Preview: The Green Room

On a golf course in rural Warner Springs CA, the Old Man invokes a spirit of the past, his past as a playwright, for hypothetical audiences in Pennsylvania, New York, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, California and the digital world. The odyssey which has led him to the wilderness is recounted in 36 stages (two loops of the course).

The playwright goes first. His doppelgänger, the prompter, fills the second 18 with a solo rendition of his transformative theatre experience, The Wooster Group’s Hamlet, which the British Library has ranked one of the 10 key performances of Shakespeare, ever.

On the Old Man’s golf bag is written:

I am the boy / That can enjoy / Invisibility

On his scorecard pencil:

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

The playwright delivers a straightforward, first-person narrative, while the prompter reanimates the complex Wooster Group endeavor in its entirety (or nearly). The latter is reproduced textually as follows:

hamlet 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 the same time I read it on my own. It was beyond me, and I was too insecure to seek out a teacher who would make it intelligible. Around 1980 I saw the 1948 film with Laurence Olivier, which helped.

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. Tee it up.

Prompter. After you. You have the honor. Play away.

1.
Playwright: Pittsburgh, New York and Galway
Prompter: Hamlet

2.
Playwright: Galway and Hannover
Prompter: Hamlet

3.
Playwright: Pittsburgh
Prompter: Hamlet

4.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

5.
Playwright: Los Angeles
Prompter: Hamlet

6.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

7.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

8.
Playwright: St. Gallen
Prompter: Hamlet

9.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

10.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

11.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

12.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

13.
Playwright: Woodside
Prompter: Hamlet

14.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

15.
Playwright: The Internet
Prompter: Hamlet

16.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

17.
Playwright: The Internet
Prompter: Hamlet

18.
Playwright: San Diego
Prompter: Hamlet

Epilogue

The Old Man buries the collected, unedited plays.

selected ghostwriters, in order of appearance
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
James Joyce, Ulysses
Andreas Gryphius, Absurda Comica oder Herr Peter Squenz
Samuel Beckett, Endgame
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Bertolt Brecht, Mutter Courage
Heiner Müller, Die Hamletmachine
David Mamet, A Life in the Theatre
Elizabeth LeCompte/The Wooster Group, Hamlet
Gertrude Stein, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights
Elfriede Jelinek, Das Werk