Thursday, June 11, 2009

HEADS Re-Re-Re-Redux

My play is coming back to haunt me. Which is a good thing.

I started writing "Heads" around 2004, as near as I can remember. I ought to write these things down. The war in Iraq was well underway, and as Caroline Conway (my character) says, "Everything is 'quite all right,' but there are more bombings every day. Lots of bombings." Casualties were high on our side and much, much higher on the Iraqis'. Many of us felt conflicted (or downright angry) about the war, but enmired we were. It was happening, with or without our lefty-liberal blessing. We were there.

But of course, we weren't there. We were all the way back here. And trying to make sense of things. Trying to be angry at our government for starting a war we didn't believe in or agree with without being angry at the American soldiers who were being sent over there to fight it. Trying to keep from conflating terrorism and the Muslim faith. Reeling, still, from 9/11 and this (this?) response to it. Wondering what voice we had in a world where GW had been re-elected. Our country? Was it our country still?


I didn't leave, did I?

My country.

So there I was trying to figure out how to own this war, (amongst other ugly personal arguments with self), and the hostage-taking began. And the threats of beheading. And the beheading. And the videos of the beheading. And whether or not you think this is a more awful way to die than all the other ways there are to die, it has the particularity of an affixed date.

"What if it was me?" I thought. What if I had... say seven days... to sort out everything about the war and about myself? And about myself. And about myself. Have I done any good here? Have I done any harm here? What the hell have I been doing with my life? And... if every moment is a new moment where we are able to act to define ourselves... what do I do now with this very last moment?

Last Monday, I went to New York for a reading of "Heads" at Emerging Artists Theater. Sitting in rehearsals with the director and actors, listening to the reading, and then participating in an impromptu talk-back afterwards was a strange experience, like being visited by my own ghosts. I adore Jack and Michael. I am Harold and Caroline. My heart wrenched a bit. But it was lovely, too, hearing that the play has (perhaps... I hope...) human questions in it that remain, even as some of the war questions have been answered.

The play has certainly had an upswing in interest lately. Lawrence Harbison at Smith & Kraus will be publishing a scene from the play in one of his "Best Scenes" anthologies -- look for that at the end of the year. Halcyon Theater in Chicago has included the play in its 2009 Alcyone Festival -- six plays, written by women, on the subject of terrorism -- running through June and July. And a small theater in Denver, called "And Toto Too," will be producing the play in October -- a month-long run. I'm delighted that the play is finding these beautiful new homes, and can't wait to see what these nice folks in Chicago and Denver do with my play -- how they make it their own.

Everything is resonating with the play right now. I've been talking with all these people -- figuring out contracts, discussing travel plans, attending the New York reading rehearsals, e-mailing back and forth with directors and artistic directors and actors about the play and inviting people to the reading and shows. I have seen the artistic director, all four actors, the director and the set designer from the world premiere production at the Blank theater in the last week at a new play my director is directing at the Odyssey, at a Young Playwrights Festival kick-off party and at my New York reading after not seeing most of them for ages. My LA Michael came to my NY reading, and at one point I turned around and he was pow-wowing with the NY Michael -- odd seeing them together. My Chicago artistic director (Tony Adams) asked for and received information on how they created the moss-like substance in the boys' cell from my generous Los Angeles director (Darin Anthony) and set designer (Dan Jenkins). On Saturday, I'm meeting with a couple actors to do a table read of a sequel to "Heads" that I've been mucking about with that may or may not ever become a full-fledged play. I had this notion about a trilogy...

Anyway... I'm new to this. This resonance. It was so grand and amazing having someone do my play once, it felt greedy (necessary, but greedy) to ask for more from the world. But here it is. More has arrived, in a bushel basket.

The Chicago folks have their first performance of "Heads" on Saturday night. My thoughts will be with them. I can't wait to meet them all at some point during the run, when I fly out there! I hope they are enjoying working on my play.

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