Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Recasting Uncle Vanya


I made several lists of dream casts for Vanya, a real dream cast including the famous either dead or now too old to play the part. I did a dream list and a local list as well as an Irish list. If I don’t know the actor’s names I listed their recent role...so I can look it up later.. I still have some blanks to fill in. I am notoriously pathetic on knowing actor’s names... 

There were many more candidates and they keep changing as I reevaluate the list. I cast this before I saw August & Vanya on 42nd St., or saw the Michael Codroa 1988 cast list..as Hopkins & Gambon came up several times... I had more trouble casting Sonya than anyone else...I think it’s because I’m casting on looks/ /body type. 

Character         dreamiest                  international cast                  local cast                Irish cast
Vanya         Olivier in the ‘50s          Michael Gambon        SFShakes Falstaff         Colm Meany
                    or Michael Gambon                                         Robert Sicular?            (The Dead lead

Marina       Joan Plowright             Patricia Routledge         Chetana Karel              Kathy Burke
                                                                                                                                                     (Dancing at Lugnasad)

Sonya      ?Ellen Burstyn ca 1970    Saphie from AbFab      Jessica Powell          Sophie Thompson
                                                     ? jane in Persuasion                                                       (Dancing at Lugnasad)

Astrov         Jonathan Pryce         Kenneth Branagh                Matt Klein            Gabriel Byrne
                  or Jeremy Irons         Simon Callow (4 wed)      or Peter Coyote

Prof. Y         Anthony Hopkins         Patrick McGoohan         Owen Murphy            Peter O’Toole        
                                                                                                      or John Cullum (N.Exp)   or Richard Harris
Yelena         Vanessa Redgrave        Kate Winslow??          Annie Long                 Mia Farrow
                                                         or Juliette Binoche                                          or Roma ?

Telegin      John Mills                      Derek Jacobi                    Terry Lamb                  Michael Sullivan in                                                                                        ,              or John Hurt                                                            a    urora WidH                  Waki Ned Devine                                   

Maria        Colleen Dewhurst           Judy Dench                   Verona Seiter                  Sian Phillips

* * *

Several scenarios came to mind—all are filmic versions: A traditional Russian immigrant version set in Appalachia, or in the Yukon during the Gold Rush; a post-modern., post-war production set in Bosnia in 1990s, or something in America set before the millennium (199 years after the production of Vanya), or after 9/11...

I toyed with an Irish version with the peace talks & IRA as subtext...I wanted to do a foil on “rural, Catholic & Gaelic-speaking” stereotype that deValera fostered to the detriment of Ireland...within an urban setting, Dublin or Belfast—with its Beirut facade...a Checkovian pastoral piece set against urban “Freedom of the City” style (Freel) influence... 

Peig Sayers & Maurice O’Sullivan of the Blasket Islands spawned a “peasant” literary tradition, which began when an anthropologist left behind a copy of Gorky’s childhood memoirs on the island...I envision a conversation evolving from this into the idea of an urban production...but I can’t decide a time to set it: 1916, 1969 or the 1990s....

But what really intrigues me is a production set in Russia, post Glasnost, ca. 1989, before the fall, at the same theatre it first opened in Moscow—a 100-year reunion nostalgia piece...but with the overtones of Perestroika rumbling in the background--an echo within an echo... 

Checkov picks up the peasant unrest in both Seagull & Vanya...We as a modern audience know what’s to come, and it adds a layer of irony to Chekov’s portrait of the idleness of the upper classes... and of Astrov’s denunciation of that kind of beauty. Subtext could be the myriad soviet bureaucratic problems with trying to produce the piece...

Another setting or segue could be inside a Peterburg cathedral, the Museum of Atheism & Religion, the play set for the summer of 1991--say June, as August is when things really begin to collapse...I wanted to do a pun on the 100-year anniversary, as it’s mentioned twice in the text...Checkov was obsessed with what was to come with the new millennium, and even mentions the next millennium.... this could become another subtext to explore.

The church was a supreme symbol of Peterburg pride, and was closed by the Soviets...I helped to restore some of the frescoes inside the dome. I could see the artists talking about Checkov as they worked. Sort of inviting their cronies in for an impromptu staging of Vanya The seed could be that they all meet regularly at the famous (and upper crust) Seagull Cafe on Nevsky Prospect...where conversation tends to drift toward theatre: Irina/ Vanya....there’s a definite return to the nostalgia of the past. Some characters are discussing a resurrection of the Tzarist Russia...there are still Romanovs alive, while others are discussing religion...things banned during the regime. 

