Enjoy New York, Michael Rubenfeld! It’s a city that I’ve known from my youth, and that I love mightily. And take good care of Blog, who appears to know you well and to be very supportive. How are you doing on the matter of those ciggies, by the way? It’s a nasty habit that will wreck your lungs and wreak havoc on your body. Take it from a long since reformed smoker, who still, now and then, would love nothing better than a smoke with her cup o’ coffee! I hope you do manage to see a couple of plays. In fact, I know you will. There’s nothing like a play on Broadway, off-Broadway, even very far off-Broadway…
This isn’t the post I meant to start out with but I was sucked in by Michael’s chats with Blog, and by his ruminations on the difference between writing fiction and writing for the theatre, which he thinks are very different, but which, in my experience, aren’t that different. I think it’s a matter of how you come at the prose, what’s in it that’s interesting for you.
I love the theatre – have done since I was a little girl. I did a lot of acting when I was in high school and college, and into my early twenties. Eventually I tried my hand at writing plays. Then I got married and had children. And I became a poet. That is, in part, because I could write a poem on a used envelope or on the back of a grocery list. It is not possible to do that with a novel, or a play, or even a very short, short story. I am not so much an on-the-page poet, though. I am a poet who is seduced by rhyme and rhythm, by the sound of the human voice. I am a sucker for what my Trinidadian friend, Gordon Rohlehr calls “the word in audible motion”.
When my children grew up and finally, finally, finally went their way (there were three of them), I managed to find the time to write prose. (Well, it didn’t go quite like that, but for now we’ll let that cover it.) But I was still interested in the same things. I hear the characters in my stories before I see them. It’s their voices that make them come alive in my imagination; it’s what they say and how they say it that presents them to me, and leads me into their thoughts, and exposes their feelings, their loves and hates, desires and terrors, their motivations. And out of those come the story.
The transition from there to the stage is an easy one, for obvious reasons. Come to think of it, I was making my way in that direction anyway. My second book of poetry, DE MAN: A PERFORMANCE POEM, is really a verse play. A two-hander written entirely in Jamaican Creole, it is the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as reported by Naomi, a maid in the court of Pilate’s wife and Samuel, a disabled carpenter of Nazareth to whom Joseph taught the trade. It has been performed many times in Canada and in the Caribbean, most recently in Calgary on March 6th of this year. The fans were so enthusiastic, they wanted us to repeat the performance on Good Friday!
There’s a marvelous ending to the story of my return to the magical world of the theatre. Early in the new millennium, the Lorraine Kimsa Young People’s Theatre contracted me to write a play called EL NUMERO UNO. Over the past two or so years, UNO has been in workshop, shepherded by dramaturg Stephen Colella and a changing cast of amazing actors. b current’s ahdri zina mandiela has come on board as director, and the play is to have its world premiere on the mainstage in LKYPT’s 2009-2010 season.
So here’s to the theatre, Michael Rubenfeld. Have a great time in La Grande Pomme!
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Pamela Mordecai has been many things: a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a TV host, a diplomatic wife, an anthologist, a writer of poems, stories and textbooks for children, and a writer of criticism, fiction, poetry and plays for those challenged by age. Born and raised in Jamaica, educated there and in the U.S.A., Pam has lived in Toronto for the past 15 years.