Instead of getting out of bed at 6am this morning to go for a walk, I sunk back into a dream.
I’d written a play – my first play ever titled I’m Thinking I’m Going to Live. It was making its debut at Santa Barbara City College in one of their studio classrooms, you know the kind with all black floors and walls. I was ushered in and took a seat in a comfortable rattan chair with cushions rather than a chair with a desk attached to the arm. A chair of honor. I was holding my daughter who looked to be about 8 months old, all cheeks and chubby thighs. She was sucking on a pacifier and I realized that I hadn’t given her any food for hours and that she must be hungry, but the play was beginning so she would have to wait. Pacified. We settled into our cushions and the lights dimmed.
It was clear from the first that the play was a huge hit. I was thrilled to see my written words brought to life for the first time by the actors performing – John Lithgow and Tilda Swinton. Their costumes were regular clothes, he wore a brown suit, she a yellow dress. The stage remained empty of props and sets.
Interviewed post-show by the organizer of the event, I declared that I now understood that actors worked hard to perfect the craft of acting, that they weren’t just reading words off of a page. The ability to bring words to life, to give them human nuance was a skill and a talent. It also didn’t hurt that Lithgow and Swinton were the actors. Him: a face of character continually changing and morphing. Her: fiery hair, ambiguous emotions, and elegance. It was explained to me that there was no director for my play, that after reading the script the actors had chosen the roles and directed themselves.
I handed my baby off to my friend Jennie, and left the room.
In a Starbucks, upstairs with a view, I was interviewed for a local newspaper. I reiterated my awe of good actors and how they really did bring words to life. They were the missing element in writing, were another dimension for words. I explained the play had no director. I explained that I was surprised I had written a play, when in fact I’d never even thought about writing a play. Something splashy for films with moving music and technicolor, yes, but not a prop-less, un-affected, stage play. Plays had always seemed so dry to me. So forced, so in need of filters and soundtracks. But I had written one nonetheless and it was a hit.
The interviewer took copious notes in long hand. She wrote in cursive, slowly, with a blue pen on lined, yellow paper.
Crossing the floor to look out the multi-paned window, I noticed the palm trees were swaying an awful lot in a high wind that must have just kicked up. The view out the window took in the coastline, south east, all the way to Rincon and there were at least six separate fires burning, six plumes of smoke rising into the sunset. I gasped whirled around to the interviewer and said, I need to get to Summerland, wondering if there was a fire in Summerland as well; I need to get home to get my cat.
The interviewer stopped writing mid sentence and looked blankly at me. Everything is on fire, I said. We have to go.
Turning back to the window I could see a fire had spread to a building across the street that housed tanks of explosive gas. We need to go now, I said. The building is going to blow!
She just stared at me, pen poised above paper and as I headed toward the illuminated exit sign I wondered what clothes I would put on when I got home. I wondered what was in the bottom drawer of my dresser that would be appropriate for a fiery, sunset apocalypse.