I could include (Irish) business venture folks too. Many Russian artists & poets are also actors...so it wouldn’t be a leap of faith for them to produce Vanya. I’d scrap my cast list and look for similar body types...At LenFilm Studios, in 1990, I had dinner with Semiyon Aranovich who was banned for producing his “Anna Akhmatova” film (I did an essay on him). I see this production as being quasi-historical. 

The church’s really marvelous inside, and very theatrical...with the rumbling outside, the revolution beginning again in Peter’s Square could turn this into a Mobius strip, or should I say, a Mobius trip of a film.

MFA Playwriting Brighde Mullins
4/23/ 02

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Mayday (corrupt text—need hard copy) XXX


When I was a child I remember the way light bent time like a stick in water. My grandmother always talking about the returning of the sun. Soon I was following every season, watching the sun through the trees, the way it crept back annd forth on the ridge.

One time I even took out a ruler and measured the speed of a shadow. I was lying in the front door. Our house opened to the east. No accident, that. It was an old house, people tgought like that then.

You know, seasons? I remember as a kid celebrating May Day. It was so exciting with our May flower baskets and the Maypole with it’s crepe paper ribbons, Once I got to be one of the maidens, but everyone got all off track and we bungled the weaving. 

But then we stopped doing it. someone must’ve complained. Some overzealous Christian type made nervous by all the little pagans running wild. You know the type who move to the country from urban ares and then immediately want to change everything? Destined to recreate what they were escaping? 

I mean what harm was it in gathering flowetrs and dressing a maypole? Who was it thrreatening? We were too innocent to have orgies.If that’s what they were afraid of. I don't get it.

Maybe they were afraid it would turn us into communista or something. Why did May Day become the day for the workers of the world anyway? Must’ve been the idea of red and fire. 

My grandmother said it was called Beltaine. The fire of Bel. The Bible named another god Baal, but I think he was after blood. But not our god, Bel was the beginning of summer’s fires. 

She said she remembers her grandfather rolling tar-filled barrels down the hill of this farm...but by May the summer grasses here are waiting for an excuse to burst into flame.

(missing text xxxx) grandmother was about the returning of the sun through the trees, and I never thought that the years would race by as fast as the sun did across the floor. The acrid smell of burnt dust in our nostrils, like the odor of nostalgia.

(missing text xxxx) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 they had the power. It wasn’t about freedom or fear of the dark side. The rights of the many were sacrificed to quell the nervousness of the few. And nobody though to yell mayday, Mayday customs are being destroyed,

 this time of year measuring light with a ruler.  

See? complained kind are charmed by the quaintness of a place then some area up are being destroyed

 We even named a city after Bel. How many people know what the name Baltimore means? The great fires of Bel? Should we rename it? 

Power corrupts. It wasn’t about sacrificing freedom or fear of the dark side. 

old are being destroyed in the name of progress 

Such was the warp and weft of our lives.
kids the 
 my ars 
would race by as fast as that little crepe paper ribbons. But then we stopped doing it. 

The great fires of Bel. Not like Ireland.

Ma Day absolutely

Pointing it out its zenith. 
 from the big rock to the trees. 
or lit wagon wheels from the top of the 
his blonde in unfounded 
a glass of sliding back into heathendom
their The way a stick bent in a glass of water. 
As if magic was afoot. 
As if magic was afoot waaiting to trick us into something dangerous.
 But the danger was right in front of us all along.

CW 855 MFA Playwriting
Brighde Mullins, 4/17/ 02

Character Sketch


An old people’s home, an old woman alone in a rocking chair, in the not so distant future, perhaps ca. 2025, perhaps a post-apocalyptic future—9/11’s really gotten out of hand, yet we’re clinging onto old American values, disembodied from the present landscape.

Perhaps we’re tourists going through a Disneyland set where characters animate and talk only when we, the audience, enters the room. In which case, there would have to be multiples of the old lady. The audience would walk from set to set, a sort of walking theater. Too bad Playland at the beach is gone, staging it in the Funhouse would be wild. Dadaesque, living theater.

Perhaps we’re interviewing a home for our parents who are our future selves

The character switches voices as she rambles through the past, a child, a teenager, a lover, a mother, an old person frustrated with the unalterable fact.

Is there an audience for her ramblings? not necessary...she’d talk to an empty room.

Audience can’t tell who has Alzheimer’s disease, who is crazy and who is sane.

Piece has a mirror-like quality, perhaps ourselves in the future.

There’s apocalyptic energy, impulse theater—a public arena for our private fears, obsessions, the feeling as if as if someone was inside our heads.

There are random lights flashing in the dark, suggestion of concentration camp at night.

There is a sort of Godot-like setting with disembodied voices and incessant whispering from various locales, upsetting the monologist and distracting the audience...even ghostlike in nature.

