good play.The story has to have a narrative logic and be plausible. The characters have to have the unpredictableness and independence of mind that human beings have, so they don’t feel like puppets in your puppet play. But an argument is at the deep heart of the thing. There’s not really much else you can do in theater. It can’t create worlds in the way you can do in a film. The thing that you sharpen as a dramatist is conflict. What did this character come onstage to get? Did he or she get it? If not, what stopped them?
Reno describes the 3 am movie. (It is Barbara Loden’s Wanda):
A baby crying in the arms of a woman whose face was puffy from sleep. Her hair matted and pillow dented. The scene was familiar but I could not place it. The camera moved to a prettier woman on a couch. She sat up, thin and blonde, with a weed-like vitality, looked out the window at a front loader pushing coal waste around.
The prettier woman had ditched her husband and kids and was about to set off on a series of sketchy adventures with a jumpy, anxious man.
The point of the film was not the stark life in a coal mining town, although that was how Sandro had read it, the human element of industry.
It was about being a woman, about caring and not caring what happens to you. It was about not really caring.
Coal came in different sizes, Sandro had explained after we saw the film.
Names like lump, stoker, egg, and chestnut.
The woman in the movie goes to court and tells the judge she’s no good, her kids are better off without her. Her calm and snowy face. A person quietly letting her life unravel. Because of her beauty there would be no unnecessary detours through vanity.
The woman in the film was already beautiful and had to confront her life directly. She was driven to destroy herself and because of her beauty, free to do so.
She tries to collect the rest of her pay at a sweat shop.
What can I do for you, Lover?
The shift boss in thick glasses, his eyes big jelly orbs rolling over her.
Behind him, centering in the frame, the employee punch clock
The woman in the film drinks in a bar
She’s in hair curlers. A chiffon head scarf tied over them like a tarp over a log pile. The hollows of the curlers spaces for hope, something good might happen.
A man bought the woman a beer. She took dainty sips in her hair curlers in preparation for no specific occasion. Curler time seemed almost religious. A waiting that was more important than what the waiting was for. Curler time was about living the now with a belief that a future, an occasion for said hair, existed.
But then she was putting on her ratty underwear and the rest of her clothes and chasing a traveling salesman out of a motel room, abandoning the curlers for good.
Hey, hey – wait up.
I came to rehearse parts of this film. My memory of the scenes returning in more detail as I watched. I began to anticipate – not the lines – though I remembered a few of them, but looks on the woman’s face.
Gazing at department store mannequins as if the possessed something essential and human that she lacked. Mannequins were carefully positioned to look natural, looking off in this direction or that, but never at us.
This was part of the Sears mannequin standard. My mother had worked for a short time as an assistant window dresser at the Sears in downtown Reno. She was given a booklet with a list of instructions. The most important being the no eye contact rule. If the mannequins made eye contact with shoppers they would disrupt the dream. The shoppers’ projection. The mannequins’ job was to sell us to ourselves in a more perfect version for 1999.
But the woman peered at the mannequins for guidance. Examining their enameled makeup. A purse dangling from a stiff arm. A pole supporting each life size figure from behind, disappearing into a hole cut into the rear seam of her slacks.
They each have a pole up their ass, says the sudden wryness in the woman’s face, How bout that?
Her face when Mr. Denis, the jumpy man, tosses her new lemon pants out the window, childlike disappointment.
When you’re with me, no slacks. No slacks.
Tosses her lipstick.
Makes you look cheap.
When you’re with me, no curlers.
Why don’t you get a hat?
You don’t want anything. You won’t have anything. He tells her. You don’t have anything; you’re nothing. You might as well be dead.
Everything goes wrong when they try to rob a bank.
Nearing the end of the film, morning in a deserted sand quarry, the woman wakes up in a car. A soldier unzipping his pants and forcing himself on her. She escapes, runs screaming into the woods in her white sandals. Sling backs Mr. Denis had borrowed from the trunk of a car in the Woolworth’s lot. By luck they had fit her perfectly. She tears though the bramble, scratched, frantic. Half-dressed, half-raped. And falls face down crying. Night at a roadside tavern. Someone fits an unlit cigarette behind her ear. She’s given a hot dog
Chews it, Meek and grateful. Her beer glass is filled and refilled. Honky tonk music plays.
Fiddles eking out cheer as people shout and smoke and drink,
their voices pelting the woman.
You don’t want anything.
You won’t have anything.
You don’t have anything.
The cigarette in her long fingered hand.
Her snow faced beauty, the light of it dim.
The camera frames the woman
Her eyes toward the table.
That’s it. End of film.
Word is this worthy collection goes to print today.
Thanks to Jenny Hill for being awesome and to all the participants for taking a few moments out to share. -ag
A Commonplace Book: A Community Memoir Project
This book is a collection of the thoughts and life experiences of forty people who sought to connect on a deeper level through Facebook. Participants who answered the invitation to join were given a daily prompt through a Facebook group. The results are a celebration in reaching out, connection with one another in the threads of conversation, and shared ideas, stories, and thoughts. This is truly a community memoir, and a celebration of the daily.
$12. Shipping is included.
As performed in Rock Bottom: monologues about starting over.
A Jason Miller Playwrights’ Project presentation
Scranton Pa. May 4-5, 2003
I used to think of myself as a person who fixes things.
“Adept at problem solving” appears on my resume
Or some similar line of corporate pandering bullshit.
It’s not a lie.
If we’re talking about other people’s problems
While they sat staring in shock at the enormity of the task at hand
Shaking their heads in doubt
I would sashay in and break it down into tiny digestible pieces for them
Show them exactly how we would get from here to there
and then we’d accomplish that goal
the lofty goal that sounded too beautiful to be achieved by the likes of us
the idealized way things should be
the job no one believed could be done.
