My plays often contain memory as a major thematic and plot element. Past ghosts come back to haunt. Kilgore has that, and Me and My Shadow, How to Hide Your Monster, all of the Marshlands puppet plays, New Eden, DIRT...all of them, to some extent. For years I've half wondered about this, striving to make each piece active in the present tense while knowing an integral force of the play's genesis is the past rising up.
Memory is a big deal for me, and forgetting is one of my retaliations. I can have a hard time remembering things -- events, people. I used to block out whole sections of my life. Many memories bring up shame, fear, ugliness, and this is a common reaction. I learned to stir up my recall through one of Natalie Goldberg's key tools in writing practice, her "I Remember" exercises. Now I've been doing yoga a lot, and deeply lodged images from years ago resurface in unexpected bursts, carrying big emotion and physical effects with them. Events from faraway times still carry heavy weight.
In a flash in the shower yesterday, I saw clearly for the first time that of course my work deals heavily in what once happened. My personal fears in life tend to center around my own history coming back to overwhelm and take over, present me as a fraud and a failure, strip me from everything I have now because of who I once was and what I did, who I was with, all of it.
I don't think it's all fear-based. Maybe because things are good right now -- really they are good, I can admit that with gratitude -- then going into memory is my access point of opening up dramatic conflict, and also touches into empathy. I can relate to struggle because of memory.
Lately though, I feel myself getting more active in the present tense in my writing. I'm more interested in plays centered on this moment. Perhaps that moment is set in history or inspired by long ago, but the dramatic events are occurring right now more than conjuring up of the great before. The play I'm starting right now deals with grief -- which is a big memory influence -- but it deals with present grief, something happening right now in the play world. Present mourning, present adventure, present transformations and present reclamations.
Knowing more about the foundation of memory in my plays is helpful, aesthetically speaking. I'm learning that pulling from both the past and the future is what can bring us into the present - and maybe that's why some say the present can't actually exist. I'm still affected by a classmate's proclamation's last year, who said, "Good art has both roots and reach."
We're thinking of our past and future in these present elections, in political movements and protests. I think about them as I work with students this week opening a new devised production this week. I think about them in my love relationship, friendships and family life. And I definitely think about them in my writing. So yes, I'll indulge in both memory and forward movement in this play I'm starting, as I continue this walk toward present awareness.
Process notes on a work in progress. This page serves to invite you into the way I work, with intermittent posts to show you the hows and whys on the whats I make.