Perhaps the use of a scrim, like in Menagerie would be effective, as well as music...I haven’t thought of what...but a periodic return to fragments of Chopin’s funeral dirge might make a nicely macabre touch. Other disembodied music.

Character loves mashed carrots, and bananas, is allergic to many foods, scents.

Adores chocolate and tart sweets, but not sweet sweets.

Loves tea with milk & sugar, loves to slurp it. Loves shortbreads.

Loves the color blue, and purple. Dresses in those colors—the same thing for days on end.

Loves talking but not listening. Whether or not she has an audience is irrelevant.

Loves her rocking chair. Rocks on the verandah to make the garden run.

Dreams of her youth, how she wasn’t aware, with a focus on hindsight, loss.

She’s truly alone. Audience could be one embodied visitor she addresses.

MFA Playwriting 
Brighde Mullins
4/17-24/ 02

Aristotle's Six Points


character—I fall in love with characters, and want to know what happens to them: gossipy

plot—I adore story, and am drawn in, usually forgetting to be critical of plot 'til afterwards

thought—character has to be believable; anachronisms loom large in my mind

diction—form follows function; if dialogue/language isn’t accurate, I get bored & bugged

music—by this I also think movement/choreography must support character’s actions

spectacle—alright in its place, but the rest had better be tight or I get annoyed

for Brighde Mullins,  MFA Playwriting 
4/17/ 02

Three Fictional Characters I'd Like to Meet


Hercule Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet—with his prissiness and formidible little grey cells attracts me. I find his quirks and mannerisms to be unique. I’m not sure how much of Poirot’s character is personified by Suchet, but he’s compelling with his reserved judgement, politeleness—while seething underneath. His compassion for the underdogs and servants, his phobias and neuroses completely misunderstood by the English temprament, thus, his friendship with colleague Chief Inspector Japp is endearing.  

It’s a toss-up between Captain Jean Luc Picard and Captain Janeway as they’re both Star Trek captains. When Picard says “Make it so,” it thrills me...he becomes godlike, in some sense, a captain is the god of his ship...Janeway interests me because she is a woman in a man’s role. She sticks to her guns, is forthright, will not be bullied, et her compassion is compelling. A good balance of male and female characteristics. The danger with choosing serialized TV characters is that the sometimes disparate personality map is built up over time, and one can’t help but associate the actor with the role.

Kate in Taming of the Shrew has admirable traits that have gotten her into trouble, she’s spoiled, self-indulgent and I’m not sure if I would want to tame her per se....though the play would be non-existent w/o her taming. I was not thinking of Taylor’s portrayal when I chose Kate...she’s a little too over the top. I do identify with Kate’s outspokenness and forthright character...she reminds me of myself, somewhat out of control, wanting but resisting and adamantly refusing taming or civilizing.

for Brighde Mullins' MFA class
4/17. 02

Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Mating Games (I first met Pearlie Mae...

I first met Pearlie Mae Timberlake in high school right before the Summer of Love. She moved in across from the Schivos right next door to the Scotts who had a real swimming pool with a diving board at the deep end. Not like the Inkwell on Papermill Creek—they said it was bottomless. Every time I tried to swim across it, I was so scared, I nearly drowned for lack of breath.

I was a regular waterdog, I spent summers submerged in the Scott’s pool. My hair turned blonde, then green. I don’t think I ever had a bath the whole summer which was useful as our spring went dry in August so we were on a water rationing vigil most the summer. Besides I hated being last in line for the bath. It was as gray as the ringer washer water after the last load.

Mrs. Scott taught all us kids to swim after Old Man Barbano shot himself at the summer camp—Mrs. Barbano had the market share corner on swim classes because she salted her pool instead of using chlorine which meant us lead-bottom swimmers could float and maybe even learn to swim. I learned to swim late—I was ten—so I needed all the help I could get.

I’ll never forget seeing them wheel away Mr. Barbano all in white on the gurney—the bullet wound left a red chrysanthemum blossom at his temple. I could see it when they brought him out on the gurney. We were walking down Arroyo Road one summer afternoon. We came around the bend and witnessed that. We weren't supposed to see it. We were like startled sheep. Time stretched on forever. Stood still. He must've still been alive because I looked into his face. They didn't cover him up. If he was dead, they would've.

Imagine shooting yourself in the head and then having to face the agony of living. Time stretching on forever in those last moments. Was he conscious? It seemed as if he recognized me. I thought I saw his hand rase as if to wave at us. You see, he went crazy with grief after his daughter was murdered. We didn't know much about it though t made the headlines. It was even in Time magazine. Mrs. Barbano, she gave up on life and rented out the place to rock musicians who made it into a commune of sorts.

