Monday, January 30, 2012

Sam Shepard-Language, Visualization and the Inner Library

Ideas emerge from plays – not the other way around.

Words as tools of imagery in motion. Words as living incantations and not as symbols.

Living, breathing words as they hit the air between the actor and the audience actually possesses the power to change our chemistry.

Language seems to be the only ingridient that retains the potential of making leaps into the unknown.

Language can explode from the tiniest impulse. Words are not thought, they’re felt. They cut through space and make perfect sense without having to hesitate for the “meaning”.

I begin to get the haunting sense that something in me writes but it’s not necessarily me.

The real quest of a writer is to penetrate into another world. A world behind the form.

Myth speaks to everything at once, especially the emotions. By myth I mean a sense of mystery. A character for me is a composite of different mysteries.

Writing is born from a need. A deep burn. If there’s no need, there’s no writing.

The more you write, the harder it gets, becuase you’re not so easily fooled by yourself anymore.

Writing becomes more and more interesting as you go along, and it starts yo open up some of its secrets. One thing I’m sure of, though. I’ll never get to the bottom of it.

excerpted from “Language, Visualization and the Inner Library”, first published in The Drama Review, vol. 21, nÂș4 (December 1977)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jim Harrison-Late

What pleasure there is in sitting up on the sofa late at night smoking cigarettes, having a small last drink and petting the dogs, reading Virgil’s sublime “Georgics”, seeing a girl’s bare bottom on TV that you will likely never see again in what they call real life, remembering all the details of when you were captured by the indians at age seven. They gave you time off for good behavior but never truly let you go back to your real world where cars go two ways on the same streets. The doctors will say it’s bad for an old man to stay up late petting his lovely dogs. Meanwhile I look up from Virgil’s farms of ancient Rome and see two women making love in a field of wildflowers. I’m not jealous of their real passion trapped as they are within a television set just as my doctors are trapped within their exhausting days and big incomes that have to be spent. Lighting a last cigarette and sipping my vodka I examine the faces of the sleeping dogs beside me, the improbable mystery of their existence, the short lives they live with an intensity unbearable to us. I have turned to them for their ancient language not my own, being quite willing to give up my language that so easily forgets the world outside itself.

from "In Search of Small Gods", published by Copper Canyon Press in 2010.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sam Shepard-Nightwalk

I’m on a field as the sun rises. The long sweet grass licks my legs like snake tongues. A meadowlark keeps her distance, hiding her nest. I’m reminded of a dirty joke. There in the middle of the field with the sun rising a dirty joke plays on my mind. I shake it off. I got nothing against sex but I’m after something else. It keeps forcing its way in so I let it in. Tits and ass flash across my mind. The sky is golden pink. Like skin. A young deer bounds off toward the edge of the forest. The joke passes. It’s replaced by a song. Piano ringing through my ears. I’m no match for my imagination. The damp morning oozes into my boots and soaks my socks. It’s much different now from when I started out. It changes from moment to moment. Still I keep walking toward a clump of saplings. The idea of hot coffee and toast puts me in conflict. A wish to go back to the warm kitchen. Strange birds set up a song, warning each other of my coming. I’m a stranger here. Then everything leaves me at once. I’m left in an empty body. The sun splashes into my face. What was my reason for coming? I must’ve just wandered out here from my bed without a plan. Now I’m in the future of my day. I see myself having a good time later. I have to get this walk over with so I can have a good time. I turn to go back but it looks the same as when I started. The sun’s just rising. The grass licking my legs. The dirty joke. I try to remember where I started. I go back too far. Before I was born. A star. An angel. A demon. Something glittering through time. This is a whole new day and already I’m lost.

first performed in 1973, as part of a collective theatre piece written with Megan Terry and Jean-Claude van Itallie, for Joseph Chaikin's Open Theater.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sam Shepard-Eyes for Consuela

Look – I am an ordinary man. Just a plain old everyday average ordinary American man. I come from an ordinary background. Generations of ordinariness. There is nothing – absolutely nothing inside me that can even begin to comprehend this stuff. I don’t want to be involved in this type of thing. I simply want to return to the known world. Something safe and simple. My wife. My children. My house. My car. My dog. The front lawn. My mobile phone! The Internet! Things I can put my fingers on. Tangible things in the real world! Do you understand me? I don’t want to be dealing with madness now. Ghosts and sacrifices! Supersticion and visions. We’re approaching the millenium here! Things have moved beyond all that. Don’t you have any concept at all of the outside world? The global perspective? The Bigger Picture! The todo el mondo! There’s been an explosion of information out there! It’s available to anybody now. Even people in the jungle. People like you. People completely removed from civilization. There’s no secrets. There’s no hocus-pocus. Everybody knows everything there is to know about absolutely everything! Electricity has delivered us! We’re on the verge of breaking into territories never dreamed of before. Territories beyond the imagination. Things which will set us free so we don’t have to be gouging each other’s eyes out. So we don’t have to be torturing and butchering each other like a bunch of diseased animals. So we don’t have to be lost out here – totally lost and – wandering – without – without a clue – where we stand – in the scheme of things. Just completely – cut off.

