I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year. While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth... But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We did stuff we do sometimes but tweaked it to make it feel different. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hot-seating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created a theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else. It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to focus on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as they say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week...
We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 2:
Sarah and I were thinking about happy accidents. Things go wrong but sometimes out of the mess of wrongness good things happen...
Post-It Notes were invented by accident
Post-It Notes were invented by accident. I read that somewhere and I’m sure its true. The act of reading something seems to leave me with the sense that the thing I’ve read is a fact. Seeing things in black and white gives it a power. Which is why I’ve taken the decision to keep away from texts like Mein Kampf.
Having said that. My memory for the actual detail of what I’ve read isn’t great. So here’s what I can remember … The happy accident that brought Post-It Notes to the world.
There is this fucked up scientist, right? He or she, though in most stories he is a he because it makes the story better. More believable. Men you see find it difficult to associate themselves with female characters. They can fear them, be intrigued by them or wish to fuck them, but they can’t make that transition to feel like the thing that is happening to ‘them’ is happening to ‘me’. Supposedly. Meanwhile, women and girls have the ability to associate strongly with all gender characters. They can take on their point of view and feel it as their own. This is why women like stories about men but men don’t like stories about women. Generally. Talking in brushstrokes… Of course it could be that women have simply learnt to find a way to be interested in the vast pile of stories that only have men in them. Or only have women in them with character names like Whore 1 and so on. It could be that it’s a response to the way stories about men have been normalised as universal stories, as relevant stories, as interesting stories (as opposed to women focused narratives which are seen as niche with limited appeal). Perhaps women have just kind of learnt to find the joy they can, in the stories that surround them?
I mean I’m speculating here.
However. Who wants speculation? In this day and age? What we want are badly remembered facts, read in articles and regurgitated as gospel.
Anyway, lets get back to the post-it note and the scientist. Right?
He’s working away on this adhesive. For the motor trade. Or something. I can’t remember exactly what. Something that needs sticking in a new way. But the adhesive isn’t working. It wasn’t working. Right? It was shit. It was a total waste of fucking time. This is his life’s work. But everything was fucked. And his wife was sick of hearing about the glue and all his promises that “This time, this gule was really going to work”…
And his kids were like
“You are a fucking loser, glue-man!”
That’s what they called him. “Fucking loser glue-man”
Imagine that? Your own kids.
And he’s struggling to pay the mortgage and now he’s heard that the car manufacturer is on the brink of trying someone else’s glue because it’s not just his wife, they too are sick to the back teeth of the scientist’s promises about
“This time the glue will really work. It will! It really will stick the bit of the car to the other bit of the car that really needs sticking”
So then the day comes. The day comes when enough is enough and the car manufacturer, the boss of the scientist, right? They/he rings up and says
Because this is all happening in America. All the best stories happen there.
So yeah, they said, he is saying, on voice mail as it happens. They are leaving this message on voicemail. They are not even bothering to tell the scientist this in person. Because this is capitalism in America. This is Capitalism at its harsh, sharpest edge. And so they are screaming at him. They are sacking him. On the voice mail. He said. They say
“Hey Fella! We are outta time here already. Your fricking glue sucks and we are finished with you. Finished man. We are going with Zak Boulder-Heim’s outfit as of now. Period.”
They say period in America. They do not mean a bloody discharge. They mean a full stop.
And then there’s a click. And the phone goes dead…
Have you noticed in American stories how the characters always have names like Zak Boulder-Heim?
I like that.
Anyway. Our scientist, he hates Zak Boulder-Heim. He hates this fucker. He is his arch nemesis and also his wife’s former lover. And possibly the real father of his eldest son. I mean the thought crosses his mind. It does. It did. His eldest kid. He’s called Randy. Obviously. His eldest son. He looks just like Zak. I mean he really does. The eyes. Everything. And it’s Randy who started with the ‘fucking loser glue-man’ thing. They’ve just never bonded. Failing to bond. It’s the story of the scientist’s life.
So, on this day, hearing this voicemail. Hearing that he has lost his job to the man who is still sniffing around his wife and probably the father of Randy. It’s the last straw. He looks at his life and he thinks
“What the fuck is it worth? Really? What the fuck is my life worth?”
And so the scientist decides to end it. I mean he’s been thinking about it for a while. On and off. It’s not a new thought. But now. Right now. Then. The thought becomes possible as something that could become an action. He realises that he really could put his colt 45 in his mouth and squeeze the trigger. Because he obviously has a gun in his top drawer. This is America. Of course he has a gun. All American’s in the best American stories have a gun.
So he decides to write a note. He’s not certain why because he’s not certain if his wife or kids will even miss him. But he’s a traditional kind of man. A decent, traditional man who’s tried all of his life to do the right thing. And this attempt to write a note feels like the right thing to do. So he writes, wrote. He writes:
“ Dear Mindy (Mindy is his wife), Randy, Bradford Jnr (That’s his middle boy) and Summer (his youngest girl. She’s 5 and loves her Dad and never calls him a fucking cunt, douchebag or loser glue man), I love you guys with all my heart. I tried stepping up to the plate but that plate? Well that plate was a hell of a step a way. And? Well guys it turns out your Dad’s not a real man after all. You’ll be better off without me.”
And then he’s pretty much ready. He’s pretty much ready to blow his brains out. He just needs to find a safe secure place to leave his note…
The fridge would be the smart place. The place where the family would be sure to find it and see it and read it before coming into the living room where he intends to blow his face off. He doesn’t want Summer to see that. He needs to be certain that his note will be seen before Summer reaches the living room and starts looking for the TV remote and instead finds her Daddy with his brains all smushed into the carpet and all over the wall…
Only, he’s looking and he just can’t find… No… It looks like there is no tape in the house… And the blue-tac all got used up at Christmas and "Damn it all, for sweet Jesus sake!" There is nothing in this damn Condo that will stick his note to the fridge… Which is when he, the scientist, gets the idea, got the idea, to use his glue. He has a little pot of the latest formula in his basement lab… And then, you guessed it… On applying his glue to the note, he can’t help noticing the excellent tacky quality. The light touch stickiness of his note. How it peels on and off the fridge so easily… This weak bond quality, so disappointing and so looked down on by his bosses and Zak when it came to gluing car bits together, now seems/seemed excellent. So there he was. Is. Standing. Sticking, unpeeling and sticking again and again. Over and over.
And then for the first time in months. He smiles.
That’s how it happened. That’s how post-it notes came to be. Or. That’s the gist anyway. A happy accident. Not that it saved the scientist’s marriage. But at least he was alive to see Mindy return to Zak. And at least he was alive to finally notice that Randy so had his oddly shaped toes, so must be his. And at least he wasn't dead so got to spend time with Randy, Bradford Jnr and Summer every other weekend, enjoying soda and shooting hoops or targets at the shooting range. Summer is a sniper in the making. Makes her daddy proud. And in short, he got happy. Or happy enough.
And that’s the truth. And if you don’t believe me? Google it.