Monday, January 2, 2012

A glorious greed

"The writer's greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody, in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all."

James Baldwin's observation about a writer's need is both accurate and chilling.  In one sense Baldwin was thrusting his writing out into the world as if it was a life raft that could help float us to freedom.  In another way, just like many of us, the raft is also for him.  It's meant to buoy up ego, to help love find its way to him.  In the satisfaction of a story well told (whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, song or play) comes a desperately craved moment of validation.

But it's only ever a moment.  Then the writer climbs back into a carapace and begins again, almost oblivious to the world outside, at the same time taking everything.  The cycle of how a play emerges from that hidden place inside a writer's life reveals that greed. It's a cycle that is shared by all the artists collaborating on the project.  Since it's rarely a straight line from typewriter to stage lights sometimes only the hunger the writer has inside can urge the work forward.  

"Waiting for Giovanni" grew out of a blend of those urgent needs--both Baldwin's(as they were perceived by me watching that raft float by) and my own.  I always imagine that I'm writing something that will maybe save someone's life...or change it...or at least give them something to think about for more than 10 minutes.  I push, cajole, call out...whatever it takes to get people to come sit in the audience and see what I have to say...what Baldwin still has to tell us.

After an amazingly successful run in San Francisco...sold out for almost the entire run...figuring out where it goes from there is not easy.  A theatre group in New York City is doing a public reading of W4G in January, and unlike the previous road the play has traveled now it is in the hands of someone else who is new to it.  The group will cast and direct and present their vision of  my vision of Baldwin's vision. Scary.  Magic.
It's only a reading; no commitment; I'm not even sure I can get any producer types to come and listen. I'm going to send off a newly edited version of the piece next week like it's a life raft and hope people need to climb on board.

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