Friday, February 10, 2023

Commas; Expanding the Script Maybe

This is where I’m at with the graphic I’m using to tell friends about the festival. 

I can’t complete it until the production dates, place and times are announced 

by the festival. The background image is a self-portrait I drew for the self-portrait 

group show I organized on Gabriola a couple of years ago. 

I’m having so much fun with this monologue project!


Thursday was pretty sweet. I did clinic work much of the morning, then walked Her Highness and went into the village to pick up a prescription, and then came home to read a little, nap a little, and then my usual evening of dinner and TV.

I got a nice vote of approval email from Tony, one of the festival directors. That was the highlight of my day. I chose not to do any clinic work in the afternoon because I wanted to do nothing. I have a big writing project for them coming up on the weekend. I’m not doing any work on it today because I’ve cooking to do. Dave and Ursula from next door are coming for dinner and games.

When I was a kid, and mother was in her bed (where she spent most of our lives together, either in our home or in the sanitarium), my father closed the curtains, and the main floor became a total dump. There was crap everywhere—mountains of copy paper, supplied by his employer, The Vancouver Sun, and piles of magazines and corporate publicity photographs, and tons of crap gifted to him by companies who wanted free publicity.

And the dining room table became his desk. He’d write his columns there, and back then, he typed everything on one sheet, and made a copy by putting a sheet of carbon paper in between the two sheets he rolled into the typewriter. When he was done, he’d file the good copies and save the carbon copies for his files—his files being piles on the floor.

I don’t know what started me reading his columns, but I did. I have no idea how many I’d read when, one rare day when we were together, I asked him, “Do you know what a comma is?” I’d never seen a single one in anything of his that I’d read.

The question was smug. I was a prick sometimes. And I have no idea how it was received or what he said, all I know is that from then on, I started proofing all his columns. I couldn’t use carbon paper to make the corrections, I had to correct each copy separately. 

I was reminded of this story by Dona Leon. She is the author of the thirty Commissario Guido Brunetti novels I’m reading, and I find her writing seriously comma deficient. Consequently, I find myself re-reading sentences, sometimes many times, trying to make sense of them. I’ve often thought that writers who I find lacking in effective punctuation skills frustrating. They don’t seem to care about the comfort of their readers. (I loathed James Joyce; reading Ulysses just about killed me.)

If my monologue works in Victoria, I am going to seeing if I can expand it. My Victoria script is 15 minutes. I’d need three or four times that to do a show at Cultivate in the Summer of 24. Sounds crazy, I know, and it may not be possible. But ….

My first job was as a junior high school teacher in West Vancouver. I’d been hired by the school I attended, and my homeroom was my former music room. My degree was in English Lit. The job offer was to teach Social Studies and Drama., plus I was contractually obligated to produce two shows a year with the school drama club.

I inherited scripts that just stank. I wanted nothing to do with students with powder in their hair playing adult roles. I wanted us to create every show—every bit of it, scripts, costumes, sets and properties—and for one show, I challenges my students and the club members to come up with ideas for bits in a two-hour show with absolutely no speaking parts.

It was a monster hit. I’m not kidding, we were held over by command of the principal. I remember a circus bit because a student named David Swail came up with an act that I loved. It was brilliant and it killed the audience every night. And we acted out The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner to a recording of some famous actor reading it. 

And I kind of choreographed a long bit about the history of mankind. Pretentious maybe? I created this kind of semi-dance/mime story about how we progressed from the sea, became animals, then people and then people who fight and kill. As I recall, the killing was the ending. I wasn’t being pretentious; I was just earnest. I did many earnest things as a teacher. I was very keen.

Our show was written up in the paper and we were invited to perform it at Simon Fraser University. My students were in grade nine. The ‘star’ of one of our shows, and a major part of every show I did, Gwynyth Walsh went on to a great career as an actor. (Google her.)

I seriously doubt I can create a show long enough, good enough, and inexpensively for Cultivate, but I’m rich in time, and will give the idea a few days of thought—if it works in Victoria. I can probably do another 15 minute bit using my Rand voice.

A person with whom I do volunteer work with at the clinic mentioned she’s had a cardiac incident. I, of course, said I’ve been dealing with them, and we fell into a discussion that surprised us both. I mentioned the time several months ago when I passed out and threw up and she said that she’d had exactly that happen to her. Plus, she said, I could not move my legs. 

I could not believe she said that. I, of course, told her that the same thing had happened to me. I also had full-body paralysis for a few hours when I had my last heart attack. I thought my paralysis was due to FND, but my colleague doesn’t have the condition. So maybe it is something that happens to many people.

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