Why? Why should one write a play? A playwright. Like a boatwright or a cartwright. OK. I understand a boat--a cart, but a play, what the hell's that? As a noun: Billy is writing a play. OK.
First off, what does it mean "to play"? It sounds childish. Say it: "I am going to play." Ohhhh! Wait a minute! Is that why actors are so childish? They're just playing, right? "Hey, man, I didn't mean to kill your wife, I was just playin'--ya gotta believe me, man."
Con-Ed (New York City's all-powerful (omnipotent) power company) is digging up a whole block of West 30th Street as I play around with this playwriting idea--and Con-Ed is not playing--you know they're not playing by the long serious disruptions of Con-Ed's extranoisy-powerful jackhammers--yes, their work is staged, but they ain't playin'. They're playing on my nerves.
Let me start off by defining the word "play." You think it's easy? Here ya go, check it out, a definition of the word "play":
v. played, play·ing, plays
1. To occupy oneself in amusement, sport, or other recreation: children playing with toys.
a. To take part in a game: No minors are eligible to play.
b. To participate in betting; gamble.
3. To act in jest or sport: They're not arguing in earnest, they're just playing.
4. To deal or behave carelessly or indifferently; toy. See Synonyms at flirt.
5. To behave or converse sportively or playfully.
6. To act or conduct oneself in a specified way: play fair; an investor who plays cautiously.
7. To act, especially in a dramatic production.
a. To perform on an instrument: play on an accordion.
b. To emit sound or be sounded in performance: The band is playing.
9. To be performed, as in a theater or on television: A good movie is playing tonight.
10. To be received or accepted: a speech that played poorly with the voters.
11. To move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly: The breeze played on the water.
12. To function or discharge uninterruptedly: The fountains played in the courtyard.
13. To move or operate freely within a bounded space, as machine parts do.
a. To perform or act (a role or part) in a dramatic performance.
b. To assume the role of; act as: played the peacemaker at the meeting.
2. To perform (a theatrical work) on or as if on the stage.
3. To present a theatrical performance in (a given place): The company played Detroit last week.
4. To pretend to be; mimic the activities of: played cowboy; played the star.
a. To engage in (a game or sport): play hockey; play chess.
b. To compete against in a game or sport.
c. To occupy or work at (a position) in a game: Lou Gehrig played first base.
d. To employ (a player) in a game or position: Let's play her at first base.
e. To use or move (a card or piece) in a game: play the ace of clubs
f. To hit (a ball, shot, or stroke), as in tennis: played a strong backhand.
g. To attempt to keep or gain possession or control of: No foul was called because he was playing the ball.
a. To bet; wager: played ten dollars on the horse.
b. To make bets on: play the races.
7. To perform or put into effect, especially as a jest or deception: play a joke on a friend.
8. To handle; manage: played the matter quietly.
9. To use or manipulate, especially for one's own interests: played his opponents against each other.
a. To perform on (an instrument): play the guitar.
b. To perform (a piece) on instruments or an instrument.
11. To cause (a compact disk or audiocassette, for example) to emit recorded sounds.
12. To discharge or direct in or as if in a continuous stream: play a hose on a fire.
13. To cause to move rapidly, lightly, or irregularly: play lights over the dance floor.
14. To exhaust (a hooked fish) by allowing it to pull on the line.
a. A literary work written for performance on the stage; a drama.
b. The performance of such a work.
2. Activity engaged in for enjoyment or recreation.
3. Fun or jesting: It was all done in play.
a. The act or manner of engaging in a game or sport: After a time-out, play resumed. The golf tournament featured expert play.
b. The act or manner of using a card, piece, or ball in a game or sport: my partner's play of the last trump; his clumsy play of the rebound.
c. A move or an action in a game: It's your play. The runner was thrown out in a close play.
5. Participation in betting; gambling.
6. Manner of dealing with others; conduct: fair play.
7. An attempt to obtain something; a bid: a play for sympathy.
a. Action, motion, or use: the play of the imagination.
b. Freedom or occasion for action; scope: give full play to an artist's talents. See Synonyms at room.
9. Movement or space for movement, as of mechanical parts.
10. Quick, often irregular movement or action, especially of light or color: the play of color on iridescent feathers.
Play with that one.
So is playwriting a "playing with words"? Or is playwriting a way of delivering words live from characters who are staged to be taken as real people? Unless you are playing like you are Medea--fiction to reality--aha--and I am playing with ideas now. Horsing around? Well, isn't that play?
Elizabeth Hartwick, currently, is the woman with whom I'm having a literary sexual affair--all my associations with women are sexual--on first meeting on through until we mutually part or don't--the play goes on and I'm on stage whether any actresses show up or not--yet, there is always an actress showing up, one in particular, one with whom play is now extremely (sometimes) overbearing; there is now no sexual play at all; there is now only a playing with words to turn them into solid defenses that defend my arranging of the words on the page against her arranging of the words on the page, her page different than my page: "Whoaa, that isn't in my script!" Read: McSnail: "Gwen, dammit, I didn't have sex with that woman." Gwen Stoica: "Oh, you mean her sucking your speckled dick wasn't sex?" McSnail: "Hell no. That's the same as masturbation. Is masturbation sex?" Gwen Stoica [she seems disgustingly smug suddenly]: "What would you say if I told you Danny had eaten my pussy that night while you were at that dinner for the pearl dealer from Hong Kong, remember that night when you sent your secretary, whose mouth replaces your hand at times, looking for me all over the office?" McSnail: "That's disgusting, Gwen, come here and let's make up." Gwen Stoica [sarcastically]: "Make out, don't you mean?"
