Preview: The Green Room

On a golf course in rural Warner Springs CA, the Old Man delivers a requiem for a playwright (himself) to hypothetical audiences in Pittsburgh PA, New York NY, Galway IR, Hannover DE, St. Gallen CH and San Diego CA. The odyssey which has led him to the wilderness is recounted in 18 stages.

In uncanny unison, the playwright’s prompter/doppelgänger fills the 18 breaks between stages with a solo rendition of The Wooster Group’s production of the most famous play by the most famous playwright in the English language, which the British Library has ranked one of the 10 key performances of Shakespeare, ever.

On the playwright’s golf bag is written:

The part that I have taken of writing and hiding myself is precisely the one that suits me. If I were present, one would never know what I was worth. Rousseau, Confessions

On the prompter’s scorecard pencil:

Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie.

The former’s narrative is straightforward in the first-person, while his alter ego modulates his voice and uses gestures to reanimate no less than the entire (or almost) Wooster Group endeavor. His oral proceeding is reproduced textually as follows:

key

regular – Prompter

italic – Shakespeare (# indicates new speaker)

strikethrough – Richard Burton (1964)

bold – Scott Shepherd (2008/2013)

ALL CAPS – set/costume

BOLD ALL CAPS – sound

Other golfers keep their distance, wary of the solitary voice in the wilderness.

Prologue

Playwright. My earliest theater memories begin in New York City with Shakespeare. I was 12 in 1972 for Two Gentlemen of Verona on Broadway as a rock musical.

Prompter. What do you remember about it?

Playwright. The balcony of a large, dark theater. The distant light of the stage. I was naïve enough to be unintimidated by the Big Apple, thanks to a solid production team comprised of my mother, aunt and grandmother. The family, without my father, would visit Aunt Ruth, a speech therapist and aspiring actress, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The “sets” there were interchangeable – one minute defined by the concreteness of the City That Never Sleeps, not excluding the playground at the foot of her apartment building – the next minute by the lawns of Central Park. Aunt Ruth’s wood parquet floor, theatre posters, plays, soundtracks of musicals, and books about actors and art formed a restorative “green room” before and after excursions. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Though I was green on New York’s mean streets – and in its mean theatres – a green light flickered within.

Prompter. After Two Gentlemen came –

Playwright.. A Midsummer’s Night Dream or Romeo and Juliet or both in Miss Stroyd’s high school English class.

Prompter. What do you remember about them?

Playwright.. They did not embolden me to join the drama club, which was not recognized by my peer group, which valued sports, the conventional road to status.

Prompter. What about Hamlet?

Playwright. Around 1980 I saw the 1948 film with Laurence Olivier.

Prompter. Let’s fast forward.

Playwright. After Shakespeare came –

Prompter. Skip to the love or death scene.

Playwright. Skip decades?

Prompter. It’s 2008. It’s LA. There is a full house for Hamlet –

Playwright. “…re-imagined by mixing and repurposing Richard Burton’s 1964 Broadway production, directed by John Gielgud. The Burton production was recorded in live performance from 17 camera angles and edited into a film that was shown as a special event for only two days in nearly 1,000 movie houses across the U.S. The idea of bringing a live theater experience to thousands of simultaneous viewers in different cities was trumpeted as a new form called ‘Theatrofilm,’ made possible through ‘the miracle of Electronovision.’ The Wooster Group attempts to reverse the process, reconstructing a hypothetical theater piece from the fragmentary evidence of the edited film. We channel the ghost of the legendary 1964 performance, descending into a kind of madness, intentionally replacing our own spirit with the spirit of another.”

Prompter. After becoming a Wooster groupie, you gave up writing plays, right?

Playwright. Yes and no.

Prompter. Now ask me about my story.

Playwright. I know your story.

Prompter. It’s newly revised.

Playwright. You have the honor. Tee it up.

Prompter. No, after you. Play away.

1.
Playwright: Expecting Castles, performance, The Burren, Ireland, 1987
Prompter: Hamlet

2.
Playwright: To the Four Courts
Prompter: Hamlet

3.
Playwright: The Dust-Up
Prompter: Hamlet

4.
Playwright: Theft in the Abstract
Prompter: Hamlet

5.
Playwright: The Country House
Prompter: Hamlet

6.
Playwright: The Undertow, performance, San Diego CA, 1996
Prompter: Hamlet

7.
Playwright: This Night We Come A-Souling
Prompter: Hamlet

8.
Playwright: Shareholder Value (auf Deutsch)
Prompter: Hamlet

9.
Playwright: The Unauthorized Autobiography of King Lear
Prompter: Hamlet

10.
Playwright: Play in the Dark (written with Suzanne Daniels)
Prompter: Hamlet

11.
Playwright: Play in the Dark, performance, San Diego, 2003
Prompter: Hamlet

12.
Playwright: Set in Venice, reading of first version, San Diego, 2005
Prompter: Hamlet

13.
Playwright: Euronevada (Djerassi Resident Artists Program, 2006)
Prompter: Hamlet

14.
Playwright: MFA Material
Prompter: Hamlet

15.
Playwright: No Loitering/No Vagancia
Prompter: Hamlet

16.
Playwright: Kampf um die Sonne/Battle for the Sun
Prompter: Hamlet

17.
Playwright: www.reunion.us/antigone
Prompter: Hamlet

18.
Playwright: Green Producer (Set in Venice)
Prompter: Hamlet

sources
Hamlet, The Wooster Group (dir. Elizabeth LeCompte)
The Collected Playbills of a Playwright
The Collected Rejection Letters, Unproduced Plays and Archival Videos of a Playwright