Mrs. Scott later went off the deep end too after they moved to Vashon Island— on account of the fact that it was a regular Peyton place for a while around here in the Valley with everybody wife-swapping, and they thought us kids didn’t know a thing, but Christian had this telescope in his treehouse, see… and people started putting up curtains after that. Christian was a bit strange too, a regular peeping Tom, but that's another story. I went up to Washington to visit her but they said they found Mrs. Scott draped naked and blue as a jaybird on a small rock in the middle of Puget Sound. Loneliness made her crazy, they said. She must’ve been swimming in the frigid water for hours. What was she escaping from or where was she going to, I wonder?

Pearlie Mae’s mother, she was cross-eyed as their Siamese cat, and talked funny ’cause she was from the bayous of Louisiana. She was remarried to this Inca guy from Peru who wore a lot of gold and he even had a gold tooth. He was a waiter along with Pearlie Mae’s mother who worked nights in San Francisco—I believe that’s how they met— and they raised chinchillas on the side. They had big plans to harvest the skins and strike it rich, Pearlie Mae’s stepdad was always scheming on how to get rich, but the rodents—they looked like fluffy lemmings—but they were so timid, some always died of fright whenever Pearlie Mae cleaned their cages, no matter how quietly she moved. Usually it was the mothers who croaked—Pearlie Mae would flush ‘em down the toilet and hope her parents wouldn’t notice, as if they’d come down and count them—then we had to feed the orphan babies with toy baby bottles, which was kinda cute. Them nursin’ away like real babies.

From what I could gather, Pearlie Mae’s mother thought Pearlie Mae was heaven-sent in order to be a personal slave to cook and clean house. She worked that girl so hard, her fingers were always raw or peeling. I never saw a house so clean. If there was one speck of dirt anywhere, Pearlie Mae would get it—with a strap from her stepdad. I think her mother had a past—though they were religious now, Jehovah’s Witnesses—but she wanted to make sure Pearlie Mae grew up right—even if she was from outside her own kind, which was a bit of a mystery. So Pearlie Mae was forever cleaning up and bleaching for germs. But she never got any lighter.

Sometimes we’d get into the liquor cabinet and she’d crank up “Exodus” real loud on the stereo and mix ammonia, cleanser and Clorox together like a mad scientist and this greenish vapor would creep out of the toilet and, if luck would have it—gas the poor cat who liked to perch on the toilet seat (on account of those chinchillas) and while he was there, to do-do his thing. He was a sensitive type, didn’t like the sound of cat litter crunching between his toes. I secretly suspected that Pearlie Mae trained him not to use the litter box on account of the dust. Poor cat, he’d circle the seat and get a good whiff of that concoction of hers, and go tearin’ out of the house like his tail or his asshole was on fire and we were laughing and crying and coughing until our lungs turned inside out, and we’d have to run out of the house too in order to breathe.

There was always some mystery around Pearlie Mae’s real parentage as she was adopted. Like I said, I could never get any farther than the fact that she was from Louisiana—I knew she had a younger brother John Estes, who lived with his dad in LA during the school year; he was the spitting image of his mother—blond-haired and blue-eyed. Pearlie Mae looked somewhat like her mother too, but she had this big wild hair and huge brown eyes and skin the color of old honey— not at all fair at all like her mother. I’m sure people speculated, but Pearlie Mae’s mother was always saying that she was just doing her Christian duty by taking the baby off the hands of that poor, unfortunate unwed mother—barely more than a girl herself. About the only thing she left out of the story was the barefoot part.

Poor Pearlie Mae would roll her hair up every single night in orange juice cans because they were bigger and did a lot better job at straightening her hair than the store-bought pink, jumbo-sized rollers that were supposed to give her hair the straightest possible look—only she didn’t need to rat her hair out into a big flip afterwards. It was that way naturally. I don’t know how she ever slept with her head suspended three inches above the pillow with those cans like that. It made her neck look so skinny, like a bird’s. Most of us never even had orange juice from cans, let alone collect enough cans to set our hair. If there was rain or fog when we had to walk a mile down Arroyo Road to the bus into school, the rain would undo all the hard work those cans had accomplished during the night, and she’s spend every recess hiding out in the girl’s bathroom with a kerchief over her head.

As I said earlier, Pearlie Mae liked ’Tino—that’s short for Valentino—a lot. You know the hard guy in the tight jeans and white shirts I was telling you about who looked like a Latino James Dean? Yes, that really was his real name. And if Pearlie Mae’s hair was looking especially good, she’d abandon me for the hard guys in the parking lot at school. I don’t know how she managed to go out with him, but one fall she did. See, we were bussed into town and most kids didn’t have cars, so it was hard to get home after school and we weren’t supposed to hitchhike, but if you had to stay after school, there was no other way home as it was way too far to walk and too dangerous to go over White’s Hill on foot.

