Every good play has a mystery at its heart. I don’t mean a whodunit; but rather something beyond words that can only be expressed by the whole of the play’s action. As every galaxy has a black hole at its center, all the characters, themes and language of a play are bound to and revolve around this mystery. The denser the black hole at the center, the stronger its gravity and therefore, the wider the galaxy.
The plays of greatest astral reach are held together by the biggest mysteries, but they cannot illuminate them. Black holes devour light, and the event horizon will swallow you beyond time. And yet, we cannot help ourselves, we want to know, we want to pluck out the heart of the mystery, we want to say what it is, plainly, instead of only and always circling.
And this is why certain plays of mine are so difficult to rewrite.
There are two in particular: Other Bodies (once called Tirsesias) and Mirror, Doors (once called All Horses and Men). I was able to get the first act of Other Bodies to where it wants to be, but even after endless rewrites, the second act still eludes me. Or rather, the second act has plunged too close to the mystery and so been swallowed up in confusion.
Mirror, Doors is even further away, but for different reasons. I sped away from the unbearable mystery at the heart of it, and all the characters, themes and action have come undone. A similar evasion haunts the beginning of the second act of Kidding Jane.
I cannot tell if I have improved at trusting the gravity of the mystery, or simply chosen smaller galaxies; either way, plays rarely get away from me now. And just in the past few days…
…having completed new drafts for the production of Under a Better Sky and the workshop of Denny and Lila, I’ve found myself thinking of these old plays again. I can feel their old mystery pull on me, but the arc of their circuits seems somehow clearer now, as the characters, themes and action begin again to spin. It would be a great joy to have these old plays right. We’ll see.