THE ART OF TELLING THE TRUTH 

 

I want us to produce an evening (coffee house-ish, readings-ish) with the above ironic title and based on our work with that exercise. Last night has inspired me to try and create one (prepared, not improvised) and to write some more about ways of using and developing the exercise.

Briefly, for now, the keys for me are in the “existential categories.” [Ed. note: time, space, body, objects, and intersubjectivity]

These I stole from existential-phenomenological psychology and various methods it employs to do qualitative research.  Language, itself, speaking itself, are not categories, their puzzling nature bracketed, or set aside, and we assume a person can transparently relate a description of an event. The best modern playwrights, of course, factor in the troubling nature of language and recollection, but you don’t always have to. It’s a good creative exercise for unfolding the possibilities in dramatic communication.  And the fact that the event might have happened but didn’t flirts with the whole question of longing or desire or regret (part of our emotional secret as we work with this kind of material; it will fuel the whole production).

Everybody, take a shot at the exercise. You can work in solitude. You need not improv it on demand. Soon I will publish some more suggestions as I continue to work with my own material, but for now–

TWO MAIN APPROACHES:

1.Think of the event. Describe it. Go back over the description and do an analysis using the existential categories. Which ones did you feature? Which ones did you neglect? Add to your full description by working through the neglected elements. Did you attend to what your “body” was about in the description? What happens if you do? How did you interact with others (intersubjectivity)?

2.Think of event (both of these approaches involve positing the event at the outset; you could describe your way toward the event, but that’s “more advanced,” I think, so try one of these approaches first) Write descriptions of the event, one for each existential category (one for time, space, body, object, and for intersubjectivity) You will have five texts. Then experiment with cutting and pasting; combine elements from your five texts into the final monologue.

Then, ONCE YOU HAVE TAKEN ONE OF THESE APPROACHES:

Think through how you want to perform your monologue (it’s still you speaking at this point) using the five existential categories; create descriptions based on this exploration, see if additional lines suggest themselves, add them to your piece.

For example, what additional lines might be inspired by your attending to the performance’s

time: “My speaking to the listener(s) is timeless; was that only three minutes?  I want to dwell a bit longer, to linger, over details.”

space: “The listener and I are alone in a room in my parents’ house; I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair (body leaks in here).”

body: “I feel insubstantial, all in my head”

object: “Why am I telling you this, the words are hard to say, but the image is enjoyable, I want to conjure something for the listener, but I’m afraid.”

intersubjectivity: “The listener is an old friend but has never heard this story; I worry she will disapprove.”

How does thinking through this way make you want to add to or subtract from your monologue? Does it influence choice of word or detail? Re-work. As you re-write you are also doing your actor’s homework.

I’m going to try to compose one using method two by the time of our next meeting. I have to be out of town, but I’ll try to send the text along.

Some masterpieces of recollection in which you are unsure of the status of the recollector, i.e., is he/she remembering it correctly or even telling the truth: Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape; Pinter’s Old Times and Monologue; Shepard’s Killer’s Head.

mouth to mouth
a monologue

Remember. Eyes closed.

Eyes closed? Now then.

Spent prom night at a cast party. Saturday night. Things started late.

Moving from room to room. Peeking into the ballroom.

Yes. A ballroom. Didn’t want to be there, though. Didn’t want to be seen there.

Local arts matron had this stately mansion. Been there plenty of times. The party house. Imagine it. Better than a prom. Big stairs in the foyer. Two sets, one on each side. People always sitting. Up and down. Show business.

Okay. Okay. Here goes. Up and down the stairs. Noises in the ballroom. Full of queens on quaaludes. Enough of that. Friend keeps turning the corner. Grinning. Keeps popping up.

“Leave me alone.” “She’s looking for you.” “Yeah.” “Go find her.” “Yeah.”

“She’s yours if you go find her.” Eyes closed, remember. “She’s yours.”

That sounds awful, doesn’t it. “Yours.” If wanted. If wanted. And drunk on top of that. And there for what if wanted. “Go find her.”

