April is Poetry Month, and I am continually reminded of how familiar poetry and theatre are to one another.
In his 36 Assumptions About Playwriting, José Rivera writes “theatre is closer to poetry and music than it is to the novel.” When I first read this line, it resonated with me in a deep and reflective way, although I was hard pressed to find the words to explain why.
I wrote poetry as a child, and over the years at various times in my life—on special occasions, feeling moved by an event, or just being playful. As I explored other forms of expression through writing, I often regretted having abandoned poetry. But now I realize that poetry never abandoned me. Rather, I can see how its influence inspires my efforts to put pen to paper, particularly through playwriting.
At a recent table reading of one of my plays, a compliment by a fellow female playwright crystallized my thoughts about the connection between poetry and theatre. “Your writing is like poetry, I was deeply moved,” she said softly. What a wonderful gift she gave me with those words, and I hold that standard as the bar to which I aspire. I believe this is the intention of theatre—to move us, to allow us to feel, more so than to think. As in Aristotle’s Poetics, we go to theatre to experience emotions in a safe setting so that we can go about living our lives. By identifying with a character or a universal truth dramatized on stage, the audience is able to experience an emotional catharsis, and that feeling is so memorable, it has the ability to Plant the Seed that resides within us always.
The Planting Moon sprang from the seed of a memory, an experience both poignant and profound. The remembrance of the night of my mother’s passing, flooded by recollections of a lifetime of events, feelings and emotions, found their expression in journal entries, stories and poetry, a fairy tale, and finally in the dramatic form of a play. Extracted from a longer piece I am composing, The Planting Moon is very personal to me. And yet it is my hope that my story will offer you an experience that moves you and brings you closer to your own truth.
The Planting Moon is set in a cemetery. As the daughter tells her mother about a dream, she invokes an image of the house where she grew up. If she could describe it in a poem, it would be titled Wallpaper, and would read as follows:
When Mrs. Blandings built her dream house,
she painted every room a different color
Not the blue of a delphinium, but a robin’s egg blue.
And the yellow, not the bright yellow of a sunflower,
but the soft yellow of the market’s best butter
When my mother built her dream house,
she papered every room a different pattern
Colonial estates in a field of celery green
white cranes on a dark green ground with papery pink anemone
circus animals, clowns, balloons and trains in orange and teal
cherries and apples and grapes and lemons
in cornucopias, baskets and bowls
each room an endless Andy Warhol
glimpses of wallpaper remain on faded photos
birds fly into dreams and train whistles jog memories
wallpaper since painted, paneled, mirrored, covering memories
silencing the witnesses to our lives
we were the fourth wall but we didn’t know it then
once I tried to return, to find a piece of wallpaper left behind
I scratched off old paint, hoping
a glimpse of the wing of a bird, the petal of a flower
but it was lost in the while of the moment
When I built my dream house the canvas was white
the stories were yet to be told
or perhaps they were there, somewhere in the Wells of time