And Elizabeth Hardwick wrote: "The illicit, as R.P. Blackmur writes in his extraordinary essay on Madame Bovary, and its identification with the romantic, the beautiful, and the interesting, lies at the very center of the dramatic action in the novel form" [p 186, Seduction & Betrayal]. And before that she had written: "Seduction may be baneful, even tragic, but the seducer at his work is essentially comic" [p 185, S&B].
The play form, too. Everything in life we do--or am I slamming a foul ball into the raw bleachers of the seduction playing field--a play of seduction leading to a fruitful and faithful union? Is writing a novel a seduction? Sexual? I think so. I think everything we do is...OH MY GOD, HERR DOKTOR! help me, man, come on, give me a Shakespearean quote or an ancient adage here--these words are playing with my sanity, piling up words in my brainyard, in my brain's playground, and I am being seduced by these women writers Elizabeth Hardwick has brought unto me, she herself being a temptress whose playing with words gets rather comedic when one ponders deep between the lines of her deep-rooted love-of-seduction-done-the-right-way way of intelligently writing--meaning, you can't play around with reading her words, her piles of words, that pile up and are tagged to become like an elegant jigsaw puzzle the picture on the box lid a waterfalling of pastel-worded guidings into the most longing portions of the feminine mind, especially the lovestarved feminine mind, an allurement of words that survey the fields of seduction without a worry of betrayal in flirtatious efforts to try and attract men of genius, men of great energies, men of great working habits, men with great popularity, and then when their attractions work and the men begin their seductions and the seductions lead to MARRIAGE--or in the case of Dorothy Wordsworth who was seduced by her brother the famous poet--and when suddenly these women at last seduce (or induce them to action) these dream men, reality bares its most vicious words as the ugly head of betrayal intrudes upon the affair.
Men of genius make bad lovers. Women who love and are faithful to men of genius find that these men are not faithful to them. Women of genius also make bad lovers (deceitful lovers, because some women of genius are very great actresses). My problem--the play which is being drafted in my wordy head as I type this--is: I've a story of a man genius and a woman genius marrying (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf)--talk about the illicitness--like Lady Carrington...oh Jesus, I tire of this--do I sound Shakespearean yet? I tire of this; therefore I lay down my pen as a warrior would lay down his weapon exhausted from killing. And another problem: My seductive powers are waning. I confess to Judge Hardwick that yes I have seduced--to me still the most beautiful and intelligent women of the many I've had to choose from in this matter of these games of seduction between lovestarved men and women--the brightest loves still in my memories are of women with whom I had illicit affairs--hopeless affairs, in one where even her husband let her go to find me, which she couldn't do, thus betraying herself--now how dramatic is that? A play, a drama, a playing with emotions, a playwritten page of exasperations and conflicts and parallel lines trying like crazy hell to meet, to wrap around each other--the dream union: a man who is a genius and a woman who is so attractive so as to demand seduction from him--a man with an ideal woman already in his brain--a man who sees that ideal woman in a crowd and always makes a flirtatious move toward her--his intentions obvious in the way he approaches this woman and by the first words out of his mouth, "Hi, I'm Iago, could I buy you a drink? And do you mind if I ask your name?" The first fish hook is baited and dropped in the water. "My name is Ophelia. Care to join me?" "Don't mind if I do." "I noticed you were staring at me." "I was that obvious was I?" "Very obvious." "Then I'm glad to see you don't mind the attention." "I'm not frightened of you; in fact, let me ponder a guess that you are a very interesting person, an artist perhaps." "A writer, how's that?" "I'm good at judging men who appear interested in meeting me, like you staring at me like that." "Was it rude?" "I didn't take it as rude." The man is getting hot now. He must now shift into his genius role--aha, the lights are down and the curtain is up and the stage is being set--these are improvised dramas at first--foreplays--dramatic foreplays--can I use "foreplay" in a dramatic sense? Why can't I use words any damn way I please, please? [Should I bring in a descriptive linguist and pit him or her against a prescriptive linguist at this time? Hell no, improvisation is descriptive, isn't it? Fuckin' A it is].
Do you see yet what I mean by Why? A Play?
