I just sent Michael Draft #3 of the ENDURE script. We're finally down to little niggly things. Trimming this. Condensing that. On Friday, I'll be exporting it to a PDF file and then I'm not allowed to touch it. I've promised. As of this week, I'm finally transitioning from Writer to Performer and Michael's no longer Patiently Waiting Supportive Colleague. He is Herr Director. It's great.
Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:11AM
The script is (and I feel no shame in saying this) GLORIOUS. It was written in the way all things should be written: me getting out of the way, arriving clean to the page and letting the Muse pour through my fingers.
A month ago, I had a first draft. I sent it out to my creative inner circle, my small family of longtime trusted creative friends. They gave me feedback which, thankfully, echoed my own concerns and didn't introduce any others. I redrafted and sent it out again. More feedback from my loved ones and then a miracle happened. Rather, another miracle in the chain of miracles that have blessed this little project from the start:
Something amazing has been happening with ENDURE that I've only shared with a handful of people. It started in a whirl of confusion as I was offered (and then un-offered) the opportunity to create a fully-realized and staged ensemble version of ENDURE. (Picture it: a peleton of road bikes affixed to a stage, massive fans blowing, athlete performers running laps around a theatre. Gaa!)
This was back in the late fall when I was trying to collaboratively write with Michael and it wasn't working and I'd completely lost sight of what this show was. My grant has almost been pulled and these were dark, confusing days. One Sunday, I stumbled bleary-eyed into Kym's bar on 11th Street and sat down beside her fiance Devin. I told him what a creative clusterf*ck ENDURE had become and he said, "I always pictured it involving an iPod. Like, you download something and take it for a run." My face lit up and I practically SPRINTED home to get to work.
I don't know why this was the idea that gave me enough courage to start writing, but it was.
I held Devin's idea close, not telling anyone: not Mark, not Michael, not my creative soul-sisters. No one. I hammered through a draft, making a to-do list that looked to me like a playlist with all the sections listed out like catchy song titles. While I wrote, I called no one. I saw no one. I attended no theatre, no galleries, no live music, nothing. My life, my world, shrank down to one thing: ENDURE.
The only exception I made, an exception that surprised me at the time, but now it makes perfect, brilliant sense, was to meet a friend-of-a-friend who was here from Sweden, a musical genius named Christine Owman.
We sat, huddled over microbrew, me with that crazy-eyed stare I get when I've spent too much time alone. I told her about the show, the concept of people downloading it to their iPods and taking it with them as a personal physical-audio performance experience. "They provide the rhythm of breath and feet on pavement," I said, searching her eyes for signs of scorn or disdain.
"I love it," she said. "Do you need music?"
When I finished writing, I pulled out a microphone and recorded myself reading the draft. This is what I sent to my inner circle, saying 'Put on your running shoes and hit the road!' My sister, a runner, provided key feedback about the energetic quality of the material – how in a run you go through a series of undulating highs and lows and how that needed to be part of the experience. I rewrote. I re-recorded.
I downloaded it myself, and even though I'm not yet able to run, I took it out, walking through Manhattan. I felt my heart race pace up when the narrative intensified. I felt my breath expand in the sweeping poetic sections. How the stimulus all around me on the street wanted to interact with the content I heard in my ears. How a linear narrative was too constraining out there in the world.
But mostly, I noticed my body. How incredible it felt to experience creative work while moving though space and how the quality of the performance affected my physical energy. My body was part of the performance in a way I never anticipated. I got to Michael's place, flushed, grinning and out of breath: "This changes everything."
I dropped the linear narrative and brought back the playlist, chunking down the material into individual 'tracks', each with their own narrative arc, their own theme, their own vibe. Michael and I squealed with delight at the idea of putting the playlist on shuffle and what that would to do the narrative and the physical experience. "It's choose your own adventure," we yelled in unison.
We had a meeting with Christine, now the third member of our team, about an original soundscape of her gritty, ethereal sounds. We set deadlines, aggressive ones. Michael led me through a physical/vocal warm-up and we recorded a few practice tracks. I stood there, astounded, at the words springing to life, kaleidoscopes of vocal colour exploding under Michael's powerful direction. How good it felt to be performing again. How we were finally on our way.