Preview: The Green Room

On a golf course in rural Warner Springs CA, the Old Man delivers a requiem for an anonymous 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, his 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.

Logos on golf bag and scorecard pencil, respectively:

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

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

The playwright’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 (2013)

ALL CAPS – set/costume

BOLD ALL CAPS – sound

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

Prologue

Old Man. 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?

Old Man. The balcony of a large, dark theater. The distant light of the stage. As crazy as it sounds, the “Big Apple” was not intimidating, thanks to a “production team” comprised of my mother, aunt and grandmother. Our 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: the concreteness of the “City That Never Sleeps,” not excluding the playground at the foot of her apartment building. The next: the lawns of Central Park. Her 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 –

Old Man.. 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?

Old Man.. 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?

Old Man. Around 1980 I saw the 1948 film with Laurence Olivier.

Prompter. Let’s fast forward.

Old Man. After Shakespeare came –

Prompter. Skip to the love or death scene.

Old Man. Skip decades?

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

Old Man. “…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?

Old Man. Yes and no.

Prompter. Now ask me about my story.

Old Man. I know your story.

Prompter. It’s newly revised.

Old Man. You have the honor. Tee it up.

Prompter. No, after you. Play away.

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

2.
Old Man: To the Four Courts
Prompter: Hamlet

3.
Old Man: The Dust-Up
Prompter: Hamlet

4.
Old Man: Theft in the Abstract
Prompter: Hamlet

5.
Old Man: The Country House
Prompter: Hamlet

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

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

8.
Old Man: Shareholder Value (auf Deutsch)
Prompter: Hamlet

9.
Old Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of King Lear
Prompter: Hamlet

10.
Old Man: Play in the Dark, with Suzanne Daniels
Prompter: Hamlet

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

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

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

14.
Old Man: MFA Material
Prompter: Hamlet

15.
Old Man: No Loitering/No Vagancia
Prompter: Hamlet

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

17.
Old Man: www.reunion.us/antigone
Prompter: Hamlet

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

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