Monthly Archives: February 2004

February 17, 2004
In Boston

I’ve been here in Boston since 2/1, working with Company One on a new play, Lost City, which opens in two weeks. Elizabeth is joining me tonight, flying in late, blessed be.

It’s been intense. Company One did an evening of our short pieces, Rash Acts, several years ago, and I happened to see it–tremendous talent and imagination. Over time, we started talking about doing a collaboration, and Lost City is soon to be the result.

Over a span of about five months, Elizabeth & I, along with our Sebastopol Genesis Ensemble, worked on developing a fairly detailed scenario that would guide our work once we came to Boston–intending to write the text itself based on improvisations with the Company One actors around the scenario as a spine. Late in the game, though, we mutually decided that this scenario wouldn’t fit the particular actors involved and what Company One wanted from the process–getting in on the ground floor of the ensemble-creation process. So we shelved that plot, though we like it a lot and will write it for production elsewhere, if we don’t croak first.

And on February 4th, we started naked. The eight characters, the setting, the story–all has emerged in less than two weeks. Today we finish staging the second draft of Act One, and this afternoon I finished the first draft of Act Two. Elizabeth flies in tonight to begin the music score, and we open two weeks from Thursday.

If this seems a little bit nuts, well… It’s more like making love out in the middle lane of the Santa Monica Freeway. Yet it also opens up a dynamic process that’s scary but very rich. Grab an idea, run with it, see what flows from that and get on the surfboard and go with it. I envy a lot of young writers whose work has this flow (even though I don’t often much like what’s flowing), and there’s definitely an attractive jazz to the leap of faith that’s required.

Will it work? I dunno. I’m too close to it to say. It’s eight very evocative characters stranded in a Rochester airline terminal on their way to Boston, each with a driving need. Of course that’s a stock plot in disaster movies, and we wait for the mad bomber or the zombie to step out from behind the Pepsi machine. But here, all that really happens is that they drowse through a long, long night and catch the first flight in the morning. On a fantasy level, we see what’s impelling them, or what might be, since in fact we can only surmise what’s going through that lady’s mind or what that guy has in his carry-on. It reflects our feeling about the richness & abundance we find around us.

And it’s also about “obsession.” The paradox is that in our culture we both promote that drive and condemn it. We’re told to compete, to excel, to get to the top, to be exceptional, to follow our vision, to root out the past, to be one-of-a-kind, to be FREE. Yet if we do that, we’re seen as selfish, obsessive, driven, vulnerable, rootless, unrealistic, even dangerous–an unresolved conflict between individualism and community that’s been a unique challenge over the whole span of the American journey.

Large themes for a small, intimate play. Reconnection tonight with Elizabeth after two weeks’ absence, and no more trying to survive on my own lousy cooking. And tomorrow, starting rewrites to discover what’s the face that’s starting to form on this baby.
–Conrad