The Next Step

Tomorrow it will be two months exactly since I finished an initial complete draft of my musical play, Eden in Babylon. I told myself earlier that I would wait two months before looking at it again.   Obviously, the two months are almost up.

What will I see when I take a look at the gargantuan labor of love that I hammered out between Thanksgiving Day of 2016 and March 4th of this year?   Well, to be honest with you, I took a little peek at it two or three nights ago.  What I have seen, so far, is this:

1. A number of the characters don’t quite act like themselves when they first enter into the action.  This is because I got to know them better as the story unfolded.

2. Although it is a musical, and one expects the characters to break into song periodically, sometimes the songs are not sufficiently motivated by what’s happening in the story line.  Or, if they are, the transition between spoken dialogue and sung lyrics is awkward or forced.

3. I run the happy risk of pissing of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical Christians left and right, even though I am a Christian.

4. It might be too long.

5. My plan to obfuscate deus ex machina by throwing in so many instances of it into the final scene may or may not work.   Either the audience will be skyrocketed into a higher dimension of suspension of disbelief or they will be completely let down.   There seems no in between. 

The first of these should be pretty easy to fix, now that I do know my characters fairly well.  The second may take some work.  However, my plan to smooth out those transitions while in the process of creating the piano-vocal score seems sound. 

ChurchillThe third is actually more of a bother than I may let on, but that’s only because I’m paranoid about being lambasted by others who identify with a Christian belief system.  In reality, some of those ultra-right-wingers don’t give anybody a break.  The fourth is a much better problem to have than its opposite.  Better to submit it too long, and permit the director to chop it up at discretion, than to submit it too short, and have it appear to be incomplete. 

The fifth is an issue for almost every novelist, playwright, or filmmaker.  How do we end the story effectively, without it seeming to be a wrap-up?   To be honest, I have no idea if what I have done will fly.  Of the eight or nine people who have read the script, no one has yet complained.  But that doesn’t say much.  No one has yet complained about any aspect of the script.  (All I ever hear is praise — and that’s not good.)

The next step, after making adjustments while notating the piano-vocal score, is to organize a read-through.   I’ve secured a location for the read-through, which will be in the back room of the One World Cafe.  In the time it will take me to notate the p-v score, I can probably round up the 23 readers I will need to pull this off. 

Realistically, this will take me till the end of the year 2017.   On the other hand, who said anything about being realistic?

The End

This post will be very brief.

As most of you know, I have been working on a musical play, off and on, for about five years.   This included a writer’s block of three years that was finally broken over Thanksgiving dinner last year.  I picked it up again on Thanksgiving night.

As of 11:15am this morning, I have finally put the words THE END at the bottom of my  document.   Eden in Babylon is complete — book, music, and lyrics — 132 pages in standard script format for a musical play.

Please fill out the contact form on this website if you would like a copy of the script, and we’ll see what we can do.  No doubt changes will be made, being as this is an initial draft.  I will say, however, that the satisfaction I am feeling at this moment far exceeds any previous form of satisfaction I have hitherto been known to feel.

Special thanks to Mary Donohoe and to all the members of the Palouse Writer’s Guild for their support — and to all of you, I offer a very special thank you, on this day.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

Who is Winston Greene?

As I’ve gotten deeper into the creation of the Eden in Babylon libretto, I’ve become more concerned with subtext: that wonderful unrevealed material that defines character for the writer and is craftily concealed from the audience so that they might feel free to figure things out for themselves.

Recently, I found in my workbook some notes on the background of the protagonist of Eden in Babylon, whose name, as you know, is Winston Greene. I felt it would be helpful for me to have a deeper understanding of just how Winston got to the place where the members of his birth community would be so concerned about him as to stage a major intervention on the very night of his presumed spiritual enlightenment.

I wrote the notes fairly quickly at a moment of illumination, then proceeded to forget about them completely. It was interesting, two weeks later, to unearth the notes and find out exactly what I had said:

“In Scene One, Winston is being metaphorically “cast out of Eden,” for the form that he had rejected was found in an instance of Eden initially, that being the mother’s womb. This later was expanded to the experience of the home-hearth and the overall umbrella of her nurturing, and also was connected to the great sense of warmth Winston knew as a boy, having been born into a privileged class. There, not only were his essential life needs met most effectively, but many of his personal desires and wishes were easily fulfilled as well. This gave him the strong impression, early in life, that there would always be enough warmth in his world to ensure the fulfillment of his dreams.

“Unfortunately, this sense of Eden was gradually corrupted. It morphed in a gradual and insidious way into an instance of Babylon instead. For though Winston sought diligently to uphold the initial innocence of an idyllic and uninhibited Eden, his efforts were obscured by the high visibility of his personal folly; for he indulged in this naiveté long past the point at which social restrictions would logically prohibit the more flagrant and shocking displays of his deviant behavior.

“Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden on the basis of an offense on the part of a powerful authority (viz., the “Father God”), so is the end of Eden for Winston Greene. In his world, it is the Babylonian Mainstream of his birth community who have become offended by his completely innocent behavior, and it is they who have orchestrated his eviction from his own psychic home of Eden, his own unconscious extension of the conditions of his mother’s womb. For though his mind was sharply focused internally on the release of his Spiritual-Artistic contribution, any hope for redemption on the basis of such talent and devotion was completely obscured by the fact that even his most valiant and admirable efforts along these lines were in reality known only to Winston himself. For the people of Winston’s world saw only the disrespectful, impetuous scoundrel; and took his absent-minded permissiveness for an elaborate, premeditated act of extreme social offense. Thus they collectively sought his institutionalization on grounds of antisocial behavior, rather than encourage the ongoing production of his Creative-Artistic vision; which was of course, as an Artist, his primary focus.”

In light of these notes, one might relate Winston’s early life more closely to that of the Buddha than to any other major religious figure, because Buddha was brought up in an atmosphere of extreme wealth and decadence, only to be shocked when he first encountered the suffering of humanity in the form of a hungry and underprivileged class. This class of people will Winston discover once he is institutionalized, in the form of the many young people who have arrived there from broken homes, foster homes, abused backgrounds and other tentative pseudo-foundations. These are the “Children of the Universe” whom Babylon has robbed of the “experience of Eden” that our protagonist was so privileged to have replicated in his own affluent, though misleading, childhood.

Note: Some of the more esoteric language here might be clarified upon reading an earlier work of mine entitled The Form of Babylon and the Age to Come. (Link is to a pdf file of the text.)  Pursuing the links in the block quote above might also be helpful, though they would require a lot of reading of philosophical text before one would grasp the context.  If one is familiar with Plato’s Theory of the Forms from the start, that reading would be unnecessary.