14 May 2010

Ekphrasis report #6

The most recent Ekphrasis meeting was rather unusual. Due to a variety of circumstances, I cancelled the official meeting and just three of us met “unofficially” in a park. We met in the Bethlehem Rose Garden: a lovely place with a stage area. It is not the season for roses, but it was a beautiful hot day and the park was lovely and quiet. Present were SPB, JL, and myself. Although I always wish more people would attend (because I like the variety of comments and I want us to spread our mutual influence for excellence further), I also like very small meetings. The smaller the meeting, the longer time we can spend workshopping each person’s pieces.

So, we began with a dramatic performance by SPB. She had participated in a long improvisation exercises in one of her drama classes: the students were required to enact several personas chosen by tarot cards and other interesting methods by her “New Agey” professor. One character was a “spirit guide.” S’s card was a hummingbird. Out of that extended improv, she developed a character called Hummingbird: a little girl with a great imagination and an intuitive moral sense. Later, she wrote an original monologue for that character. This is what she performed for us in the park. It was a high-energy, physical monologue, requiring intense immersion into the inner life of the character: all the more challenging since that character was a little girl young enough to suck her thumb and curl up on the floor (pavement, in this case) to sleep at the end. The monologue included an embedded story, straight from the little girl’s imagination, about a fantasy realm and a dark, wounded woman named Hoth who can only be healed by True Beauty.

Then we read out Act One of a play I’m working on. There are three speaking characters in Act One, so that worked out well. However, my play is in high verse (Scene One is in hexameters), so SPB’s main comment was that I was born in the wrong time period. The content is daringly modern, even pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in our contemporary American culture, but the verse is difficult. Indeed, there’s little plot. The play is driven by the verse more than anything. It’s meant to be evocative, atmospheric, as much about sounds and the images they evoke, as about character or event. I’m working on Act Two now and stuck in the last scene. We’ll see how it goes along. I’d like to have Act Two ready for our next meeting, but at this point that’s ambitious.

Then JL shared the first chapter of a semi-autobiographical novel he’s writing. It’s quite different from his earlier work, which might be called Spiritual Fantasy (much in the vein of Frank Peretti, although I guess J’s never read Peretti’s work; I don’t know who else is doing that kind of stuff today, beside Dan Brown, whose heresy puts him out of the Christian camp). It’s a very character-driven story, mostly dialogue, interested in developing personalities and internal motivations.

So as usual, it was a varied meeting, quite pleasant. We didn’t work very hard this time; there wasn’t a lot of detailed critique. But perhaps that was due to the extremely pleasant environment; it’s hard to be nitty-gritty in a perfectly lovely rose garden. Next time we should meet in somebody’s dank basement. Just kidding.

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