Anyway, she did stay in town after school, and I was left pretty much out of the detail loop, walking that long mile up Arroyo Road all by myself during the fall of ’69, but during one of the rare times when she did come home with me, she let slip about having some little white pills that made her feel so fine. She offered me one. It looked like saccharine and probably was, but Pearlie Mae was wild and getting wilder by the minute, so we sorta drifted apart, as I was a virgin and planned to stay that way in high school—a promise I actually managed to keep, even if I was the last virgin in the county. I mean, it was the Summer of Love and all that. I didn’t want to be up at the altar rail expecting, like everyone else. I bet it was her little baby half-sister who finked on her.

Pearlie Mae was getting so wild, I didn’t know whether to look for razors in her hair, or what. Must’ve been ’cause she was sorta back with her own kind, whatever that was. I think it liberated her from herself. But she must’ve gotten caught sneaking home late ’cause suddenly her freedom was curtailed—I suspect home was more like boot camp, and we drifted back into each other’s lives. This time she’d found religion too. Or her parents found it for her, so she pretended to be devout. After that, about the only freedom we ever had was at prayer meetings. But she had this wicked sense of humor and she would roll her eyes as everyone was singing about salvation and we’d be snorting and shaking, and sobbing into our prayer books. I guess folks mighta thought we were being saved except for the fact that I was lobster-red and practically peeing my pants, trying hard not to laugh. But you know how it is when you’re not supposed to do something, you just gravitate naturally toward it.

By that time, she’d set her eye on Abe Rezonski, who was tall dark and, well, sorta geeky on account of religion. Abe wanted to be a preacher, he was the eldest son of a new family that moved onto Arroyo Road. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses too, so this time her parents didn’t exactly mind the connection. You know, like-kind sticking to like-kind, and all that. But I got stuck with his younger brother, Dork Rezonski who was a grade younger than me and spoiled rotten. A real booger flicker type. The families, they all kept working me over, trying to get me saved, but I wasn’t easily caught on that hook. Pearlie Mae and I kept up the pretense for almost three years before they got wise to the fact that I wasn’t about to be saved under any circumstances.

See, when I was in catechism for First Communion, I gave the nuns apoplexy ’cause I insisted that God wasn’t crying like they said, ‘cause we were talking in church and it was raining, but that he was really peeing on us. I mean, THEY were talking in church too. So they flunked me. I’m sure I was the only kid who ever flunked First Communion. Aside from the humiliation, it made me suspicious of everyone. I’m sure Pearlie Mae’s parents thought I was responsible for her getting into so much trouble because of my worldly ways—when it was really the other way around. But who was going to believe me? They made her shun me after that.

What made it so difficult being shunned was that I was still madly in love with her brother John—who I only got to see during summer and holidays as it was. We were pretty deep into physics during that fall. He was my first kiss and my first big bang too. That’s why I get so melancholy during the fall, all those rites of passage. Thank God it cured me of him for good. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pearlie Mae, she had set it up down at the chinchilla shed as they all had died off by this time, not wanting to be saved. Or maybe it was all that racket we made. I guess getting rich off of chinchilla skins no longer mattered if the world was going to end, and besides, people were beginning to boycott fur after they saw those cute baby seals being slaughtered on TV. And John, well, he made the chinchilla shed into a clubhouse when he moved up here full time, having gotten himself into some kind of trouble down in LA…but I‘m getting off track… Not much time left.

And after the Jehovah’s Witnesses had “outed” me, everyone had to pretend I was invisible. They all had to turn their backs on me. It was especially hard to act like nothing was wrong at the bus station. And when the other kids saw them shunning me, they figured something was up, and so they all did the same thing. You know, monkey see, monkey do? It was like the time with my first best friend Stephie—in order to keep her friendship with Rebecca Wilson, Stephie, who was a grade younger than me, had to pretend not to like me. I don’t know why I ever went along with it, what was I thinking of? But it backfired at school and there I was all lonely again. And when she was all friendly again after school, it just didn’t matter any more. My heart was broken. It never dawned on me to say anything either, but then, I had a hard time sticking up for myself.

What is it that makes us go through life accepting small injustices and never questioning or challenging them? They pick away at us until we believe we’re no good at all. That’s what happened to most of the dads in the Valley, when they turned to drink. Or the older girls—all knocked up, dutifully following in their mothers’ footsteps. I guess sometimes you just have to get mad enough in order to change things—you know, like Rosa Parks at the back of the bus? But first, you have to see there’s an injustice being done. I just knew I had to escape the Valley, I didn’t know how or why.

