Monday 10 December 2018


Since my stint in Cypress Hills in early September, the text of Oak Floors! turned over by about 5% at most. That changed today. It was the middle of last night when I woke up with an idea for a rhythm with which, guided by the Flaneur, we could hear five characters (four individuals and a couple) identify themselves and their stories in about a hundred words each. The scene establishes their isolation from one another. Which is about to change when Patty gets down to business. Jettisoned is the long-time opening scene in a downtown park, where miscellaneous urbanites, busy at their newsfeeds during their lunch hours, sing of the walls--different ones in each case--that tend to hold us but, paradoxically, give us something to sing about. That scene was one of the first ones to get written down, over a year ago. I've long wanted it to work but, for now at least, it's out.
Why I call all this a breakthrough is that the rightness of the new opening derives from emotion rather than analysis. It feels satisfying, and I'm pretty sure it will tomorrow too.
I notice, too, that the new opening addresses some of the concerns I may have been pooh-poohing in previous entries. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to check back and see.

Sunday 9 December 2018


Yesterday seven actors came over to the Frontenac amenities room to workshop Oak Floors! I was by far the most scared person in the room. In fact, I wanted to disappear and have the work go on without me. What cheered me enormously was the commitment of the actors, who launched into a run of the script (without music), an hour-long talk about what they'd noticed in their speaking and hearing the piece, and another run. Their insights and questions will fuel my ongoing work on this show for weeks.
Although I'd hauled a keyboard down to the room, we never used it. The actors--none of them known as musical theatre performers--confined their enthusiasm to the words. I was too shy, perhaps too fatigued from a late-night Frontenac Christmas party in this very room the night before, to propose trying out a few melodies.
But that's what has to happen from now on. The piece is a musical. No more readings of text only. No more presentation of the piece without its full repertoire of effects.
Still, insights. One of the things the actors talked about was wanting to know more back story of certain characters so we could understand why they do what they do. Yes, Cec complains about the size of trucks these days (even though he wouldn't mind owning one). But why. Evelyn apparently transitioned in the past from nurse to cat-whisperer. But why. 
I've understated that sort of thing, as a poet would (a poet like yours truly anyway). Somehow, a generalized group dynamic, rather than individual transformation, has been the story of the piece. We see people in a moment of time, then in a later moment. More cross-section than longitudinal. (This would be in keeping, I suppose, with my long-standing poet's take on the work of a poem, which is that its story or extended metaphor or any other version of through-line meaning or intent matters less than what happens where one line breaks to another--a horizontal, rather than vertical, orientation is how I see it.)
So I've composed my little ship of fools, my Oak Floor's worth of characters who suffer their own forms of loneliness and their own attempts at love, who live within their own walls until they come together a little.