Preview: The Green Room

or: Vanishing Act of a Living Dead Playwright

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.

The stage, a golf course in rural Warner Springs CA, is dark. 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 that 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.

On his scorecard:

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

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

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: Tragical Historie: Smile in the Dark (Mom)
Groupie: Hamlet

2.
Playwright: Real, Imaginary and Symbolic Ghost (Dad)
Groupie: Hamlet

3.
Playwright: Wittenberg I (New York/Ruth)
Groupie: Hamlet

4.
Playwright: Wittenberg II (Galway/Hannover)
Groupie: Hamlet

5.
Playwright: Rotten in Sewickley
Groupie: Hamlet

6.
Playwright: The Players
Groupie: Hamlet

7.
Playwright: Rotten in San Diego
Groupie: Hamlet

8.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow I: The Undertow
Groupie: Hamlet

9.
Playwright: Gertrude (Ex-Frau)
Groupie: Hamlet

10.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow II: The Unauthorized Autobiography of King Lear, or King Lear, the Kidz and the Kar Keys
Groupie: Hamlet

11.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow III: Play in the Dark
Groupie: Hamlet

12.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow IV: Set in Venice
Groupie: Hamlet

13.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow V: Residency Oasis
Groupie: Hamlet

14.
Playwright: Wittenberg III: MFA Material
Groupie: Hamlet

15.
Playwright: Mousetrap/Dumbshow VI: setinvenice.com
Groupie: Hamlet

16.
Playwright: Ophelia (Golf Widow)
Groupie: Hamlet

17.
Playwright: Wooster Nightmare, Wooster Dream, Wooster Therapy
Groupie: Hamlet

18.
Playwright: Real, Imaginary and Symbolic Hamlet (The Old Man†)
Groupie: Hamlet

Epilogue

The Golf Widow buries the deceased’s collected plays.

selected ghostwriters, in dramaturgical order of appearance
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (Overture) (trans. Moncrieff)
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 (Epilog)

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

playwright acknowledgments
Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes (trans. Howard)
An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
Continents of Exile series, Ved Mehta

groupie acknowledgments
Ferguson, Margaret W., Hamlet: Letter and Spirits (1985 essay)