That kind of party. Cups of beer from the keg. Quaaludes in the ballroom. Business. Busi ness. Running from room to room thinking there’s another pot simmering. A third party of all things. Don’t want to mess that up. Going to Six Flags tomorrow. Something may come of that.

Not to be dwelt upon. “Just go and find her.” Just go. Do something.

Wait. It’s getting there. Now then. So no more running away. Turning around. No more reservations. There on the staircase.

There on the staircase. An idiot looks up the stairs. A walking advertisement for Banana Republic looks up the stairs. Panama hat and tropical shirt. Upper buttons open. Give em a glimpse of the man flesh.

There. Up there. Alone on the staircase. No one else present. Rare moment. “Just find her.” So now found.

Capri length jeans. Everyone in jeans. Jeans were the thing. White button down oxford. Maybe a blue oxford. Cuffs rolled. Curls of hair hiding the collar.

“She’s not going to follow you around. Just find her.” What to do now?

Sixteen steps to the second floor. The choice to sit. To climb to the eleventh step and sit. One step below. Looking up to the step above.  And on the step above a face that used to seem too large. What was that about?

“I didn’t do the dance exactly right tonight.” The face and the voice curling about it. The voice curling and slurring slightly.

“I didn’t see it.” Seeing. That didn’t come out right. And seeing. Something troubling. Unsettling

From the first day in freshman homeroom the face seemed too large. Felt like it was always intruding. But now. It’s different.

Maybe it was always meant to be right there.

Maybe that’s the wish. Right there.

Patience. Eyes closed. Now,

“I’m glad you didn’t see it. I messed up.” Leaning back, shoulder against the wall, a step above, face wide and right there.

“I mean I’m always looking for the swords then. I never get to see it. We’re on right after the dances.”

Were on. Show was over. “We were on after the dances.”

Then the face comes forward. There it was. That was the crush. That was the face, too wide, head tilting from side to side and back.

Still too fast. This should take more time. Eyes closed.

Now suddenly running down a sixth grade hallway. Lee Ellen Robideaux running behind in mock slow motion. “Kiss me kiss me kiss me.” Very funny. Running from that and hiding in the boys’ bathroom. It’s not real if it’s asked for. It’s teasing if it’s asked for. Hide and cry. Hate being followed.

Now the eyes are asking something, face smiling and waiting, turning side to side like a doorknob being tested. Quietly.

Give me a moment.

Deciding to look. Deciding to climb the stairs.

First kiss, remember.

Should have been younger. Should have taken less time to get there. Should have and sooner.

Now. Remember. Eyes closed. Then. Mouth. Open. Mouth. Leaning in. To know what leaning in means. Sliding on the staircase. Noise in the ballroom. Together. Knowing it’s safe to lean also. Up to the face. Eyes closed. Neck. Bending. Back bending in also. Sixteen steps. Mouth stays. Mouth says kiss me kiss me kiss me. Mouth close. Mouth open. Drinking in beer and toothpaste. Resting against the wall. Tilting down. Starting and finishing. Beer and toothpaste and a touch of something acid underneath. Pulling away to look. Eyes open. Eyes closed. Going back to the acid. The acid’s the best part. Crying in the ballroom. Figuring out how it turns into making out. Arm out to touch a shoulder. All of a sudden. Climbing up a step. Hand down bracing on a knee. Breath and contortion. All of a sudden. Neck bent. Mouth.

Then pulling back again.

Not yet. Eyes still closed.

Looking one step up. Looking as if to say smiling as if to say

“It’s fine. Isn’t it.”

A touch of spit by the lower lip.

To kiss and disappear. Trying to smile and not hate the thing in the mirror. Smile. It will be fine. It’s fine. Wipe it away.

A touch of spit, a drop.

Reach out and wipe it away. Trying to seem confident. Smile and wipe both sets of lips. Make it a joke. Try to really be there, really there, a step below, close, alone with both.

A little more time. Just a moment. Eyes closed. Still.

Wait.

Mouth reaching back in. Leaning in again.

Now then. Just for you.

I she my her me I she mine I hers you she me I she mine her I you she

she her mine I me you she hers she I she she

Okay. That’s it. Eyes open.

Done.

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