Anyway, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were really getting ready to face the end of the world, which was supposed to happen sometime in July, 1974 which was practically another lifetime away—five whole years— but they wanted to be ready well in advance. They were all being especially holy so as they could all be saved together, like lemmings, in the Promised Land. It was a time of potlucks and feverish prayer meetings. I figured we had plenty of time to still be friends, but Pearlie Mae—she cried, she begged me to join, saying she wanted me to be saved too, as I was her best friend. Who would she hang out with in the Promised Land? And I wanted to be saved too so that I could see John as well. But it didn’t happen like that.

We were moving light years apart: Pearlie Mae towards her goodie-two-shoes Abe, and me towards John who was a real bad boy, the first of a long line of many. I loved her, but for the life of me, I couldn’t have saved myself if I wanted to. I guess she’d long since given up on ’Tino. And of course 1974 just came and went. No end in sight. After that, I heard Pearlie Mae finally got married to Abe and started having babies, and when the world didn’t end as was promised, I hear rumor that they went off preaching to heathens in the jungle like Katrina Nielsen. What were they trying to do, were they embracing their fate or were they just running away from the world? No matter how I put it to myself, it just wouldn’t add up. All that savin’ of the heathens who just didn’t want savin’. Shoulda just stuck to their own kind. Know what I mean?

© 2002 Maureen Hurley
Disclaimer: this is fiction. I drew on stories I had heard as a child. This version of these pieces were written in the voice of our childhood dialect for a MFA monologue class with Roy Conboy. In order to take full artistic license, and to give ourselves more freedom, we were asked to change the names of the people but not the actual events. An interesting assignment. I was surprised at how visceral the characters became when the names were changed. I liked the names I invented. But I changed them all back again because it just felt right. But this is memoir as well. besides, how can you improve upon such a perfect name like Pearlie Mae Timberlake? Pearl, wherever you are, I still love you, girl.

I wrote another version in Brighde Mullins's class 4/3/2002, so I'm posting all variants there.

Nicasio Palm Sunday (MISSING ending?)

Nicasio Palm Sunday

Last Sunday we drove out to the coast after the Palm Sunday Brunch at the Druid’s Hall. Every year, the ranchers have a brunch to raise money for St. Mary’s. 

That’s where we had the memeorial service for my mom, only no one could come to it because there was a forest fire at the turn-off and they weren’t letting any cars through. 

So we sat there all afternoon waiting for the fire to be put out or for folks to figure out that they had to drive back into town (it’s actually three towns, but we always called it “into town” no matter which town we were going to) and then to go around the horn to San Rafael and back up Lucas Valley. But nobody came.  Too far. 

Here the B-52 bombers were buzzing and slime-ing the ridges with red fire retardant and helecopters were scooping up tarploads of water from Nicasio Lake like large dragonflies...and would you believe it? 

There was a movie crew filming some cowboys in a big rig that kept grinding around the town square in low gear. We had ringsides seats right on the front steps of the church. It looked as if Robert Duvall was in the cab. Can’t remember if my mom knew him. 

The camera men were sitting on the hood filming away. Anyway, my mom, she was upstaged by a fire, and the cops closed the road on account of the shooting. 

You should see all the daffodills blooming in the churchyard. Everyone planted a daffodill with a name of someone who died on 9/11 beneath each bulb. At least the ones they knew of. My aunt said there were a lot of unnamed bulbs too.

My cousin’s house is right on the square too—it was in the remake of The Village of the Damned. Did you see it? Silly movie. Tried to watch it two-three times.

I never could get past the plot in order to see the house. it’s sorta famous being on the bend of the road, as it’s the most prominent house in Nicasio. And I do mean prominent. 

Sometimes folks get so mesmerized by it they just drive right up the front porch—especially if they’ve had a few too many. The front steps are shot. My cousin has to pull cars off his front porch every two-three years.

You know, I haven’t been out to Point Reyes since my mom died. Driving through the Valley brought back a whole passel of memories. The kids I went to school with. Wonder where they are now. Especially ’Lupe.

(MISSING ending?)
march 24? probably written April 3

Rabbit Moon Monologue


Here it is, Easter Monday AND April Fool’s Day all rolled into one and I’m being polled by AOL on how I eat my chocolate bunny–ears or feet first? It’s a holiday, a post-Easter recovery period to withdraw from all that sugar. Funny how the politicos turned it into César Chavez Day. So what kind of joke is that? Grape sugar retro-patriotism? Revisionist history. I got an email from a friend and it said it’s a holiday in Ireland too. To commemorate Eamonn de Valera’s election as the first president. The first Dial was created. And Home Rule.

My granny always got sentimental at Easter dinner. All that patriotism better fodder than the cabbage and bones of the slaughterfield. The Lazarus metaphor runs deep. She’d drag out photos of the martyrs out so I associated Easter with uprisings. It seems Ireland took to the idea of resurrection—literally and politically—like a goose to water. Some are still waiting for The Big Fellah to arise.

