This week, the beginning of our storyboard. As with our previous staging of The Tempest we’ve found that planning the production much as one does with a film—is essential. Things will change radically as we go into rehearsal, but in the meantime we have to start building the puppets and the stage structures, and you can’t do that without thinking things through very thoroughly, trying to solve staging problems as you go along.
So this is just the first rough draft of text and staging: what’s being said, what do we see?
1. THE SEA
LOW SEA SOUND.
01 – VIDEO IMAGE OF MARY SHELLEY, WRITING WITH A QUILL PEN AS SHE SPEAKS.
VOICE OF MARY: It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me—
Hands appear above/behind her, with various objects: a hypodermic, a hammer, a knife, an egg-beater.
—that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes…
02 – OMINOUS MUSIC, BUILDING. As she speaks, a FIGURE with a rubber “Frankenstein” mask staggers forward, UR to DR. Suddenly, with live voice:
The Figure stops, looks at her, confused.
That’s not the way it was. Never.
03 – Figure slowly removes the rubber mask, revealing the VICTOR puppet.
VICTOR: Never. Never never never.
VIDEO: SEA IMAGES/SEGUE TO BLIZZARD/ICE.
VICTOR: This is what I told him. I told the Captain.
04 – Victor tilts to lie on DR Diagonal, arm extended L. SEA CAPTAIN appears behind him. [3rd wheels in Toy Theatre grooves.] SAILORS appear as two-dimensional cutouts LC. Their arms rise in union with Sea Captain’s gestures. He searches with a telescope.
VICTOR: When I went north, and I walked for many weeks, and I was in the Arctic—
VICTOR: Ice moving under me, and the ice broke, and I was adrift—
VICTOR: There was a ship and I called out to the ship, and then I collapsed and they cared for me.
And the Captain said “What are you doing here?” and I said “What are you doing here?” And he said—
CAPTAIN: I am on my quest!
VICTOR: And I said “God help you.”
VIDEO: NORTHERN LIGHTS, DANCING.
I told him my story. He was amazed.
05 – Sailors off. Captain horrified, staggers UL, looking at Victor reaching to him. Captain off.
After that, they made it into a movie. But this is how it happened.
TO BLACK. AUDIO BRIDGE.
06 – TWO PUPPETEERS in Skull Masks appear, DC tilted posture. [They wear these during preceding scene, but with a black scrim over the face which is pulled back to reveal the mask; it can be replaced at any time we want them to disappear.]
07 – They produce three stick puppets representing the child Victor, Elizabeth and Clerval, fingers for arms, loose shirts dangling from the heads. Skulls stay visible.
The Children play. Freeze. Clerval speaks:
CLERVAL: This is my friend Victor. And Elizabeth, she’s Victor’s cousin. Her mother’s dead. I’m Henry. Hi.
We play a lot. We play family.
We play kings and queens.
We play doctor, and we make a monster.
10- They sculpt a live hand as Clerval’s.
He chases them about, catches Victor.
Elizabeth breaks out.
ELIZABETH: Then I got sick. And Victor’s mother nursed me.
12- MOTHER DOLL appears, nurses the puppet Elizabeth.
“Poor Elizabeth. You’ll get well. Drink your soup.”
But then she got sick and died.
13- Mime of illness. Mother lies down, tries to rise. Victor is frantic to revive her. Then the Mother is up-ended. Sand pours out, leaving a limp rag. Victor realizes that it’s real.
14- No response. He shakes it.
Embracing her. Freeze.
CLERVAL: After that, he was way different.
Full-size Victor appears. TO BLACK.
And life gallops apace. Last week we saw a gorgeous solo performance by Eliot Fintushel doing an evening of Walt Whitman poems, with an array of gestural action and weird musical instruments. This coming week, it’s another show, this time with veteran artist Fred Curchack in a new piece. Wonderful to see a couple of genuinely topflight performers back-to-back.
And finished the first draft of Salvage, a new screenplay. Will be doing an hour’s Skype conversation with our collaborator Arturo Castillo this Friday.
Built a rolling table for Frankenstein and now on the casting stage of the first Victor Frankenstein head—there’ll be about three. Winds up with a startling similarity to the young Bertolt Brecht—perhaps influenced by just reading a 720pp biography of him, a problematic individual, to say the least. As am I, though probably a bit more honest.