from "Eyes for Consuela", first performed in 1998.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sam Shepard-Kicking A Dead Horse

I do not understand why I'm having so much trouble taming the Wild. I've done this already. Haven't I already been through all of this? We closed the Frontier in 1890 something, didn't we? Didn't we already accomplish that? The Iron Horse- Coast to Coast. Blasted all the buffalo out of here. An ocean of bones from Sea to Shining Sea. Trails of Tears. Chased the Heathen Redman down to Florida. Paid the Niggers off in mules and rich black dirt. Whupped the Chinee and strung them up with their own damn pony-tails. Decapitated the Mexicans. Erected steel walls to keep the riff-raff out. Sucked these hills barren of gold. Ripped the top soil as far as the eye can see. Drained the aquifers. Damned up all the rivers and flooded the valleys for Recreational purposes! Ran off the small farmers. Destroyed Education. Turned our children into criminals. Demolished Art! Invaded Sovereign Nations! What more can we possibly do?

from "Kicking A Dead Horse", first performed in 2007.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sam Shepard-Seduced

My vision? That's right. My vision. I still see. Even in the dark, I still see. Do you want to know what I see, Raul? It's the same thing I saw in Texas when I was a boy. The thing I've always seen. I saw myself. Alone. Standing in open country. Flat, barren. Wasted. As far as the eyes could take in. Enormous country. Primitive. Screaming with hostility toward men. Toward us. Toward me. As though men didn't belong there. As though men were a joke in the face of it. I heard rattlesnakes laughing. Coyotes. Cactus stabbing the blue air. Miles of heat and wind and red rock where nothing grew but the sand. And far off, invisible little men were huddled against it in cities. In tiny towns. In organizations. Protected. I saw the whole world of men as pathetic. Sad, demented little morons moving in circles. Always in the same circles. Always away from the truth. Getting smaller and smaller until they finally disappeared.

from "Seduced", first performed in 1978.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tony Kushner on Playwriting

ON HIS PROCESS. "Of writing? Oh my God! I don't know. It's mostly sort of avoiding writing as long as I possibly can. And then when the play is really ready to come out, taking dictation. That's what it feels like."

"I've come to realize that the delaying process is an integral part. A lot of it is research and a lot is hard thinking. It usually takes about a year for a play to come together for me."

"There are these ideas. The best ideas I've had, I don't know where they came from, and I don't know what made them, and I don't think it was just force of will and discipline. And that's frightening."

ON REWRITING. "Become more familiar with yourself. Learn whether you're the sort of writer, like Whitman, who should never have rewritten anything because his first drafts were always the best, or whether you're the sort of writer who writes very, very slowly and needs to sort of grope his way. Most of us are in between. It's just a matter of becoming familiar with yourself."

"Rewriting is tricky - to be smart enough to recognize what it is in the original impulse that makes the work yours and what makes the work good, if it is good."

"It is difficult to be brave and daring in rewriting, while not being foolhardy, or betraying the original impulse. That's the impossible, terrible thing. People kill things with rewrites all the time. They also kill things by not being able to rewrite."

ON POLEMICAL WRITING. "A very complicated issue. I think that one really has to trust that the good cause will speak even through bad characters. It's just no fun to watch polemics. If you're telling a story, it has to be full of all the twists and nooks and crannies that people's stories are full of."

AUDIENCE. "There's an assumption that people's attention spans are very brief. I don't think that's actually true...People like being challenged. People like difficulty. I don't think its true that people always want the easy thing and the simple thing. They want food that's hard to chew, but nutritious. If you give them that, they'll be excited."

"I always like to believe that my audience is smarter than I am and more politically sophisticated than I am, and knows pretty much everything I know, and I have to work very keep them from being ahead of me."

"Audiences are just immense. When you get three hundred people in a room together the IQ level of everyone goes up about twenty-five points. And that's why live performance is so exciting."

ON SUCCESS. "Several writers who I think are much better than me who have simply not succeeded because they didn't have the break, they didn't get lucky. Luck shouldn't play as big a part of it. "Also, the education system kills a lot of artists, because it doesn't expose kids to art, it doesn't teach the tools to analyze art. And whenever you have a society that's under-educating or de-educating its population, the way America is, the arts are going to suffer both in terms of audience and creators."

"I really believe the world is doomed unless we can recreate ourselves as social beings as opposed to little ego-anarchists."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Townes Van Zandt's top LP's of all time

From a 1987 interview, Townes Van Zandt lists his top LP’s of all time.

1. Hard Again – Muddy Waters
2. Mozart’s Violin Concertos Nos. 4 & 5
3. The Times They Are a Changin’ – Bob Dylan
4. Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones
5. Automobile Blues – Lightnin’ Hopkins
6. Atlantic 12 String – Blind Willie McTell
7. Tchaikovsky – Piano Concertos – Van Cliburn
8. Richard Dobson’s first LP
9. The Complete Hank Williams
10. Old #9 – Guy Clark
11. Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane
12. Waiting for the Naked Girl to Call – Tim Henderson

on the 15th anniversary of his death