In a week, we leave for our annual transatlantic journey to visit our daughter in Italy, and then to voyage to other amazing places. We’ll be just short of a week with Jo and Fra, followed by a week and a half in Greece, and at the end CB and I go different ways, he to an intense week in Athens, me to my sacred grounds around Carnac. Lotta geography, lotta different climates.
I’m started on the packing. As always, we refuse to check anything, so it all goes in a single carry-on for each of us. The transatlantic carriers allow a separate smaller under-seat item, but on our short-hop airlines, everything has to go in the one bag, so we plan accordingly and do a trial run with putting our empty shoulder-bags into the carry-on to make sure we can get by.
It always amazes me that the totality of our physical needs for three weeks can be crammed into one little wheelie. When you really want to go lean, you can pare things down to a nubbin. So how come we’ve got all this stuff in the house and the studio and the shop?
At my age I start dreading those moments of “what if I croaked in a car crash,” thinking of what would confront our kids. We are indeed starting to simplify things, but it’s pretty damn daunting. In our checkered past, it has always been traumatic to make a move, but the result has been an amazing sense of cleansing. Granted, our profession results in a lot of bins of puppets and videos of nearly fifty years of productions, but do we really need old plaster casts for life-masks?
Of late, I realize how much of the cubic feet of old stuff has to do with money. Where it came from, where it went, who needs to know all about it, and so on. As I begin to start throwing this crap out, after checking the statute of limitations, it REALLY FEELS GOOD. Bank statements, boom! Credit card bills, okay! Old grant records, yes, heave’em!
All that stuff has no place in my carry-on wheelie. It doesn’t clothe me or clean me or decorate me or get me through TSA. Maybe this is a good recipe for life now.
We’ve finished another edit of our novel GALAHAD’S FOOL, hopefully appearing in the spring, and now back to the editor for her responses. In our estimation it’s benefited enormously from her input: both clearer craft-wise and a deeper content in several major characters. At the same time, working with an editor poses challenge.
The easiest aspect is something I’ve mentioned before. When someone offers a response, it’s usually in the form of a prescription: This needs to go faster. This needs to be cut. We need stronger motivation. Etc. etc. Those need to be considered, whether they come from an experienced colleague or an anonymous audience member. But the wise physician doesn’t order a hip replacement just because the patient says he needs one. The procedure is to ask, first, what the symptoms are, to order tests as needed, and finally make a diagnosis and a prescription. This needs to be cut may stem from its impeding the action, going off on a seemingly irrelevant tangent, or being just plain boring. So it may indeed need to be cut, but on the other hand, it may need to be amplified to clarify its relevance. In performance, I’ve had several experiences of responses that “It needs to speed up” lead to solving the problem by slowing down. There are many ways to skin a cat. Bad metaphor, perhaps, given that Shadow is snoozing beside me.
But working closely with a new collaborator, whether it’s an editor, an outside director of one of our plays, or a fellow actor, is a huge act of faith. Elizabeth and I may have major disagreements in working on a piece, but we know from experience that (a) eventually we’ll find a solution that satisfies us both if we’re patient and (b) that we’re both after the same thing overall. That trust is difficult. We’ve had wonderful experiences with other theatres doing our plays, and we’ve had some nightmares.
With book publication, two factors make it difficult to assert ourselves in the evolution of the work. First, we’re relative newbies in the realm of fiction, and the more of the craft we learn, the more there is to learn. Writing for the stage is very different not only in the predominance of dialogue but in what I’d call the absorptive factor: how the reader or audience grasps the narrative. So you have to trust your editor’s judgment—up to a point. You also have to trust yourself.
The other factor is the fact that your publisher is putting up time and money to make this happen. If it bombs, we’re not the only ones to suffer. So you’re raising the ante with someone else’s chips. That deserves respect.
In the long run, though, the process forces you to ask yourself, with the ferocity of the Guantanamo interrogator: What’s the story we’re telling? Why are we telling it? Is this the best way to tell it? And to be faithful to that story, no matter what.