Last Monday night’s hurricane forced the postponement of the reading of ANDY AND THE SHADOWS by a week. That postponement has bought the playwright (me) a lot more time to work through the many fascinating questions, insights and ideas that emerged from our workshop sessions October 24-25, followed by intensive weekend sessions with designers and director Daniella Topol. The result tonight will be a significantly revised second act, from its beginning, its middle, and its end. It’s all the same sojourn, but there’s tons of new writing. I call that exciting. I call this a fascinating fusion. How extraordinary that this material should follow so closely upon the artistic and thematic reverberations of OUR CLASS. Questions of legacy, history, inheritance, and ghostly visitations and the battling with them all figure heavily in ANDY AND THE SHADOWS. Students from UM/UC/ND will be coming tonight as well. We’ll hear overlapping themes of “Staging War: Impact & Aftermath” abutting with considerations of “The Ethics and Exigencies of the Artist” — themes we’ll discuss much more in comments and as ANDY draws near. For now, this place holder of a posting.
Here’s the link to today’s reading. Important to RSVP as we’re in the library with very limited seating capacity.
Gleanings from the process, as shared on my facebook page, are pasted below.
First Day of ANDY AND THE SHADOWS workshop
by Ari Roth on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 9:37am ·
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
First day of workshop rehearsal. Didn’t mean to wake up at 4 am. Went to bed early with a mojito still buzzing the brain and a great dinner with Katie and Izzy at Pulpo still filling the stomach. It was a night of going to bed without opening the computer. How rare. So now it’s 4 and I’m back. How uncomforting…
I’m starting over on diary notes for the process of workshopping ANDY AND THE SHADOWS this week. As noted to Daniela this summer, there was much pain in realizing I’d lost/copied-over 50+ pages of notes from the spring and summer records of experiment writing, plans and schemes for addressing issues that needed to be tackled. It reflected some deep wrestling with why I was breathing life into this work. And then the diary disappeared. Saved over by something much more banal. So now I have a document that was once rich and full called ANDY NOTES (April/May/June) but it’s empty save for a silly paragraph of business, and that’s stymied my impetus to keep renewing the diary as we enter this new phase of the process; a 3 day workshop with three days of rewriting time over the weekend before the Monday night presentation.
Mostly, I want to be mentally and physically present for this workshop, and not have the very busy business of running the theater, and worrying about the theater, and looking at the box office tally, and figuring out where the rest of the money will come from, and getting the letters out, and getting the scripts read, and the emails read and responded to , and getting the blogs posted, and the student entries addressed, their work graded, all this additional stuff that’s crowded out the playwrights life… And it has in so many ways, with the crush of stuff, and all the more, it’s staggering to think about what it takes to return to the laptop as a playwright. I have so many compadres; how I admire their discipline; their productivity; their continuing to write day in and day out; week in and week out…
I used to be one of that gang. With ANDY AND THE SHADOWS, I returned this past year to being one of those in the gang. Of course, there was all of that mad rewriting of THE BORN GUILTY CYCLE pre-Berlin, and during Berlin last April-May as well. But that’s been me wrestling with already-written material — and in so many ways, ANDY is too…. There were the two major months of experimenting with lots of brand new writing to open the show with the family grown older; the family now, before going back 25 or so years to an earlier rite of passage. That writing added many new layers to the play, even as it got compressed and funneled back into much of the pre-existing structure of the dream sequence introduction.
I am interested to hear today how the play lives in a practical world. Are certain scenes still too-amorphous-seeming, as they felt in The Lark Theatre cold reading back in April? Or do the memory scenes work and take up space as real events, graced by magic? Do the scenes have emotional weight? Do we buy in to a dramatic premise that commands attention?
