The Dream

“I don’t really like talking about myself”, said the thin, intense looking fellow standing behind the huge packing crate. He then slowly lowered himself down until he could no longer be seen. Everyone else on the stage - there were quite a few characters - did the same. A moment of dead silence, while we in the audience tried to digest this. Suddenly, he stood up again, and so did most of the others. Standing next to him was a guy in a cheesy looking Olympian deity costume - or maybe a Valhalla deity costume - anyway, I think he was supposed to look a bit silly; perhaps the point was that the protagonist was a neo-pagan of some sort, but wasn’t altogether serious about it? The “god” and the main character start a somewhat aimless argument, while others on the stage began cavorting around, striking poses and generally acting symbolic. Abruptly, a large number of the actors (mostly young women), all dressed in black with plenty of drapery and capes and looking a bit punk or undeadish, danced into the audience and position themselves so that every member of the audience is surrounded by four or five of them (it was a small audience and we were seated in folding chairs in a grim little theatre that was probably a warehouse). They then raised their capes to enfold each seated person in a cocoon of darkness. I rather like dim lighting, so I didn’t respond - that seemed to surprise some of them near me; at least, I could hear them muttering something about “why didn’t he say anything?” Maybe it was dialogue. Then, they flittered away, and our attention was drawn to our left, where two stage hands rolled back a huge warehouse vault door with scenery on it, to reveal another one behind it. They shook their heads and rolled that one back too, revealing another small stage. On it were a large number of life sized animal marionettes, all done in plush fur. I thought the sperm whale was particularly well done, if you like that sort of thing. Someone started speaking lines which evidently were intended to make the point that, like paganism, the main character had a superficial interest in ecological and conservationist ideas. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying much attention though, and after a short while things began to get disjointed, and then I woke up.

This was a dream I had a few nights ago, and while I was writing down enough of it to insure that I would remember it, it occurred to me that it was a classic example of the sort of thing that creative people make use of to inspire their work. A very Avant Garde play, already roughly blocked out, theme more-or-less in hand, and ready to be expanded on. All I’d need to do would be clarify the movements, write some of the supporting dialogue - and continue on from the point at which I woke up. Staging would depend on the theatre, but clearly this wasn’t something that Broadway would touch without a pair of very long tongs - OB warehouse theatres with the right kind of layout could be found...

There’s only one small problem. I’m not an Avant Garde playwright. I’m not any kind of playwright. I ‘ve never written a play in my life. I wouldn’t know how to write a play. And if I did it certainly wouldn’t be Avant Garde. I like my Shakespeare neat, please, no ice; and I begin to get edgy with anything much past Moliere or Congreve. I do write a bit; mostly nonfiction articles, one or two attempts at fiction, the occasional essay (like, well, like this one...), but plays? Unknown turf to me.

I wouldn’t mention it, since I don’t really like talking about myself, but I feel compelled to because it happened again a few mornings after. I woke up on two successive mornings with an instrumental music phrase running through my head - actually, two of them since each was somewhat different than the other. But both were in the same genre; sort of light pop -  upper class Muzak kind of things. Yuch. But, once again, I don’t write music, can’t read notation, and have no clue as to why I’ve snagged some composer’s fancy.

So, the question then becomes; what am I doing with someone else’s inspiration? I can see it so clearly:  up-and-coming New Age playwright wakes up one morning with... um... Missing something. Oh well, must have been some bad pot last night. And meanwhile a composer who mostly does light pop sits at his desk and goes “ta-da da, (no...) ta-dah dah, (no...) ta-d... Oh, never mind.”

Where does inspiration come from? Can you get someone else’s? (and, can they sue?) More worrisome, is there some playwright or composer out there who has just woken up with this great idea for a non-fiction article...

Nov. 26, 2002

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