When we are kids we love playing. Playing is seductive. When boys play with boys, no matter the intentions of the play, it will eventually lead to a sexuality experience. Like a boy hitting a home run in Little League and crossing the plate with a hard on. And when boys play with girls, no matter the intentions of the play, it will eventually lead to a sexuality experience, the old doctor-nurse syndrome of child psychology lore--and I've experienced this play--in a pup tent set I got for X-mas one long-ago year--a pup tent and a doctor's outfit, a doctor's bag, stethoscope, and a doctor's white jacket--and she got a nurse's outfit for her X-mas that year, a white dress, blue cape, and nurse's cap--and later in that pup tent, I the doctor suggested I the doctor give her the nurse a little examination--and she the nurse knew exactly what the doctor was ordering.... You know this kind of play. All of us do. All of us experience these first kinds of plays--the boy-boy plays; the girl-girl plays; the boy-girl plays; the girl-boy plays. We grow up as playwrights. We grow up prepared for a life on a stage. We grow up as tadpoles, then become frogs, then we as frogs are looking for that magic kiss that will turn us into princes and princesses--the royal play being the ultimate play--a play where the men are all geniuses and the women are all seduced by these characters and sure enough by the 4th Act betrayal has been revealed and justice is being served. A dagger to the heart perhaps. A glass of poisoned wine perhaps. Or perhaps letting oneself get caught in the passionate arms of another.
The play must go on. And men and women are currently, like Shakespeare, writing like hell the next page of the script in the wings as the play must go on. It must continue until the script says "Finis"--either to run its course or be cancelled after only one show. It doesn't matter.
As old Ralph Waldo wrote, one of my white American mentors, Old Ralph that is, "Whofore should be a man must be a nonconformist."
What's a nonconformist play?
Let's play with this: Frank Lloyd Wright, a genius--and oh look what happened to the women he seduced and then betrayed--said that believing in God was so far in the past that it was irrelevant in today's world. Now that's seductive to me--I can't really play with so real a statement. Like Sherlock Holmes said in A Conan Doyle's plays on words that led to those truly brilliant and seductive stories of great deduction, [and I paraphrase--I play with the real words like a kid playing with blocks] "Watson, it matters not to me whether the world is flat or round. That's the kind of information I don't store in my mind's attic. There's no reason to waste my mind's storage facilities with useless knowledge like that."
Most of the women I have seduced in this play I find myself acting in I have betrayed. Most of the women I seduced and who fell for my genius I reduced to being my servant girls--my first wife I used for my own ego--she was a true beauty of a woman who was alluring to men when just standing still and looking off into space--and she was extraordinarily alluring when you got into her mind and needs. She handled it the way the Brontes or Zelda Fitzgerald or Virginia Woolf couldn't handle it--she became more alluring to another man because of my taking her around an using her to bring other possible seductions to me--she betrayed me before I betrayed her--she won. Her play ended to rave reviews. Mine ended tragically, though a hell of a good play. My second wife was dominated by me, like Jane Carlyle was dominated by old Tom--Jane carefully transcribed all of Tom's writing; my second wife faithfully typed all my manuscripts for me, giving me opinions that like Scott Fitzgerald stole from Zelda I stole from my wife, too--and she craved love from me, like the Brontes gals craved love from a daddy-man--and oh boy did I betray this beautiful and so intelligent woman--she was much more attractive in both cases than I was--I was an unsuccessful writer/musician/dilattante--and after we divorced she tried Lesbianism--then she tried tragic love again--but finally, after her final lover betrayed her, she gave up and went within herself to eventually kill herself--her play ended tragically but just as she'd written it. And my next wife became my Galatea--a long, long play in the Eugene O'Neill tradition for this woman.
I have just been playing. Playing with words. I woke up this morning asking Why? The answer to the why was a play. Why a play? Playing. Still playing after all these playful years.
Playing my fiddle while my Rome burns--hey, it's burnin' slow so enjoy my fiddlin'.
Playing them as they lay.
Playing it on out.
Some tasty etymology:
- play (v.)
- O.E. plegian "to exercise, frolic, perform music," from W.Gmc. *plegan (cf. M.Du. pleyen "to rejoice, be glad"), of uncertain origin. Opposed to work (v.) since 1377. Playground is attested from 1780. Playmate is from 1642 in the innocent sense, from 1954 in the sexual sense; playboy "wealthy bon vivant" is from 1829; fem. equivalent playgirl is first recorded 1934. Plaything is from 1675. To play up "emphasize" is from 1909; to play down "minimize" is from 1930. To play with oneself "masturbate" is from 1896; play for keeps is from 1861, originally of marbles or other children's games with tokens. To play the (something) card is attested from 1886; to play fair is from c.1440. Play-dough is first recorded 1959. To play (something) safe is from 1911; to play favorites is attested from 1902. For play the field see field.
- play (n.)
- O.E. plega (W.Saxon), plæga (Anglian) "recreation, exercise, any brisk activity" (the latter sense preserved in swordplay, etc.), from play (v.). Meaning "dramatic performance" is attested from c.1325. Meaning "free or unimpeded movement" is from 1653. Sporting sense first attested 1868. Playwright first recorded 1687; play-bill is from 1673. Player is from 1382 in general sense; pimps' word for themselves from 1974. Play-by-play is attested from 1927.
To play or not to play, that is the question.
theprattlinggrowlingwolf (in a playful mood)
for The Daily Growler
Jane Welsh Carlyle: seduced and betrayed by Thomas Carlyle.
The female seductress, Dora Carrington (Lady Carrington of illicit Bloomsbury affairs)
"Desert Landscape"--a painting by Dora Carrington. She successfully seduced a gay man.