I love understanding how a written work is built. A writer’s inspiration, the genesis of an idea, notes jotted down on scrap paper are my reality television. I can’t look away. The creative process fascinates me and in case it fascinates you too, I’m continuing with our origin story… in a new way. Now I have the visual evidence to back up my verbose anecdotes. Lucky us!
As a start, I’m sharing the old handwritten notes that serve as the play’s birth certificate.
Page #1: (Above) With no name and four characters The Eternal Space was born on February 2, 2002 to a proud single father.
I would love to ask me what I was thinking when I wrote that section about the play’s flow. "Naked beauty?" Oh to get inside that 22 year old brain!
I’m thinking it’s a parallel to movements in a musical piece. I wonder if there was supposed to be a follow-through with the Tannhauser allusion in Scene 1? (If you've never seen the play, there’s a Tannhauser allusion in Scene 1. Click here or here to learn more about Tannhauser. Come see the show to hear the allusion.)
Page #2: (Above) Some initial research on Penn Station. Back then this was all new information. Now I can recite it in Inuit if the need arose. I heard they have forty different words for "demolition." Little joke.
Page #3: (Above) It took me a month to come up with one scene outline, four characters and a doomed “Possible Titles” list. Sorry you can't see them. They should read: “Once I Built a Railroad,” “Gods and Rats,” and “Pennsylvania Station.” Go ahead. Laugh. The first two are hysterical. Common sense prevailed and I went with “Pennsylvania Station” as a working title for a couple months. Also that construction worker Ben Finlay sounds like he was a good time in the making. But he gets the chop. Paul Abbott is later redrafted as photographer and construction worker for reasons I'll explore in subsequent postings.
Page #4: (Above) If you're familiar with the play it may surprise you that it originally had two acts and Paul’s wife as a major character. Back then her name was Bethany. For those who don’t know the show, now it has two characters and Paul’s wife, Patty, is only alluded to like Norm’s wife, Vera (on Cheers). Again, I will explore this change in future posts.
Page #5: (Above) Although I'm as right-brain as they come, I still love to chart scenes. Breaking down a play into visual bits of information helps me to stitch the pieces together later in the writing process. Unfortunately, I didn't finish this exercise... like I said... right brain.
Page #6: (Above) Assigning photos to scenes. Photography was important right from the start. I loved this process… and still do.
That right there is the pile of notes, research files, books, emails and drafts that I’ve amassed as the play has grown up over the past decade. I keep them in a tin-file box in the kitchen under my lesser-used cooking utensils: rolling pin, mandolin, cheese grater, and the Eternal Space archive. To be fair, I spend most of my time in the kitchen.