I get tired and woozy as I write this, still susceptible to distraction; to the competing needs of checking box office and email… at 4:30 in the morning? I’ve become hardwired with electronic A.D.D. Will I live well in the moment without such today? Of course, and it will be a pleasure. To let email languish…
This is a family chronicle. It moves me to touch on these simulacrums of family; of myself and my bride, formerly fiancé, now wife; these sisters and parents who both are and totally aren’t the people I grew up with… I am leaving behind an intimate imagining; an artistic portrait from when we were young, inflected by the perspective that we’re all so much older, more vulnerable, and here for that much less of a time.
I go back to rest.
I wake up to start the day. I re-read, revise, post, and run.
I’m running late.
The day has begun.
* * *
Preparing for Second Day of ANDY AND THE SHADOWS Workshop
by Ari Roth on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 7:25am ·
Thursday October 25, early morning – reflecting on yesterday’s first day…
An “A “day with the company, Daniella and team. A “B” day for me for the actual script; still not where I need it to be in terms of new material and insights fitting comfortably into the flow and rhythm. Surprisingly, even after much finessing, the play repels many additions, yet (also surprisingly) accepts others; the acceptances then render some older themes and tropes less relevant. Choice example: Andy’s search for his “duendé” — his quest for tragic-ecstatic dimensionality — such a prominent feature of his pursuit for years — is now overtaken by the newer, developing theme of “leave-taking anxiety” — the rite of passage of leaving home, or losing home, or losing people from his home (even as he brings old family furniture with him to his New York apartment — a discovery just made yesterday in our post-read discussion!) Can and do these twin aspects of defining Andy work in tandem? Whereas once there was only the one (his search for duendé) — but the duendé’s a false search. He’s not going to BECOME gallant and tragic by fighting a bull; he’s going to gain stature and find his footing as a man by finally grappling with each of his parents’ primary pain; by understanding his mother’s guilt and rage and her primary trauma — and understanding the true roots of his father’s depression, something that he shares with Dad; a loneliness… This is the insight that gives him grounding. So for me there is more to scratch at and uncover in what Andy gets, and touches, in scene with his father…
The key rewriting challenges for these next 4-5 days is a 9 point plan. In the first act, fixes include…
1) cleaning up excessive writing; the experiments that didn’t stick; restore the rhythm that’s there and flows. That should be easy enough.
2) once again, cleaning up the writing for Andy and Sarah; she explains too much, the result of so much attention we’ve given that relationship over the past months of revision; perhaps there’s still a question of what she gets from him — we’re fixing that by showing how Andy “wins” some scenes with her — his imagination persuades her and wins the argument. That should help show us what she gets from Andy; a creative passion to balance her, well, balance; her reason; her acceptance and desire to be included in a story bigger than her own.
3) Looking at how Andy can better drive the memory sequence material with Mother and Young Raya. Even in the earlier garage roof hopping sequence with the neighborhood buddies who then beat up his sisters, Andy’s presence needs to feel prominent. He’s the still the tour guide for Sarah in this demonstration of frustrating formative moments — How does 10 year old Andy not get totally dominated in the scene by his mother and then the 10 year old apparition of his mother? His provocation, in both parts of the bathtub scene, is his desire to be included in the history; to participate by understanding; and then of course, he falls in love — asks his (younger) mother to marry him — and that doesn’t go so well. Bringing Young Raya in earlier to the final sequence in the basement to up the anxiety and competition Andy feels when taking in his father’s humble achievement with the Glickstein Jam Factory.
4) Do I look for cuts after the Airport sequence with Raya on the phone, Jerry Newcomb coming to the door, Nate coming and going, Jerry and Raya alone, then Nate and Raya alone, all before the three kids come home? This is the least dramatically significant material of the act, though it sets up a) the party being canceled, b) the filmmaking proposition Jerry would like to get involved in, and c) Nate’s physical distress and how he and Raya cope with it and each other.
