I am at the end of my first week of the playwrights’ retreat at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Pictured above is my daily journal, with a maple leaf I picked up on my street (Front Street) earlier today. I used to live in Toronto and knew southern Ontario a little, but that was 20 years ago. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is here, with all the big trees changing colours and the fabulous old brick houses. I guess I love the prairie more, I like the openness and the austerity, but southern Ontario is looking very beautiful this October. The daytime temperature goes up to 25+ C and I have found it hard to stay inside the lovely apartment the Festival arranged for me.
That’s ok. Sometimes a writer needs to wander the fields, in the manner of Charles Dickens. The ideas in one’s head bounce around with each step and eventually, the play one is working on begins to take shape. After that, it’s just a matter of sitting down at the computer and transcribing those thoughts, shaping them.
I came here with a play called “Those White Things in the Ocean.” After a good meeting with Bob White (who is not one of those things in the ocean) I have had plenty to think about in my walks. Cryptically, I can tell you those are 1) what is the nature of metatheatre as it relates to m play? and 2) what are the distinctions between A and B, who are characters in my play? I have some vague ideas, but more walking is required before I sit down to write the next draft.
Meanwhile, I read Chris Hedges’ book, “Death of the Liberal Class.” It affected me immensely, and I recommend it to anyone reading this. I have been, and still am in some ways, a member of the university, the media and the entertainment industry. Hedges talks eloquently about how all all three of these, along with the church and other so-called liberal institutions, have failed in the last century, to lead us to the terrible state many of us find ourselves in now. I wondered if I could not do more, so I started to write a play based on some of the ideas and images of Hedges’ book.
Well, let me tell you, grim, grim, grim. So then I wondered if it could be a comedy, more likely a farce. So I spent today trying to make those grim scenes funny. I think I’m funny, and a good enough craftsman to do that, so we shall see.
It’s wonderful to have the time and space to follow such flight of fancy. It’s in this manner that many great works of art are born. And some not so great ones. So we shall see.
The best thing about being here are the people I have been blessed to meet. I haven’t had much chance lately to hang out with theatre people and I feel a real connection. I feel very much at home here. The other writers and I are having a pot luck Thanksgiving meal at my place tomorrow evening. For these new friends alone I can give thanks. I hope your thanksgiving is spent with amazing people, too.