Last year during the tour of Double Heart, plans were already being made for this year's tour. The last time Great Lakes produced As You Like It, the outreach tour was a different play titled Seven Ages, featuring a slate of ten-minute plays, each written by a local playwright, each dealing with one of the seven ages of man. These short plays were contemporary, each a stand-alone short play.
We decided to put a spin on that concept, seven different Cleveland-area playwrights, each telling the story of one of seven ages, we would even use the same title, like editions of a magazine. Like the first three Peter Gabriel albums.
But how would it be unique? Emily asked me about it over lunch during the tour season, and I eagerly explained my concept. Four characters from As You Like It would be taking refuge someplace, like a tavern or somewhere, hiding out during a massive tempest, and they tell these stories to pass the time. And the stories could go anywhere! They can be fable or folktale, sincere or satire, spun from the past or even the future.
She said, "That's World's End."
Well, crap. She was absolutely right. My concept even had a young woman passing as a boy.
Okay. Okay, okay. Okay? Yes, there are similarities. Neil Gaiman's World's End is one volume of his comic Sandman. Characters take shelter against a "reality storm" in the tavern "World's End". These people are from different periods in history, they are perceptibly "real" (from the world as we know it) or mythic.
And they tell stories, because that is what you do to pass the time. Today we can pass the time alone listening to stories (radio) or watching stories or even creating stories (screens). Without such technology, people will tell stories, they always have.
Gaiman's work is storytelling, which is the role of any writer, but a trope particular to him is the act or the art of telling stories, whether they come in dreams, shared by forgotten gods or months of the year, or passed about in publicans.
Backstage at The Alcazar
So? It's good to be aware of what influences you. Strangers coming together who then tell stories? Gaiman would be the last person to claim he has a copyright on that concept. And so we cobbled our tales and last night presented the work to an invitation-only preview audience of Great Lakes Theater supporters and friends at The Alcazar in Cleveland Heights. None dast call it unoriginal.
Seven Ages opens at The Alcazar tonight at 8 PM, free and open the the public. Please join us.