January 16th 2015
“God is in the details” and if so then my meeting with director Leah Cherniak yesterday, to discuss my play “Lysistrata and the Temple of Gaia”, was a kind of communion. An appropriate comparison because we were discussing, not a god, but the Goddess Gaia, the first god of the Greek pantheon who’s appearance provides the animating action in the play.
The question is, will a modern audience accept that Gaia is a real goddess, a divine creature, who wants to interfere with the action of humankind as the Old Testament God did to Noah. I didn’t think so. I assumed we were too rational for something so antique. I also felt that for such a coup de theatre to work it would require special effects far beyond the budget of most theatres. So I had the clever servants, so essential and central in early French and Italian comedies (Goldoni was a particular ‘fan’), dress up as the goddess which fools their social betters and furthers their revolutionary mission.
But Leah disagreed. First because she just assumed Gaia was real. It never occurred to her that it was a ruse on the part of the servants. And she felt cheated. She wanted the Goddess to be real. Revealing her as a con at the climax of the play didn’t relieve us (the audience) of the burden of disbelief rather it diminished the value of Lysistrata’s mission at the moment when we wanted that mission to have maximum value.
At moments like this it’s hopeless for a playwright to begin sentences with the words, “Well what I wanted was…” At a certain point a play takes on a life of its own, belonging to itself and the audience. The playwright is the bottom half of the rocket ship that falls away after liftoff.
“Double Trouble” is in design meetings in Bethesda. “Smokescreen” is in rehearsals somewhere in Switzerland.
Have a good weekend,