Thursday, August 17, 2006

whole lotta sweetness

Unlike some brave souls I passed on a full weekend of Patty doing the Rose at Ravinia -- fearing mostly that, after a night like Friday, I’d be left like Semele when she begged Zeus to give it to her full on – and was split in half by the force of what he had to give.

I opted instead to hang out in a dark cellar of a theatre with the playwright Jeffrey Sweet.

Not a bad trade.

I only knew a little bit about this guy going in – the Chicago Dramatists blurbed him as an influence behind Wicked, so I was ready to be disappointed. A succession of phone calls on Saturday morning that pushed back the start time by three and half hours only added to the dread. But that turned out to be Amtrak’s fault, and the workshop – which was billed as a Playwriting Nuts and Bolts Intensive -- delivered the goods.

Two days later I came out with moleskine packed with techniques for turning it on, and a head full of stories from a man who’s lived his life in the theatre.

Sweet is a fierce technician with a great sense for a good story. He's also a gorgeous gossip and a name dropper and I loved every minute of it: How can you not get excited about hearing someone tell a story they got straight from Jack Klugman -- about being there the day that Clifford Odets returned to NYC (to run Golden Boy through rehearsals) from D.C. -- where he had just named the names of half of his Golden Boy cast and crew to Joe McCarthy. (Talk about a rough day at the office.) (Rat fink.)

Also came away with a list things to read and watch and listen to – some for a second time:

The Apartment
Beyond Culture
Fires in the Mirror
Waiting for Lefty
Daughter of Time
The Collection
The Gin Game
The Cradle Will Rock
The Dramatist's Toolkit

The weekend also succeeded in splitting me down the middle (kinda like Semele) -- torn between the impulse to do nothing but write and the impulse to do anything else at all.

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