Preview: The Green Room

Green room: a lounge in a theater for the use of actors and actresses when they are not required on stage, probably so called because painted green.

Green: associated with safety, permission, nature, inexperience, calm, jealousy/envy, the dollar.

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 18 stages.

After the playwright is finished, he gives up the balance of his time to his doppelgänger, the groupie, who executes over the course of another 18 a solo rendition of the Old Man’s transformative theater 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 back 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 groupie reanimates TWG’s double dose of Hamlet in its entirety (or nearly). (Stage note: The Golf Widow, who accompanies the Old Man, whispers his scripts to him, which he receives via a wireless, in-ear device.) The groupie’s riff would be reproduced textually as follows:

regular – Groupie

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.

Golf Widow. 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, theater 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 theaters – a green light flickered within.

Golf Widow. After Two Gentlemen came –

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

Golf Widow. 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.

Golf Widow. 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.

Golf Widow. Let’s fast forward.

Playwright. After Shakespeare came –

Golf Widow. Skip to the love scene.

Playwright. Skip decades?

Golf Widow. It’s 2008. It’s LA. We were in 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.”

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

Playwright. Yes and no.

Golf Widow. Tee it up.

1.
Playwright: In Erwartung von Schlösser (Expecting Castles)
Groupie: Hamlet

2.
Playwright: The Descendant
Groupie: Hamlet

3.
Playwright: Cub Reporter
Groupie: Hamlet

4.
Playwright: Cold Readings in America’s Finest Backwater
Groupie: Hamlet

5.
Playwright: Writing Society
Groupie: Hamlet

6.
Playwright: The Undertow
Groupie: Hamlet

7.
Playwright: Shareholder Value
Groupie: Hamlet

8.
Playwright: The Unauthorized Autobiography of King Lear
Groupie: Hamlet

9.
Playwright: Collaboration I – Play in the Dark
Groupie: Hamlet

10.
Playwright: Collaboration II – Set in Venice
Groupie: Hamlet

11.
Playwright: Residency Oasis
Groupie: Hamlet

12.
Playwright: MFA Material
Groupie: Hamlet

13.
Playwright: setinvenice.com
Groupie: Hamlet

14.
Playwright: Wooster Groupie
Groupie: Hamlet

15.
Playwright: www.reunion.us/antigone
Groupie: Hamlet

16.
Playwright: No Loitering/No Vagancia
Groupie: Hamlet

17.
Playwright: Playbills, Playbills, Playbills!
Groupie: Hamlet

18.
Playwright: Kampf um die Sonne/Battle for the Sun
Groupie: 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
Günter Grass, Katz und Maus
Heiner Müller, Die Hamletmachine
David Mamet, A Life in the Theatre
Elizabeth LeCompte/The Wooster Group, Hamlet
Gertrude Stein/Elizabeth LeCompte/The Wooster Group, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights
Elfriede Jelinek/Nicolas Stemann, Das Werk

playlist, in chronological order
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1909), Ziegfield Follies
I Can Do That, A Chorus Line (1975), Hamlisch/Kleban
Die Mortitat von Mackie Messer, Die Dreigroschenoper (1928), Brecht/Weill
The Rite of Spring (1913), Stravinsky
Die Fledermaus (1874), Strauss/Genée/Haffner
Mock Morris (1910), Grainger
The Banks of Green Willow (1913), Butterworth
The Boy from Ipanema (1996), Crystal Waters
Mütter auf der Dammkrone, Das Werk (2003), Jelinek/Stemann
Manhattan (1959), Blossom Dearie