I got a cousin named after Michael Collins, you know. Our family’s steeped in it. Blood of the IRA, IRB.... and the IRS if I don’t get to my taxes soon. Procrastination runs in the family too. But I hate being late. Except for taxes. I hate the ides of April—because of the IRS. It says here that Brian Boru defeated the Vikings in Clontarf on Good Friday in 1014. Do you think the monks were fixing the dates? But how were they to know the Normans were on their way? The taxation vexation. The Romans never got to Ireland, though they thought about it. Having plundered Britain, all that ripe wheat tithing them on.

Do you think that’s what T.S. Eliot had in mind when he said April was the cruelest month—the IRS? He was an American, you know. Married a British heiress and then he took on airs. He had her committed too. I think she embarrassed him. Made a fool of herself in public because of a bad case of chronic PMS. I can relate to that. April is the month where everything catches up with you. Everything you put off comes home to roost. And then the slaughter of time begins.

It took the Irish 800 years to gain freedom from the Normans because they kept betraying each other. How the Normans got to Ireland in the first place is a real Judas story. They didn’t need a conquering Caesar. They had a traitor right in their midst. One fine Lent, a petty king, Desmond was lusting after other kings’ wives instead of 30 pieces of silver. So he handed Ireland over to the English—only they didn’t leave. Condemned Ireland became a regular Potter’s Field, a Field of Blood. Did Desmond beg forgiveness saying, “I have betrayed a country?” Did he hang himself beneath an etherized sky? T.S. Eliot was thinking about the Great War. I didn’t know what was so great about it. A lack of coffee and decent bread. But in Italy the trains ran on time even if there was nowhere to go.

Passover begins tomorrow. A moveable feast. But the moon is waning. Just as well, people get crazy during the full moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this moon was called the Pink Moon. Does that mean it’s a communist moon, or a girl moon? Do we only get a boy moon once a year when the moon goes male? Is that what causes war? The Blue Moon? Moon, moonth, month. Luna, lunatic.

Funny, Ireland,, India and Israel gained their freedom after the war. What’s with all these eyes? I hate it when countries measure the resurrection of hope from cease fire to cease fire, year after year. One Easter, I was in Taos, the hotel owner gave me this letter to read—it was from Einstein expressing his profound regret. he yearned for a kinder, gentler time—he wanted to set the clocks back. 

No, I never had children, it wasn’t a hard decision made after the birth of the Age of Light. The idea of time being measured by atomic clocks had a lot to do with it. Too bright to see. We split the atom and there was all this extra light left over. We couldn’t put it back in Pandora’s box.

Speaking of package deals, this year we had the equinox, Easter and Passover right on top of each other. And April Fool’s Day punctuated by a comet. I was in lovely shape with the curse going full tilt. Peri-meno-what? Biological clocks aside, it got me to thinking about how we measure time. 

But the measurement of time wasn’t precise 300 years ago, let alone 2000 years ago. It says on the internet that “The discrepancy between the years is inescapable.” At this point, my datebook’s so jammed, I could use another Easter vacation. How to squeeze in the extra days without becoming a petty Caesar is the question. Stop the clocks, I want to get off.

April is the cruelest month. But what does that mean? Chaucer said, “When that Aprille with his shoores soothe, and March has pierced to the root...” was the time to go on pilgrimages. And March is Mars: the god of war. Did you know there was an official war season during Caesar’s time? After the crops were planted it was like a pilgrimage to go out and slaughter your enemy during the summer. “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to war we go...”. But the rules ware: you had to be back in time for the harvest. Ever wonder why September is the seventh month? Or December is the 10th month? You probably never thought of it at all.

Things work on me like that. I’ll be minding my own business and a word will suddenly pop into my head; it ceases to be its ordinary self and reveals its skeleton. Then I have to look it up to see if I’m right. I never get anything done, it becomes a wild goose chase. And now that there’s the internet, it’s even worse. 

Apparently the old Roman calendar, which was based on the Egyptian one, only had 10 months. I guess they weren’t counting moons. Did you know Egyptian hares came out to feed during the full moon? That’s where we get the Easter Bunny from. It was Oestra who changed her pet bird into a rabbit to please the children. And the rabbit laid colored eggs. 

The Romans had these blank days and intercalculary months to keep things even. Sort of like an April Fool’s week every four years... But by 200 BC it was typical for a ruler to tinker with the calendar for the promotion of political ends or to lengthen or shorten an official’s term. Time was in a real mess.

