Recently, I’ve been thinking about the past. About MY past. It’s not dark and grim, I’m not having to review what someone did to me. I’ve lived in a bunch of different places and done a bunch of different things. (Don’t worry, this will come back to writing… some how… I hope.) This past weekend, my wife and I drove up the coast up to Northern California. I hadn’t been up there in 12 years, not since I attended an acting school called Dell’Arte–which sits in a small town in a remote part of California by the ocean. In other words, it’s really beautiful there.
As we were driving up, driving around, I kept reliving moments from my time there. The place hadn’t changed much (ok, except for the casino. And the brewery. But, other than that…)
On our way up, and on our way down, we stopped to see friends that we hadn’t seen in years. One friend, who I had gone to Dell’Arte with, I hadn’t seen in 10. (We were able to pick up, right were we left off. Which was talking about the tour we had gone on…)
It’s a very human thing… to begin to remind ourselves of what we did in a place we hadn’t been, or when we first see someone after a long time to reconnect through memory. Very human. We connect by telling stories.
Now… let me come back to playwriting… While a human thing to do, I don’t think it makes for good drama. The memory play. The What Secret Are You Hiding Play. The Truth Of the Past Will Come Out play. I think they suck. As an audience member, I get bored very quickly. Because there is, at the heart, very little conflict. Just someone TELL THE SECRET all ready. And then everyone can go off to therapy and get better. End of play, I can go home and watch the Daily Show.
I prefer plays that work in the present for the characters. Their needs, their wants are happy NOW for them. (To be clear, I’m not saying poo poo to the historical or sci-fi play). I want them to be in a head to head conflict with someone or something in the NOW. Not memory. Not uncovering some deep secret of the past about mommy and the milk man and my sister isn’t my sister, but my cousin. I want to see someone in the NOW.
Which brings me to where I am now. Horrors. I realized the other day, that the new play that I’m working on…is a memory play. NOW, in defense, other stuff is happening too. In the present for the characters (which is our future.) BUT, a major component of the play, for the main character is what happened in the past between her and her husband. Of course, he’s dead now… so, she’s gonna have to talk to some one else… who looks like him, might BE him… (Listen, just roll with it, it takes place in the future…)
Memory is important. It drives US, it CAN drive characters. It obsesses us. It CAN obsess a character. Because memory helps us understand how we arrived at who we are NOW. And that is a powerful motivator.
That said, as I struggle to deal with my new profound hypocrisy, memory plays still suck. 🙂