Monday, July 27th, 2009
Relieved to be on the road again.
Listening, this time, to a bunch of Tolkien short stories that I picked up in Kansas City. Slightly dramatized but mostly quite faithful: "Farmer Giles of Ham" was in particular quite entertaining. (Y'know, Tolkien never gets props for his comic chops. The books are full of rustic comedy, but that never seems to make it into the various adaptations of his stuff.) I also found "Leaf by Niggle" to be extraordinarily moving, and hearing a superbly-done, and superbly-performed fantasy story about stuff that, y'know, really matters, was a nice reminder of why I try to do the stuff that I do.
I stopped in Des Moines to visit an old friend. We dined that evening at the Hessenhaus, a German pub/restaurant whose back wall featured the Iowa Polka Music Hall of Fame. I am prepared to declare this is as my cultural achievement in Iowa.
Thatcher Williams invited me to see a rehearsal for Spermalot, which is performing at the Minnesota Fringe: my thoughts can be found at my Fringe blog on the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
Afternoon tea in Des Moines.
ME: Y'know, I'm really interested in Fallout 3 now that I've been to DC.
ME: Well, because the whole thing is set in a replica of the city.
LIZ: That's cool.
ME: Yeah, it's supposed to really accurate. Only, y'know, with mutants and robbers crawling through the ruins.
ME: Okay, maybe not all that different.
My friend took me out to a tea shop in Des Moines. She sat herself down across from me, and said, "Okay. Want some unsolicited marketing advice?"
So she pulls out a sketch pad, and begins doodling. And here's something that struck me -- there's a lot of people who have been very aggressively giving me marketing advice, but none of their suggestions have anything to do with the work that I'm doing. This is the first time I really sat down with someone who, I think, actually gets the concept of the show -- and from only a few brief conversations, at that. (Well, excluding the many years we spent discussing this stuff when we were teenagers. Which, come to think of it, may be more to the point.)
But she's always had a flair for visual designs, and was effectively able to produce some really iconic images. And while I know that current Fringe wisdom suggests human face and human body for publicity -- this show is all about icons. And about smashing icons together.
The key image of the show, I think, is that of Pellinore and the Questing Beast -- the noble knight, pursuing the chimerical monster across the desert. "What does it mean?" she asks -- and, well, it's not ever exactly explained in the original texts. Some scholars think that the sound of beasts that emerge from its belly indicates the corruption and civil strife that will tear Camelot apart from the inside. And Pellinore's assertion that it will continue to be pursued by his children is either hopeful or ominous, depending on how you choose to read that. But there's something compelling in that unquestioning, self-destructive pursuit of an unattainable goal. There's a parallel to art, to the act of creation, that a number of audience members of picked up on, though nobody seems to have yet grabbed hold of what it may evoke politically.
Or maybe it doesn't mean anything at all. Maybe there is no meaning, and this simply happens because this is what happens in Arthur's realm.
Some have asked me to be more specific -- to be honest, I'm worried about being obnoxiously heavy-handed. I'm not really interested in allegory -- that childish, simple-minded form of storytelling in which each image has a clear one-to-one parallel will something else. Rather, I'm interested in what Tolkien described as applicability -- the development of a richly detailed, internally consistent world, within which many parallels can be found.
EVERYONE ELSE: Don't worry. You've got a following in Minneapolis! You're sure to a get a crowd there.
ME: Awesome! Thanks! So when are you coming to the show?
EVERYONE ELSE: ...
Hopped in my car. Can't express enough how gratifying it was to be able to reach up and plug "home" into my GPS.
I'm reassured by everyone that I'll have a strong audience showing in Minnesota. And I certainly have for the past two years. But that's not something I ever take for granted: I've learned the hard way that an audience won't necessarily follow you from one project to the next. Particularly when you genre-hop as heavily as I do.
In any case, since I'll be back in my hometown, posts here will be on the back-burner until I hit the road again. If you're interested in my adventures at the Minnesota Fringe, I advise you all to check out the blog I write for the Twin Cities Daily Planet at this link.