My grandmother sent me a birthday card that said
“You deserve all the good things in life.”
Really? Since when?
The best things in life are free, that’s all I ever wanted. The freebees.
But nothing is free…
You’ve got to work so hard for it, you’re too tired to appreciate what you’ve earned.
People only give because they want something – usually from you, sometimes from God
It can be hard to see the difference.
What relationship isn’t two people joining forces,
working together to be a stronger whole because they can get more out of life that way?
Boyfriends buy you things you can’t get for yourself
And you tell yourself you loved them first, before the gifts, before they started to reward you for loving because they were afraid you might stop.
You gave yourself to them before they gave you anything because you were inspired to elevate them, to make them feel as glorious as you felt just by being next to them.
That’s how love works, right?
And you hope, as you tell yourself this again,
that it is still true
that the love hasn’t begun to imitate itself
that it’s not broken too, like the rest of your broken life.
The crashed car.
The empty fish tank.
The mattress on the floor.
Because you bought the parts for the platform bed from IKEA but you didn’t have the tools to put it together and if you had, you still would have needed help and you didn’t know who to ask.
I mean, you hinted … but no one bit
So you put the coasters and the pre-cut, pre-drilled lumber in the basement and you hoped someday someone would come along – the impossible lover – and see how much it upset you that you had been sleeping on the floor since the divorce.
He’d offer to help you, because it would only take a couple of hours really, and of course it would be worth it to see you so happy.
And you’d jump up and say, “I have everything we need already, bought and paid for, in the basement.”
But that was how many years ago now? And your lovers have been satisfied to fuck you on the mattress on the floor. And even when you lamented how you wish it could be otherwise, they’d just pat your head or kiss you on the cheek and say it was probably better for your back this way.
So if they didn’t think you deserved better –
these men who claimed to love you –
How could you say “I deserve the best things in life?”
Your parents didn’t care you were sleeping on a mattress on the floor. That the stove was broken. That the house was sinking and the landlord was a bully. That you were so unhappy and fighting too hard just to tread water and not drown and not getting anywhere close to the other side.
Ten years of brokenness.
And the day you saw yourself as this broken person, so overwhelmed you let the broken things stay broken.
And you cried the next day
And when they noticed and asked if they could help you
You cried even harder because their kindness was beautiful and sincere
And you were ready to ask for help
… just as soon as you figured out what to ask for, you would …
But for now, just holding hands was nice.
You knew the marriage was going to break. It never stood a chance probably, but you wanted your girls to have a chance of a life with their father
(something you were never allowed to have)
So you did it and you looked the other way as things broke,
As he deteriorated,
Until you had no choice to cut him loose because the weight was sure to pull you under.
And oh how he punished you for it –
For untying that knot
For breaking the promise
But until death do you part does not give the other person permission to drown you.
You always think of him in terms of drowning.
The bottom of Murakami’s well.
Dry, then filling with water,
You try to get a foothold in the moss covered stones
You try to climb up
Praying for a rope to appear, but it doesn’t.
And if you deserved the best things in life wouldn’t there be a fucking rope?
And when the pain of being broken became too much and you were scared it couldn’t ever be fixed and you lost hope and you thought about killing yourself but you couldn’t bring yourself to do it
They patted you on the head again and told you how proud they were of you being so strong
But just enduring, surviving it, is not strength.
There is no strength until you face the truth
Until you start doing the icky work.
The ugly unglamorous cleaning behind and under the furniture
Making phone calls
Confessing your weaknesses
Asking for help even though it’s embarrassing and people might not like you because they don’t want any more to carry, least of all your shit
You have to risk rejection
Admit your shortcomings
Expose your vulnerability
And accept their help which usually sounds a lot like,
Can’t you just be different?
Why can’t you just glue it back together and stop being broken because I love you but I’m kind of busy right now.
So is it any wonder I would run around helping other people with their problems?
If I can fix theirs, then it’s less embarrassing that I can’t fix me. I mean my own… problems.
Because I came close enough to death to realize I really did want to live after all.
And here in this desperate dark and scary place where I had been banging my head against the wall for years, not knowing where to begin, what repair to make first,
Suddenly like a pot of gold under a rainbow there was this toolbox.
And smiling faces with soft voices who had been waiting – waiting there all this time, they were just waiting for the lights to come up –
to demonstrate the tools inside.
To show me how they worked
One at a time
willing to show me as many times as it took, until I knew for myself, instinctively what to do,
as if I had always known.
Because there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken.
I just couldn’t see it all. I couldn’t see the rest of me.
I am whole.
I am healing.
Yeah, like that. 😉
If I can get excited imagining funny things he did as a kid, there’s a pretty good chance I’m in love with him. It’s a sad day when you stop believing in the idea of having a soul mate or having someone who understands you deeply and loves you eternally. I’m a pretty unorthodox girl, but I guess people might be surprised to learn that despite what some of the characters on the show are doing, I remain an eternal romantic with a desire to hear all the things girls like to hear said to them.
via 20Q with.
Lunchtime research for my new play White Matter Surplus turned up this interesting factoid.
“We believe that many of the cognitive and emotional deficits observed in people with chronic alcoholism, including memory problems and flat affect, are related to disconnections that result from a loss of white matter,” said Mosher Ruiz.
I was the world’s shittiest writer when I was an infant. I was only slightly better at 25. But while I was failing miserably at my career, I wrote in my spare time for eight straight years, an article a week, before I ever made real money off it. It took 13 years for me to get good enough to make the New York Times best-seller list. It took me probably 20,000 hours of practice to sand the edges off my sucking.