Preview: The Green Room

in two parts: Vanishing Act and Hamlet Postmortem

Welcome, thanks for being here. Why “green room”? Once upon a time, stage makeup was green in color before setting. Anxious actors have “green” faces. Inexperienced and/or nervous actors are “green.” Many theatricals at Versailles were held outdoors in “bosquets” (groves), effectively “green rooms.” Medieval plays were often performed outdoors on the village green; an adjoining space for preparation and waiting was a “green room.” Green is also associated with safety, permission, nature, inexperience, calm, jealousy/envy, the dollar.

The stage, a golf course in rural Warner Springs CA, is dark. The Old Man invokes a spirit of the past, his past as playwright and groupie (arguably playwright and groupie). With him on his odyssey to the wilderness is the Golf Widow, who, on an as-needed basis, whispers his scripts to him via a wireless, in-ear device.

After the playwright is finished, he gives up the balance of his time to his doppelgänger, the groupie, for a collaboration with the Golf Widow on a read-through of Hamlet Postmortem, the Old Man’s response to his transformative theater experience, The Wooster Group’s Hamlet, which the British Library has ranked one of the 10 key performances of Shakespeare, ever. Hamlet Postmortem takes place in the natural amphitheater of a green, which won’t be damaged because the performance is disembodied.

On the Old Man’s back is written:

Khaki Hamlets don’t hesitate to shoot.

On his right arm, a tattoo:

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

His scorecard pencil reads:

Mein Drama findet nicht mehr statt. (My drama no longer takes place.)

Prologue: The Production Team

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 are in a full house for –

Playwright. My beloved Woosters, whose playbill/program reads, “Shakespeare’s classic tragedy is 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 give up writing plays, right?

Playwright. Yes and no.

Golf Widow. Tee it up.

Part I: Vanishing Act
Queen Mum (Preview)

Abdication (Preview)

Wittenberg I: Ruth, NYC and NYU

Wittenberg II: Galway (Preview) and Hannover (Brecht)

Rotten in the State I: Sewickley

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: The Tragedy of Writing Friendships

Rotten in the State II: San Diego

Mousetrap/Dumbshow I: The Undertow

Gertrude: gertrude regula faust

Mousetrap/Dumbshow II: The Unauthorized Autobiography of King Lear, or King Lear, the Kidz and the Kar Keys

Mousetrap/Dumbshow III: Play in the Dark

Mousetrap/Dumbshow IV:

Mousetrap/Dumbshow V: Residency Oasis

The Players I: Gob Squad, Jelinek, Schleef, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz and the Wooster Group

Mousetrap/Dumbshow VI: Euronevada

Ophelia: Golf Widow

The Players II: Wooster Nightmare, Wooster Dream, Wooster Therapy

Exit the Son (Preview)

selected ghostwriters
Samuel Beckett, Endgame
Bertolt Brecht, Mutter Courage
Gob Squad, Gob Squad’s Kitchen
Günter Grass, Katz und Maus
Andreas Gryphius, Absurda Comica oder Herr Peter Squenz
Elfriede Jelinek, Das Werk (dir. Nicolas Stemann)
James Joyce, Ulysses
Franz Kafka, Der Prozess
Heiner Müller, Die Hamletmachine
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (trans. Moncrieff)
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Family Idiot (trans. Carol Cosman)
Christoph Schlingensief (dir. Hamlet)
Daniel Paul Schreber, Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (Noteworthy Thoughts of a Nerve Patient)
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Allen S. Weiss, My Dolls
The Wooster Group, Hamlet (dir. Elizabeth LeCompte)
The Wooster Group, House/Lights (dir. Elizabeth LeCompte)
The Wooster Group, La Didone (dir. Elizabeth LeCompte)
The Wooster Group, To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre)

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
Keep Your Faith to the Sky (1979), Willie Scott & The Birmingham Spirituals

autobio acknowledgments
Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (trans. Howard)
Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Ved Mehta, Continents of Exile
Francis Stuart, Black List: Section H
Allen S. Weiss, Unpacking My Library, or The Autobiography of Teddy

Part II: Hamlet Postmortem

Here we have the old man talking to the young with the dead in between. John Gielgud

The Old Man reconstructs Gielgud’s Hamlet and LeCompte’s Hamlet, made possible through the miracle of Microsoft Word.

Rosamond Gilder, John Gielgud’s Hamlet: A Record of Performances (1937)
The Wooster Group, Hamlet (dir. Elizabeth LeCompte)
Richard L. Sterne, John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet: A Journal of Rehearsals (1967)