Yes, I’m a director now.
No longer an assistant, no – a full fledged director.
I won’t say it wasn’t in the air, because it was. Has been for some time perhaps. After the last summer season – which was a test I passed.
And now… Continue reading
It’s a Dover Thrift paperback, thin, smallish, the pages rather yellowed at the edges, my initials embossed on the right hand corner of the frontispiece… and I can’t quite remember where I got it.
Published in 1997, the copyright note says – so it can’t have been in Cardiff, much less in Edinburgh. And it can’t have been London, because I know for certain that I already had the book by the summer of 1998 – and I wouldn’t move to London (however briefly) until a whole year later… No, my small collection of Crane stories must have come from Pavia, from one of several bookshops around the University that stocked books in the original language. Continue reading
Nellie Bly was a remarkable character. She was sixteen when she wrote her first article, passionately denying that marriage and motherhood were the only option for girls. The article impressed the editors at the Pittsburgh Dispatch, enough to earn her her fist job as a journalist. At 21 she spent six months in Mexico, writing correspondences, and getting in trouble with the regime of Porfirio Dìaz for championing press freedom. At 23 she spent ten days undercover in an asylum to expose the appalling conditions of the mentally ill. At 25 she journeyed around the world to beat Phileas Fogg’s 80 days record – and she did it! Continue reading
Had things been different – had things been normal – I’d be going through the backstage routine for the umpteenth time with the newest recruit of the Quick Change Team (whoever she or he might be), getting ready for tonight’s dress rehearsals of a Christmas Carol, discussing our Scrooge’s foibles – and perhaps trying on my own costume for Ruth Grimshaw in the prologue… All the while, also getting ready for our new big play – my own Verne adaptation, to open on New Year’s Eve. Also, Gemma and the good old Squirrels would be doing my Christmas Triptych on the 17th – so, even without being directly and officially involved in the production, more preparations… Continue reading
There is this thing in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – Act 3, Scene 2 – where the eponymous hero is dragged home by his friends after wrecking his campaign for Consulship.
Caius Martius’s unwilling bid for popular vote in the Forum began badly, and ended worse when the two People’s Tribunes goaded him into a shouting match. All patience lost, he gave them all a very abrasive piece of his mind on the rabble and its representatives – the sort that the Tribunes can easily construe as treasonous speech. So now he is at home, with family and friends trying to talk him into what he perceives as a humiliating apology, unless he wants to face charges of treason for himself and/or civil strife in the City. Continue reading
Every day I seem to realise a little more how much of our lives has moved to the realm of distance connections – even when the distance isn’t much at all. I told you about how our drama school moved all classes and meetings to Zoom, and then there is my mother doing her yoga practice via GoogleMeet, and the Company’s similarly organized cycle of Sepulveda readings… Continue reading
Teaching in the Covid era – even teaching playwriting in a drama school – means that we are back to distance learning, these days. My corner of Italy is shut down again, and last night’s class happened on Zoom.
It was all about dialogue, you see, and using it to either forward action, or enhance characterization. Well – both, ideally, and all the more when writing for the stage, where dialogue is one of only two tools the playwright has to tell a story, the other being action.
But as we discussed ways to use dialogue to build character, I was reminded of a bit in Charles Nicholl’s The Lodger. Now, The Lodger is wonderful nonfiction, focusing on Shakespeare’s time as a lodger with the Mountjoys, a family of successful tyrers (or wig-makers) of French origins.
Shakespeare managed to get himself embroiled with a lawsuit between Christopher Mountjoy and his son-in-law, and let us say that the Bard doesn’t cut his finest figure – but that’s hardly the point. The point is the Bard’s landlady, Marie Mountjoy, who went from Huguenot refugee to tyre-maker to Anne of Denmark, no less. Well, at one point Marie, a wealthy businesswoman and perhaps an adulteress, goes to see astrologer and physician Dr. Simon Forman, in the hope of recovering a couple of lost ring and some equally lost money. It was a common practice, at the time, and Forman was a man of huge renown in the field. The good doctor used to take copious and detailed notes of his cases, and his notebooks have largely survived, to provide us with a treasure trove of details. Details like the very short list of Marie’s suspect thieves – one being Margery, a servant in the Mountjoy household. A tall and freckled wench, in Marie’s words.
These few words, jotted down by Foreman as he listened to Marie, have always given me the shivers – in the best possible way. It’s a bit of a voice from four hundred years ago, unphiltered by the conventions of literature, law or ritual. It’s a small window thrown open across the centuries to show us, to make us hear this long dead woman… Nicholl loves it just as much as I do, and goes a step further: Whenever I try to conjure up a sense of Marie, he writes, I imagine her while she pronounces “freckled” with a French accent.
Try Nicholl’s little game – and here is Marie at thirty, leaning forward in her seat in the flickering light from a pair of candles, with a disapproving frown, and pursed lips, with her hands folded in her lap, and her French ‘r… So vividly alive, after four hundred something years, and all because of five words told to an astrologer. Five words that keep a trace of her origins, her mindset, her beliefs, her voice, her personality. Five words.
It goes to show how a few well-chosen words of dialogue can go very far in creating a voice and a character – whether history kindly provides them, or we make them up ourselves.
Will it sound awfully cliché if I wonder, is it just me, or do years grow shorter and shorter as I grow older? Because… well, once upon a time, I used to draw my yearly sums, so to speak, at the end of December. A most sensible notion, you’d think, and a fairly common one. Continue reading
Back in May, when we were still locked down, and RAI, the Italian television, was making an effort, I happened to see a long interview with playwright/director Alessandro Serra about his Macbettu – a translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Sardinian dialect. Continue reading