Everything moves unbelievably fast these days. Even memory; moments seem to recede into the distant past only a few short days after they’ve happened. The start of the impeachment inquiry into our 45th president? That was only two weeks ago. That Joker movie that you’ve been hearing about for what seems like the past five years? It only came out three days ago. Hell, there are days when I come home from work in the evening with only the barest recollection of what I did that morning. The moment comes, and then it is gone, racing into memory before you even have a chance to recognize what’s happening.
I was in the Hamptons this time last week, workshopping my script for The Tragedie of King John Falstaff.
It seems like half a lifetime ago.
It was a damn fine time. If all the weekend was had been the workshop – if we’d been rehearsing and performing nonstop for seventy two hours – it would have been a damn fine time. (Exhausting, but fine.) Guild Hall’s Artistic Director, Josh Gladstone, gave an epic performance in the title role. Half of the remaining members of the cast were local actors, all of them terrific; the other half were my friends from Dead Playwright’s Society, all of them equally terrific, and paying me the absurdly flattering complement of traveling a hundred miles out to the Hamptons to help me with the script. (Seriously, we traveled a hundred miles and back last weekend. We were busy!) But that’s the thing – we were in the Hamptons, baby. In a converted farmhouse the theater had bought for artist housing. So obviously there was feasting and drinking. There was beachgoing both by day and by night (when ghost crabs are up and about and freaking out the more squeamish cast members). There was an epic game of Clue in which cast member Erik Ransom – who, you’ll remember, is also an accomplished composer – served as DJ and provided theme music for each room of Mister Boddy’s mansion.
And the thing of it is, they were memories as soon as they happened. Each moment of our weekend adventure was photographed, digitized, Instagrammed and Snapchatted. We could look at the moment objectively, as outsiders, a split second after it happened. It’s the way of things these days, as our lives are transformed into video diaries of themselves in real time. We already know what our memories will look like before they’re even memories.
Those memories started appearing in the designated place for memories these days, my Facebook feed, around Wednesday and Thursday. I was curled up on the couch, as usual when I’m working, and those familiar dings started coming through the laptop as pictures of me and my cast and my wonderful weekend started being posted and commented upon. I started tearing up. Partly, this was because this experience, with this script, was such a happy one.
But mostly, it was because I was in the process of cutting that script to ribbons.
Well, maybe I exaggerate. But I did remove a couple hundred words of text – about the equivalent of what’s in this blog post. It works out to a page – the draft of this play that now exists is one page shorter than what we workshopped last weekend. And after all, that’s the point of a workshop – to see what works and make changes. The play, in my humble and biased opinion, works splendidly, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results and the work everybody did. But I could see them getting a little tired at the end, could hear them tripping over things every now and again. So I made the cuts I needed to make. Which means that, for certain passages of the script, comprising about a page of text, last weekend’s workshop was the only time they will ever be performed.
They’re just memories now.