It says here that Julius Caesar hammered out a working calendar 365 days long. Had to. By the time he became Pontifex Maximus, the Roman calendar was so out whack that January was falling into Autumn, if you’ll pardon the pun. It messed with the war season. In 46 B.C. he had to shoehorn in 90 days. I bet there was a lot of squawking when he put 67 days between November and December—I mean winter was already long enough—and he put 23 more days at the end of February which was kinda nice as it caused spring to return to its proper place in March, the official beginning of the year. Extra party time.

Actually Easter was a pre-Christian holiday abducted from the fertility festival of Oestra or Ishtar/Inanna/Isis... or whatever you want to call her—AKA The Great Mother as embodied sex. In Spring, sap rises in more ways than one. Randyness was a religious experience, the sacred prostitutes of the temple saw to that. But Easter got absorbed by the church because nobody was willing to give up a good rut or two for religion.

It says, “that months and years cannot be divided exactly by days and years can’t be easily divided by months has led to intercalculation.” As reward for all his calculated hard work, Caesar took Sextilius, that’s the sixth month, and called it July—from Julius. 

Not to be outdone, his adopted heir nabbed the Quintilius and changed it to Augustus. By 1582 Pope Gregory had to invent yet another calendar as the equinox was off again. A serious matter as Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox—only we’re still not in agreement as to exactly when the equinox is, let alone, Easter itself. 

Ireland and the Orthodox churches managed to celebrate Easter on a different date than the Romans until quite recently—even the Synod of Whitby didn’t change their calculations or their minds. In the annals I read that sometimes Easter fell as late as May 5. Beltaine, Summer & Cinco de Mayo all rolled into one. Sorry to be so anachronistic. 

Can you imagine the uproar that must’ve caused in Rome? I knew Anthony Quinn was half-Irish, but I don’t think César Chavez was...

Here’s an interesting bit: Ishtar was also the goddess of war...and was capable of unremitting cruelty. I always wondered how sex and war became so miserably intertwined. We have this word, “bloodlust.” She had to go to the underworld to raise up her dead lover Tammuz, who was the god of agriculture. A paradigm shift from the old ways.

Have you seen the comet yet? I haven’t had time. I don’t even know its name. It says, when a comet appeared in the sky on the anniversary after his death, Julius Caesar had ascended into heaven—he was proclaimed a god The priests claimed the comet actually was Julius. A heavenly body. I guess the Christians didn’t invent that either.

A thousand years ago, the monks equated comets with disasters. Portents of what was to come. The end of the world as they knew it. They were right, The sky raining vermin and blood. 

Since September there was a fall from grace, a new age but no new year. Everything is post-September. Sometimes I cry for no apparent reason. There is no comet, you’re imagining it out of the corner of your eye, a tear straining the darkness; it was a plane exploding. Make that two planes, an eye for an eye. 

Yes, I make that pilgrimage daily. No, there is no Easter, plenty of death, yes. No resurrection, ashes, yes. Children, no, yes. No, no phoenix, no time. You know it’s bad when the rats are fleeing, the riddle of the Sphinx, yes, we are crawling, no, nothing. No, the world has not ended and yes, the IRS is still waiting in the wings.

MFA Playwriting Brighde Mullins

Synopsis: Throwing Your Voice


The plot: an after dinner conversation with two 30-something urban yuppie couples explores ramifications of popular news topics circa 1990. They reiterate youthful ideals, but having grown used to living in the lap of privilege, lip service is paid to the past.

Lucy and Doug entertain a pregnant Sara and Richard. The topic, the cold-blooded ruthlessness of a cheerleader mom who hired paid killers to upset the competition sets the stage. Richard imagines how he could hypothetically condone murdering someone in his way in the subway or at the grocery store. The others join in. 

There is a conspiracy of smug superiority as they indulge in a macabre mental exercise of getting revenge without getting caught. They joke about becoming territorial as the cheerleader mom when their children become teenagers. Survival of the fittest, all ethics aside. 

Coffee broadens conversational horizons to include Latin American politics, the justification of killing innocent Iraqis during the Gulf War. Doug notes that: “...people often pay others to do their dirty work so they don’t have to look at the consequences.” Richard muses what it would be like, “...if everyone was actually responsible for their own actions...” Doug’s segue to personal luxuries: fur, diamonds, and coffee brings a protest from Lucy, she doesn’t want Americans to feel guilty and defiled. 

They conjure a story that Sara’s diamond ring is from South Africa where children are killed in diamond mines. Here, the plot takes on an Absurdist twist where the ring becomes a loudspeaker, a tiny voice screaming of the tortures of the past. 

This use of Deux et machina and spectacle drive the point home that by association, no one is innocent of murder or torture. We’re all guilty opportunists, no matter what the guise. Blood is still on our hands whether we gave the order or as consumers, we benefit from the exploitation of the lives of others.

MFA Playwriting Brighde Mullins