LITTLE ONE BLOG FOR THE SUMMERWORKS WEBSITELittle One is mid-rehearsal this week, and so I’m at home, typing, working on Afghanada, the CBC radio show I write for. It makes me uneasy to be away from the show but the actors need time to do their work with the director so I won’t go back to rehearsal until they’re running the play.
In distracted seconds I’m thinking about why I wrote Little One. I usually end up trying to work out where in my psyche I’m pulling these plays up from mid-rehearsal, when I’m away from the process. With East of Berlin, one of my other plays, I thought something like: “I’m writing sex scenes between two teenage boys, the children of Nazis, in Paraguay. Also there are jokes about Hitler. This play is so strange. What am I doing?” With The Russian PlayI thought: “where the hell did I get the idea that she hides the bread in her vagina? Where is this coming from? And why is she making so many nasty jokes at the expense of love?” Somehow every time I write a play I manage to scare myself with my journey to the very edge of taste…
Little One is about a dark relationship between two traumatized siblings and it’s based on truth: a true story told to me when I was sixteen years old by a friend of the family. The friend of the family adopted a very troubled little girl and flickers of that story are in the play. There are also autobiographical flickers in it, mixed in with research, a complicated little structure, two broken characters, and a bizarre dark humor applied to an unfunny topic…
And of course I’m thinking, “why did I write this play? Why would I put humor in a play that deals with sibling rivalry, childhood guilt, the nature of love, sexual trauma and psychopathy?”
I don’t know, something like: I like humor to be present, alongside the darkness, gently subverting it. I like to show a world where life is the funniest when it’s the most awful and chilling and horrifying because I think life is like that, a perverse mix. Those reasons, for sure, and I know humor allows the audience to relax and go with me into the darkness…On another note, here are some of the random little things that I’m kind of thrilled about at this point, mid-rehearsal:
1) Lily Ling, our stellar musical director on Little One, is working with a talented thirteen-year-old pianist named Kailey Lau. Kaylie will be joining Joe Cobden and Michelle Monteith onstage, on the toy piano.
2) Little One is relatively contemporary—1990s—and it’s set in Canada, in Ottawa, my hometown, and it’s been a while since I’ve written something set nowish and in my own backyard.
3) The quote on the title page of Little One is from Dave Eggers’ memoirs of parenting his little brother after his mother died of cancer. The memoir is titled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The quote is: “We are unusual and tragic and alive.”
July 24th, 2011