Archives For The Waiting Room

The Magic Carpet

October 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

A year ago this week I hopped on a train and spent a few days in the quiet town of Carlingford, just shy of the border of Northern Ireland. We were off school that week, so I took some schoolwork with me and took walks and worked on a play and read some books on theatre theory. Made this video to document the trip, for those that never came across it, and like shots mostly filmed out a train window:

One book was buy a guy named Peter Brook. Now, most serious people will have heard of him, and I remember learning a bit about him back in my undergraduate theatre courses. But when you spend a dozen years or so doing youth theatre you don’t talk much about famous European theatre practitioners. You’re more concerned with just getting the kids close enough to the microphones so the audience can hear them.

But a big reason I took all that time off was so I could go study Serious Theatre, and that’s certainly what I had the chance to do. And Brook was brought up over and over again in class by multiple professors. The big quote I remember came from Patrick Mason, about how Brook knew “how to cut to the heart of something, and strip everything else away.” I heard firsthand accounts of his famous productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Cherry Orchard, and after reading two of Brooks’ books, I’m starting to get an idea of what he was after. When it comes to teaching, at least, I too prefer to get rid of anything that isn’t essential.

Brook could have taken over directorship of any of Britain’s (or even Europe’s) most famous theatre companies, but instead he spent part of the 1970s wandering Africa and the Mid-East with a small troupe of actors and a bare carpet. They would lay the carpet down in a public space and begin performing different works of theatre. He was trying to distill the magic of theatre down to its essence, and along the way reinvigorate himself and his love of the craft. After his travels, he settled into a run-down theatre in Paris called the Bouffes du Nord and there produced many of his legendary productions.

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Carlingford, Ireland. October 2012.

Many people ask me what I’m up to, theatre-wise, these days. Some want to know if I’m going back to Limelight. Some wonder if I’ll take over a junior high program, or go to a high school, or start a new company. And I don’t really have an answer for any of that. I suppose at this point I’m traveling on my own magic carpet, working with different groups of kids here and there, studying overseas with some lovely and talented people, watching and learning from the different productions I occasionally attend. I applied for, but did not get, a high school position that was open. There were some certification issues I can’t really overcome at the moment (it’s a bit tricky to jump from elementary teaching to a high school scenario), but part of me wasn’t really sure it was the job for me. At a high school, theatre is about The Spring Musical, and in my final interview I told them that I wasn’t really a musical guy. Sure, I’d do a great job, but I didn’t have the passion that others have for that particular kind of theatre. If they really needed me, I was their man. Whatever’s best for the program and the kids at that school. But if they were interviewing someone that loved musicals, I told them that they should hire them. And so they did.

You see, I’ve done that already. I’ve directed a few musicals in my day, and produced many more, and I just don’t see any challenge in it. Limelight offered an infinitely more interesting canvas on which to paint. You could do a kids’ show one year and write a personal story with high schoolers the next. And while I miss it, I’ve also done as much as I probably could do with that organization, at least in its current form.

So for now I’m just spending my days with the fifth graders, and taking it easy in the evenings and weekends. The short theatre class I taught at Northwestern this summer was a lot of fun, and gave me an idea of where I can go with all of this talent, old and new, I have stored up in me. And so I’m following Mr. Brook’s observation he gives in his essay “There Are No Secrets”:

“We prepare ourselves by the options we reject until the true solution, which was already there, suddenly comes into the open. One lives within a pattern: to ignore this is to take many false directions, but the moment the hidden movement is respected, it becomes the guide, and in retrospect one can trace a clear pattern that continues to unfold…As always, one has to go into a forest and back to find the plant that is growing besides one’s own front door.”

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Writing in Carlingford, Halloween 2012.

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The Sea-Bell

March 17, 2013 — 5 Comments

Today I drove around for a couple of hours, to nowhere in particular. I do this a lot lately.

Trying to stay in one place for a bit, save some money for the next round of wandering. But I tend to get in my car a lot and just drive, mostly the back country roads, so I can listen to the radio and get lost in my thoughts for a while. I’ve driven these roads countless times over the years, so I’m always searching for a new, unexplored route.

