November 28th, 2011


Names, Shakespeare, Omni

Names:  I must change a major character's name.  I've known this for a long, long time.  Y'see, the current version of Chant comes from seeds of a story I initially wrote in the early 90's, and I named one of the primary characters Asper.  The diagnosis of Asperger's didn't exist at the time.  The name change is not easy.  Nothing sounds right.  I'm thinking I'll just use George as a placeholder.  Maybe it'll at least break my attachment to Asper.

Shakespeare and Omni: Directing Shakespeare's Hamlet is an experience very different from directing Midsummer Night's Dream, and not just because one is quite the tragedy is one is quite not.  In Hamlet, everything is about Hamlet.  If he isn't in the scene, he is discussed by the characters who are.  Hamlet has all the gravitational pull in the little Danish universe, and everyone who comes too close becomes trapped by his darkness.  It's almost claustrophobic in its focus, and can be made more so with very few script cuts.  If the director miscasts the leading role, or can't adequately support and guide the actor, the entire production implodes.  It isn't a single-viewpoint play, but it comes danged close.

Midsummer, on the other hand, is an ensemble piece.  The faeries, the lovers, and the mechanicals all depend upon each other to start, spark, influence, and conclude their individual storylines.   The storylines aren't interlaced so much as interlocked.  Directors sometimes emphasize that with casting choices (the actors who play Hippolyta and Theseus also play Titania and Oberon, forex).  Others do so with blocking.  I once saw a fanciful production that created Titania's bower from an oversized inverted umbrella that gently swayed above the stage, lulling Bottom to sleep while other scenes unfolded below.

In my own writing, I'm creating an ensemble piece by using omni.  Certainly I could do so using multiple third.  But, as I referenced before, it would be a very different tale told through that ensemble, and it would require thousands of additional words.  Thousands.

Midsummer also has a narrator in the character of Puck.  He's the one who invites the audience in, tosses out bits of commentary, oversees the interlocked stories, and is responsible for moving the plot along.  He is not the one with an emotional arc, with the greatest investment in the play's outcome, or unfolding character development.  He is at the end exactly who he was at the start.  But which character will cause the production to succeed or fail?  Which character will determine if the audience connects?  Puck.  The not-at-all-objective narrator who concludes his time on stage telling the audience just how special he is.  It's all about Puck.

That's the piece I'm needing to remember most as I march my way through revisions.  It is indeed a re-visioning, seeing everything anew, through the lens of my narrator.  Even though he isn't telling his story alone, he is telling what he wishes the reader to know for reasons that are his own.  It's all about his purpose, his interpretation, and his conclusions.  After all, the second sentence of the novel is, "Most people are wrong."

And in other news, I'm now wishing I'd been able to play Puck when the role was offered me fifteen years ago.  Alas, while a pregnant Cordelia could have made for an interesting choice in King Lear, the same could not be said for a pregnant Puck.  Ah, well.