Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"When I am 3 I can go on the Monorail"

Next Saturday is Tricky's birthday. His friend Sebastian is flying back into Sydney that day and so we are having our party on Sunday.

The plan is to play Pass the Parcel and to eat a cake shaped like a train. There are five days to make and assemble said train and so I am not without anxiety. 
(I'm not without anxiety at the best of times really. The trip to Los Angeles I won as part of the playwriting comp, I still have not organised. Anxiety. Planes. Long distances. Meetings. Potential failures. When i get round to booking a seat I will need to have one extra just to accommodate my fears. One ticket with anxiety. Economy please.) 

Luckily there will be enough time because this is not one of the weeks just gone, one of the incredible weeks of writing, listening and creating that have punctuated June and July so far. 
I think it started with that weekend away, that weekend of not being woken every four hours and being able to pop in for a film or a spot of shoe shopping or a long browse in a bookshop. 

And then there was this two weeks of astonishing brilliance; a workshop with theatre legend Edward Albee  (Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Three Tall Women, Zoo Story etc etc etc) and (concurrently, curses) a workshop with the resident actors of the Sydney Theatre Company to explore and develop the written "shards" that playwrights gang 7ON had created.

I twittered some of this stuff, not blogged it because I was unable to string more than 140 characters together at a time, and frankly it's a bit gushy and embarrasing but since I've already written quite publicly and at length about IVF, birth, dildocams, my lala, breastfeeding and various ups and downs of Special Magical Grownups Time with poor old long suffering C, I think I can handle admitting to a playwright's crush on Mr Albee. At one point I offered (via Twitter) to cut the plot of my play AND do his laundry, such was the strength of my feeling. 

And still is, frankly. 

This is the second workshop i have done with Edward Albee, the first was nearly three years ago when i was heavily pregnant. 

Last time was a much larger workshop. There were a lot more people involved, directors and and actors, it was hard for shy people to spend much time with Theatre Legends but this time, this year, it was just a small group of writers. Shy people could get a look in.

But here's the terrible thing, the really embarrassing thing; i told myself before the fortnight started that there was nothing I could learn from Edward Albee. That there wasn't anything he would say that I hadn't heard before and that it was all old school playwrighting anyway. 

And it was, and it was and yet it so wasn't. 

 I had heard it before, but it was only now, still sleep deprived, amazed and grateful at the chance to have two weeks worth of time spent studying and writing and reading, not snatched hours between naps or other jobs but two real weeks of 8 hours a day, that I heard what he was saying. 

And the Big Thing he said, that I grasped and held onto (and really this is what gave me my playwright's crush) was that we have lineage. Because I had always felt kind of alone, scribbling away, that's one of the things that brought 7ON together. And I reckon most playwrights do feel like that, especially when your work isn't being produced or performed. But what we were learning was that as a playwright, as a writer of story and character, we are all connected to a huge and ancient river of writing that goes back in time through  (Albee's big four;) Brecht and Chekov and Pirandello and Beckett and back to the Greeks and back to whoever first told the first story by a fire. 

So that I have a tiny but vital connection to playwrights like Caryl Churchill and Mark Ravenhill and Simon Stephens just as I do to the Australian playwrights I admire like Ross Mueller and Lally Katz and Suzie Miller and Caleb Lewis and the 7ON gang. 

And, Edward Albee. 

And that's why, even though the plan was a week with Albee and then a week at the STC, I had to keep going back. Even though the second week was all film scripts and I could only make the afternoon feedback sessions,  I kept going back and I kept writing it down. And I wasn't the only one. We have a small small theatre industry and it can be very easy to become disheartened and jaded and hardened. And I can whinge with the best of them but this time when people started to complain about the usual gatekeeper tactics I wanted to say let it go, just write, if you have a story to tell then you need to write it down and if you listen you will learn more about ways of telling that story...

I asked if Albee would sign my copy of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. It's an old version, one of those beautiful Penguin Plays, and it belonged to my mother which made it already precious.

He wrote: From one playwright to another. Courage!

And because I wanted to give him something, I gave him a copy of my book, which made me laugh to myself, because, honestly, what was he going to make of that? Luckily it made him laugh too. I am enjoying your very funny book, he told me at the prize ceremony on the last night of the workshop.

The first thing Edward Albee said to me, three years ago, was you must be about eight months pregnant and I laughed nervously because of course i wasn't eight months pregnant, lordy if I was due to have a baby in four weeks I would not be at a writers/actors workshop doing all that improvising and carrying on, I would be at home getting ready

As it turned out, I was due to have a baby in four weeks. Tricky came just under a month early. And I wasn't ready. And in some ways I have never really caught up. Nor do i expect to.

And now, he is about to turn three. 

And I have just turned forty one.

And he is old enough to go on the monorail (with his Mummy and Daddy).
And I am old enough to listen and to learn about writing again. 

And to go to Los Angeles. 

With or without anxiety.


Rebecca said...

I love your posts for their energy and optimism and honesty.

At Sebastian's 3rd birthday, pass the parcel went down very well (I put a sweet in each layer so that everyone gets something, and cheat so that everyone gets to unwrap at least once), also musical cushions (again as each one went out they got a sweet to compensate), pin/stick the tail on the donkey/spider on the web etc is a good easy one, and we have a small inflatable bouncy castle that is always a crowd pleaser. Good luck with the train cake, I can recommend familyfun.go.com for good and easy theme cakes.

Anonymous said...

And your route to LA will take you VERY CLOSE to my front door, yes?!

Betty M said...

Sounds like an amazing fortnight.

Mima said...

I still remember the train cake that my Mum made for my birthday (I must have been a bit older than 3), she used rivita or something similar to make the carriages and covered them with chocolate with swiss rolls as wheels. They were then filled with sweeties - this is what made it such a special cake!!

I'm so glad the you enjoyed your workshop, it sounds as if you got a fantastic amount from it, now to take that deep breath & organise LA - all the best of luck with it!

Jan said...

We welcome you to L.A., where we are enjoying a BEAUTIFUL summer!

OvaGirl said...

Having meeting with L.A organising man next week so am putting it all out of head until after birthday. Best really as have I mentioned choo choo train cake is REALLY CHALLENGING?!

Anonymous said...

I wish I lived on the left coast... to see you and Dramalish? A dream.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I'm so glad for your wonderful experience with Edward Albee. I'm excited for you and your trip to L.A. I used to know LA well, lived in all parts of the county at one time or another; Was born by the beach in Torrance (south bay). I miss it---especially with days like now, near 120 yesterday. You'll have a wonderful time. 3 was my favorite year for me with my kids; and Grand Kids - They're even cuter than when they were two! You've survived the terrible twos. Congrats Mom!

Unknown said...

I'm very proud of my friend the mother and writer. Albee may have inspired you but when I read your writing you inspire me and rejuvenate my soul.
I can't wait till we are all together again.
Peeps x

Anonymous said...

Hi Tricky! Hope yesterday was awesome! You can now ride the hell outta the monorail, apparently!
A xxx

Unknown said...

Congrats for 3, congrats for 41, and congrats for your successes.

I remember seeing you on the ABC at the first Albee workshop and am having trouble believing that was THREE YEARS AGO!

Lin said...

That Albee post was three years ago? Jesus Christ on a cracker...but where does time go (now get in the kitchen and work on that cake...time's a wastin', you have only five days and well, as we all know, three years went by in a pretty zippy way).

Okay. Do you need me to pick you up at the airport? When are you coming? I will see you, right?