Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Animal Control Reading

Of course, I love anyone's comments/response to this, but those of you who were at the reading...Don, Goss, Jen, Karyn, Merrie, Stinton, Dan, Nick, Nathan...I would love any feedback you have

I've been contemplating what if anything to write about the reading of Animal Control. I have this itch. Was is that itch? A tickle in my throat, a solitary pop rock in my ear. Fear probably. I watched a bit of Peter Brook on DVD and he talked about fear. He talked about those who have no fear of the water are the very best swimmers. So, back to the reading...I think I should jump in and disregard the itch.

I had a great gang of folks there reading the material.

One thing I think that bothered some of the jury was that the tonal quality of the Scenes with the protagonist and his wife were different from the other scenes in the piece. I was told that the scenes with the wife were very 'realistic' very 'kitchen sink'...many of them did by the way take place in the kitchen around a meal. But the other scenes were viewed less 'realistic'. Words like symbolism, Shepard-like, Parable, dreamy, imagined...these were the terms most of the commentors gave. Did I expect that sort of feedback? I knew there was a tonal quality that was different, but I never thought of the non-Lily scenes as dreamy...even with the iconic images and experiments with language, to my mind they were as real as the literal kitchen scenes, the only difference was the way characters used language. Any reason for that was character i.e. poets, musicians, artists, freaks using more ornate speech than say the blue collar folks in the play who were with no artistic aspirations.

How much of this is due to 'problems' with the script? I dont know. I did get the sense from most people in the room that there was alot they liked about the script, the characters, the language...So maybe it is that the shift in language between Lily and the other scenes would feel less jarring if Lily's speech were a little more poetic. If we got to see that she is with this husband for a reason, that even though she doesn't play and instrument she is still of right brain thinker, still capable of matching the fluidity of speech that all the musicians around her use. As it is right now, I think she rarely uses a simile or a metaphor, except for one line of sexual innuendo (that got a sound, smile, response from everybody at the reading).

Another thing about Lily and Axe, people wanted to get a sense of what had changed since the storm for them. Lily seems so in opposition to the wants and desires of Axe, for some of the readers it seemed like why would they have stayed together. What do they give each other. He doesn't want to lose her in the end of the play, but what is he losing other than a voice of complaint about his true desire which is the art? This issue, I do want to address in a future draft. I think that she loves him because of his music. She is transformed by his sound. The romantic musician adoration thing. He is in love with her because she got him off the junk which enabled him to be a better musician. She freed him of that burden and as a result he came in to greater proximity of his true voice. In his mind, she is tied to notion of clean living, staying out of real trouble. Combine that with the adoration she gives him, and that should be enough for any man. These elements need to be brought into the future draft.

I have thought about making Lily since the storm having bad dreams. Dreams about losing Axe or about bad things happening to him. And it is these dreams that drive her to plead with him to not go to the bridge. As opposed to just jealousy, which is what it reads as right now.

Another thing that bother them was that they couldn't conceive of why the Man In Suit would pursue Axe, the protagonist with such vigor. The connection, the intention of Man In Suit's prosecution wasn't clear. The relationship was captivating but not explicable? I need to draw stronger parallels between the Animal Control and the Man In Suit. The hunter and his prey. Man In Suit whistling at the men the way one whistlers at dogs. Lost dogs - Missing Person...does this have to be more evident in the script?

The parallels between Sandwich Man's poem and Axe's Voice/Song...I thing those are pretty clear. If anyone who has read it feels differently, please let me know.

Also, the Photographer. I think we can make her more of a beacon to the dark side. She should be offering more of a forbidden fruit. Not her sex, but everything seamy about nightlife. She should be a voice of temptation so that the deal with the devil and it's relation to her are a little more evident.

How does race play into this piece? There was a time were I was contemplating that Axe was black, but why didn't it follow through with that. Fear, lots of fear. Fear of making a fool of myself writing this character. Fear that even if I knew him, I couldn't know his blackness. Fear that if the play had a black protagonist but wasn't a "black" play there would be no market for it. If Axe is black, then is Lily black...And in the end this wasn't suppose to be a play about Axe's blackness or non blackness. This was supposed to be a play about Government Authority, about the government's relationship to the people after a catastrophe like this. If I introduce a racial element does that complicate my intent or even subvert it?

So, I'm not adding a note about race to the final script. These characters can be any ethnicity the reader envisions. That's my word on that.

Anyway, these are my thoughts thus far about the reading of Animal Control.

Thanks for reading and for any comments.


Paul said...

If Axe is black, then is Lily black...And in the end this wasn't suppose to be a play about Axe's blackness or non blackness. This was supposed to be a play about Government Authority, about the government's relationship to the people after a catastrophe like this.

No reason it can't be both...

Devilvet said...

Well, there is a good reason why. Because that is not the play I set out to write. Whereas there is lots of fodder in real life that could make a dozen such plays about blackness, that is not this play. I would support anybody who wanted to write such a piece but i dont want to write it. Not now, not here. This piece could end up being about a ton of things, domestic neglect, the need for couples to communicate, helping the homeless, etc... but I made a decision about what I wanted to communicate and that has to be the target I aim for. Because that is my goal.

Paul said...

Does making Axe/Lily black immediately mean that this play will be about their blackness?

Devilvet said...

When you put it that simply...I have to insist that it isn't that simple.

Whereas, I have some latin American blood in me, I dont have enough of given circumstance in my life to risk speaking on a subject I know little about...i.e. not being white.

And, the answer in the end is yes. As unfortunate as it might be, in this world we live in most spectators are going to define a black character's experience and narrative through the prism of race first and everything else second and/or in relation to that. unfortunate but there it is...

Since, i dont feel that in this narrative I have anything to say of relavance regarding race, then introducing race is a distraction for my intent.

But again, I'll leave it open. A director can cast from any ethnic group for any of the characters. If the author of the play says anybody can play it, than he is saying, I'm attempting a theme that is universal. If the playwright says, AXE is a black man or a latino man or a white man, than regardless of what the playwright intends, the majority of American spectators will see a theme involving race.

If a spectator constructs a reading of the play that involves race, there is nothing for the playwright to do...

But, if I dont feel I have something perninent to say about race in this play that the best thing to do is shrug my shoulders when asked about race. Which is all I will do from this point on regarding this question.

Paul said...

Fair enough.

By the way, that question wasn't directed specifically at your play. I'm more curious when we're going to get past "the black play" mentality in this country, and unfortunately that day may be never.

And with that, this meeting is adjourned. (Sound of gavel.)