I bounce from classroom to classroom during the week, a different teacher every day. Some days I sit in the corner of a high school class while they watch 40-year old films to learn about World War II. Some days I entertain eight-year olds and they think I am a god.

Often I see former students and former Limelighters, and it is always a happy reunion. Still smiling about the bear hug I got from an eighth grader I had a few years ago; he stopped by my room every passing period of the day, just to keep saying hi.

On one of my drives I swung by my house, where another man now lives, where my neighbors are complaining of branches that are creeping across the divide into their patio. I forgot to bring any branch cutters, and so the small tree continues to grow and trespass onto another property.

Sometimes I stop driving and I walk inside a school and I sit in the back and watch my former company of actors and directors move on without me. During the intervals new ideas flood into my head and I scribble them down in a small black notebook. I have lots of ideas these days.

I continue work on a new play I started last fall, back in the writing course I took at UCD. I dust off an old one and I strip it back to only what’s necessary. I outline, I write dialogue, I collect pictures and think about color palettes and light plots and scene design.

And I think about teaching, the real job, and I wonder what I’m going to do with myself.

The old life is right there, if I want it. I can move back into my old house, my old classroom is waiting for me, and all my old friends are here. Everything could go right back to the way it was.

One of my best friends mentioned something about “getting it out of your system” when I moved to Ireland. My grandmother said the same thing. A lot of people say things like “Well, now you can say you’ve done it, and you’ve got no regrets.” Like it’s a box I wanted to just tick off on the Brian Fauth Bucket List.

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Once upon a time, I could have settled down and loved a woman and raised a family, and maybe that would have been a good life.

Once upon a time, I got on a plane and I flew across the ocean and I saw great cities and I met lovely people and I climbed green hills and I watched a continent pass by my train window.

Once upon a time, I thought I could go back to doing what I did before, and what I did better than anyone else, and I thought that would be enough. But that was a long time ago.

I’m like one of those guys in the old stories, the ones who forget the instructions and accept the gifts of the Fair Folk. There’s always a price to be paid when visiting the Twilight Realm; when you return home, nothing is ever the same again. You drift through life as a shadow, and try as you might, you can never find your way back again.

And so I drive and I drive and I drive, through the end of a bleak and cold winter, and I watch the snow melt along the roadside, and I stare out into the horizon, searching for a new route to take me home.

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Sun’s Day

November 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

On Sun’s Day, it was the beginning of the end.

The semester ends in two weeks. November 30th is the last day of class, where I get to present a six-minute movement piece starring myself. Yesterday I finally got a clear idea of what to do with it, but it’s still been the assignment that I dread, and that I just want done. Hopefully it makes sense. There’s a nice bit of metatext (as we call it in the academic biz) where the piece’s theme is about a student pushing against the constraints of traditional schooling. Take that for what you will.

Today I did as I normally do on a Sunday: sleep late and read the news before getting on with my day. I usually buy a Sunday Observer and read that throughout the week, as I’m always being pulled back to my assignments. I think the quality of the newspapers is going to be one of the things I will miss the most, once I leave here. Ours have been gutted and trimmed back, but over here they’re still stuffed with great writing and lengthy articles.

And as usual, I had a hearty breakfast and helped further clog my arteries with Superquinn’s award-winning sausages. The eggs from Tesco come in this lovely bright green carton that I never get tired of seeing in my fridge. Seriously, how can you not enjoy looking at something like that? It’s almost a shame to crack ’em open.

Free-range eggs from Tesco’s, with mini-milk jug!

I cleaned up the place a bit, organizing some of the receipts and little bits that had collected on my desk and coffee table. I found my used train ticket from last month’s trip up north, and instead of throwing it away I tossed it into my desk. I can never throw away train tickets. If you’re lucky, the train ride itself can be as much fun as the place you’re traveling to, and it’s yet another one of those little objects that are unique to being “over here.” I miss having a car sometimes, but I never, ever get tired of taking a train somewhere, even if it’s just out to my friends’ place in the northern suburbs of Dublin.