The More Important Revision points come in the leaner, less flabby Act II:
5) The film. Adjustments to the lead-in, making more accurate the kind of film Andy’s making — Not a documentary — but a Shlockumentary, with healthy doses of Things That Could Never Happen, so let’s call it “Shlocku-Fantasy Feature about WWII.” Like Exodus. Or better yet… (the re-make Andy now plans to shoot…)
More importantly, we need to remind Andy, when talking to his cast, that this is guerilla movie making – 23 hours from script-to-shoot, thanks to Jerry and his great pick-up squad. The idea here is that Andy’s written a remake of CAST A GIANT SHADOW and there’s a principal narrative line here we need to follow — of Mickey Marcus being transformed by his witnessing of the carnage in the camps, unable to shake the memories, and ultimately heeding the call to go and fight (in the victim’s honor and memory) for the new fledgling state of Israel. That’s a drama of a guy needing to leave his wife and their home behind because of this calling from history; his Super Ego leads away from his love… That’s a story Andy needs to tell as a filmmaker, because it’s his story as an artist and fiancé.
But the challenge (to Andy, and for me as a storyteller) comes when Young Raya invades the narrative, and won’t let Andy tell/shoot the story of Mickey alone. Young Raya wants Andy to tell HER story of going to Palestine. Of her exciting journey (which Andy knows and knows doesn’t work out), and ultimately of her falling in love.
In the playing out of this film sequence, Young Raya the apparition is actually seen and heard by the others. This is different from her Act I role where she’s only a figment of Andy’s imagination.
The way to fix this now, in Andy’s film shoot, is for Andy to explain to the cast that Young Raya is The Invasion of a Pushy Sub-Plot he can’t get rid of; he tried; he failed; so they’ve all got to deal with her need for attention but then we’ll get rid of her; we’ll humor her, and push on to the real story; to the making of a New True American Jewish Hero.
Young Raya, of course, will continue to compete for center stage her son’s spot-light.
So the fix, again, here is for Andy to not treat Young Raya as a ghost invading the scene (and seen by others), but by an intrusive sub-plot butting into the main-story that he simply feels compelled to tell. In explaining it thusly, Young Raya (and her mother) may indeed take on a life of their own and actually conspire to hi-jack the scene.
6) The prison-conjured scene between Andy and Raya about her time in a French Police Holding Station. The important thing here is that this is a discovery scene. Andy, in prison, experiences his own dark-night of the soul visitation from his mother whom he interrogates further than ever before about how it is that she managed to be let free. What made her being let go possible? He pushes to finally get the answer that’s been withheld, and it’s a revelation that he may have already known but not understood — the price that her step-father had to pay in order for her to be set free. So play this as a scene about excavating and discovering the truth, and then receiving Raya’s resulting rage, and Andy hitting back and claiming that rage and scream as his own; Andy discovers and claims his voice. And is thereby released from the prison of his own paralysis.
7) The car ride with sisters. Explore this key change in the scene: That they DON’T really know the story of Mom’s betrayal of her step-father; not that Andy’s the last to know and was spaced out and out of it; but that Andy shares things that he’s realized that they’ve vaguely known about but he has some more radical news to share — whether it’s about Grandma getting an abortion, Luzer jumping from a train — and how does anyone know that he jumped and was shot? He asks them. How can we trust Mom’s version? Or do you think she made that up? Or is Andy making it up? And does it matter if stories have elements of creativity mixed in? He wonders that too. They see he’s had a pretty Heavy Night in Jail — whereas they’ve had a pretty boring, but nervous making night at the hospital.
8) the hospital scene. We need to see a difference in the Raya-Andy interaction that builds on Andy’s last scene with her.
And we need, as alluded to earlier, a more intimate excavating by Andy about his father’s grief; his ache; his loneliness, which they share.
9) the wedding. We’re looking at something more active here than the direct address perhaps. Something involving actual leave taking, as parents walk with their respective child down the aisle… So it’s not about the ritual of glass smashing. It’s about the ritual of leave-taking, and then log-sawing, and then flashing forward, to a deeper dialogue, between Raya and Nate as they age some 25 years, and they’re now present at another wedding…