|James Rankin as Pengo|
Pairing the two shows together only pointed up the flaws in this newer piece. Though they share themes and feature a similar character (me) IHT is straightforward and weighty while ATYD flails all over the place, trying to decide what it wants to be. Or so it seems to me.
It was Chennelle’s suggestion that, having proposed a revision, I may want to hear the script read out loud first, and by someone else. We asked James Rankin to read the script, he has already performed in several plays I have written, including Double Heart, both of my Agatha Christie adaptations, and The Great Globe Itself.
The crowd was intimate, by design, as I limited the gathering to folks who were unfamiliar with the play, mainly folks I had only met in the past eight or nine years.
It was refreshing to listen to the play, to experience it in real-time like an audience member. The structure takes the audience all over the place, from the past to the “present,” from formative moments to the job of training for a marathon itself.
The middle section is powerful with poetic imagery, and it made members of this audience wonder why it took so long to get to that point. Of course, the early scenes give the middle scenes their strength, building the story and the character so it/he can take flight.
I also made a running list of all of the Cleveland references, and how many were helpful and which were not. It’s definitely a play which takes place in Cleveland, and nowhere else. But it does get bogged down in minutiae of interest only to a local. That’s fun and all, but takes up valuable verbal real estate.
|Not an illustrator. Actually a runner.|
My audience was asked to reflect back to me what they felt the play is about, what message it attempts to convey, and some of the answers surprised me.
The effects of long-distance running on the human body, the functions of the body, its capacity and fragility.
I have created an alternate professional life for the main character, that of a visual artist and illustrator. How relevant this is was the subject of some conversation, and also how more clearly to draw these aspirations to the personal and athletic goals, errors, and achievements.
One of the New York reviews from years ago remarked on how characters arrive, never to be heard from again, which is a thing that happens during a person’s life. But the place of “father” in all of this, the original inspiration for becoming a runner was an important question for me, and I received some valuable feedback on that.
My goal is to rewrite the play entirely, leaving most of the skeleton intact and changing all the words. My writing has evolved in the last ten years, or I like to think it has, and this is a story I want to return to, to get right. Listening to it read has only strengthened that commitment, the fact that I am training for the 2019 Chicago Marathon will provide a lot of time to ruminate on the revision.
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