 

I threw a load of laundry into my tiny washing machine and walked into the village to buy a few groceries. Talked to the butcher about a turkey breast for Thursday, and as I left the clerk, a young Polish girl, smiled and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. It made me happier than I could properly describe.

The afternoon and early evening were spent writing another scene for a short play I’m writing for another class. While I grumble about the movement piece, and privately express some severe frustration with some of the other classes I’m taking, I’ve been rejuvenated by the one class I wasn’t expecting to take. (Remember, I’m auditing the course.) It probably helps that I’m not writing on a deadline, or that I’m trying to write for young actors. I’m free to put down whatever I want, and so far it’s going well. We’ll see where it winds up.

If my computer had eyes, it would see THIS for several hours every day.

The Fjord of Carlinn

November 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

The Lovely Bleakness

It was time to put the books away, to step away from the seminar room and the rehearsal room, and to see some new places.

It was time to get on a train and stare out the window and watch the world pass by. It was time to get lost in thought, and perhaps discover a new story or two along the way.

It was time to see mountains.

Last Tuesday I woke up early, loaded up my backpack, and headed for the train station. Bought a cheap ticket (thanks to my student discount!) and went north.

I ended up in a small town named Carlingford, located on a fjord right on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I’m not going to take the time (for now) to explain the history and reasons why there is an “Ireland” and a “Northern” Ireland. But you need to be aware of the fact that they are two separate countries, and “regular” Ireland is NOT part of the U.K., while Northern Ireland is.

I may try to explain this in a future post, but for now I recommend heading over to my favorite travel blogger, The Everywhereist, and allow her to explain the difference.

Carlingford is named for the fjord (or inlet) the town sits on, and has something to do with Viking settlers. Going further back, it’s name in Irish was Cuan Snámh-AighneachSnámh-Aighneach or Cuan Cairlinne. (Don’t ask me to pronounce that.)

Viking mural next to the primary school in Carlingford.

But I’m not here for a history lesson. I’m here to talk about the joys of wandering, of traveling to unknown parts, of being completely alone and having that be the best thing in the world.

Sometimes.

When I’m working on a new play, I like to get away from familiar places, from my shelves of books and DVDs, from the usual streets and faces I see every day. And now that I “live” in Dublin, I had to get away from my small Blackrock apartment as well. There’s something about going to a new place, the way your mind drifts while you watch the landscape rush by while you’re on the train, that has always been very helpful for me as a writer.

Or it could just be that you have nothing else to do BUT write. Most of my really good ideas came to me while sitting (alone) at dinner, or in my Bed and Breakfast, after a day spent walking the town and the hills, or up the Slieve Foy as far as I could go in my non-waterproof sneakers. (Really wish I had packed the hiking boots, but they’re sitting in my parents’ basement at the moment.) Sometimes you have to get to a certain point of loneliness and/or boredom for the words to start flowing.

The Slieve Foy Mountain. Highest peak in Co. Lough.

And so after a couple of days in Carlingford, I had the outlines for not just one but two new plays. One’s a dark satire about marriage (I think), and another’s about a fifth grade music prodigy. And I think they share some of the same characters, and even some of the same events, but I haven’t gotten that far with them. Sometimes when you write, the story leads you into directions you didn’t expect, so we’ll see where these end up.

Came back to Dublin in time for a friend’s 40th birthday, and it was wonderful to be among good friends in my temporary home.

Take THAT, 40! (Photo blatantly stolen by me from Elisa’s Facebook page.)

And today I read the opening scene from that new play to our guest professor, and he thought it was great stuff.

Ahh! I almost forgot the best part! I made a video, kids! It’s a little travelogue of my trip to Carlingford and back. Check it out!

You can also see a lot more photos of Carlingford and the rest of my trip here. It’s a public Facebook album. Hopefully I did it right.

Four weeks of classes left.

And whither then? I cannot say.