The weekend of June 3rd-4th, was the Antheneum’s final retreat. An educational ending to the year program. There was plenty of wine and amazing food, and each mentor/teacher spoke on something that they felt was important for us to take away with us now that we would be embarking on a post-writing school life. I proudly walked away with a Certificate in the Mastery of Writing, thank you very much, and I had a nice glass of champagne thanks to Paulann Peterson. Paulann had invited Berry Sanders and his wife to speak to us on our last day, and we all said, goodbye and good luck.
One of the things that we were requested to do was to present a project as a sort of team effort (our teams were, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction) as a part of the fiction group I was asked to write a memoir. I decided to write about what it was like to finish my first novel, and since my first love is theatre, I couldn’t help but to compare the two in the world of endings. I’ve decided to post it here, but in two parts since it is pretty long. I hope you enjoy it.
At the end of my tour with Inviting Desire I was relieved to have it finally end. I had traveled across Canada in an R.V. with three other actresses performing in a touring company. The play was an ensemble piece about women’s sexual fantasies. It was risky and daring. We either enlightened or frightened the audience, but that is another story.
I wanted more than nothing than to have my own space, control over my time, and control over my commitments. I hadn’t grown tired of performing. As far as I was concerned getting paid to act was one of the greatest jobs in the world, and by far the best job I had ever had, but I was sick to death of promoting the show, hustling for an audience, and singing Storm Large‘s song: My Vagina is 8 miles Wide. I was ready for it to end. I liked endings. After the end something new would start, you don’t get that kind of renewal in many things, so I loved the end.
Theatre’s intent is to share. A play is created to be seen. The production is not complete till there are people sitting in the seats ready to watch the performance. It is a collaborative event a collaborative process. Even if you have written yourself a one person play, and decided against all the best advice to hire a director, it still ends with a performer and the audience.
There are many joys in theatre, but for me the grand reward was never the positive reviews (although a positive review is far more rewarding than being told that you look like a Norwegian barmaid on a bad acid trip- at least he didn’t write that I was a terrible actor). The reward comes when the production ends. When the final curtain is called, the bows are taken, the lights rise, and the audience exits. After the stage is struck, and your costumes are returned to the wardrobe, your make-up is removed from the dressing room, and the lingering well wishers fade from the green-room. You can toast to your cast-mates and crew with that clink of the pint glasses or mugs filled with wine from the box, or if it was a particularly difficult show that was terribly received you have a blown-out house party that ends with one of your fellow cast-mates having sex on the high school lawn across from the house as you yell at a highly amused cop as you demand to know who exactly called the police: “Who was it!? Was it Normal street? That whole street is full of nothing but assholes!” But, that is another story.
At the end of Inviting Desire I said good-bye to my fellow writers and actors, and left with the closure of a completed, challenging, and rewarding experience. We started and finished a project a huge production. There was a celebration and the acknowledgement that something had been done, and we had been seen.
It is not the same with writing a novel.