Some reflections from almost 20 years ago, and a new play idea

I mentioned in a recent post about having written a new stage play excerpt for my writing portfolio.

Then when prepping for yesterday’s Under My Skin podcast, I ended up writing a whole essay about the portfolio and the story of behind the story of the excerpt. Which was insanely long so I chopped a ton of it for the show, but figured I’d post some of it as a blog.

So… here it is:

About the stage play excerpt: The piece I originally wrote a couple months ago, expressly for this, feels a little unfocused. Like to make it good I need to slash and burn which will leave it only a couple or three pages long in script format, not the required 5-7. And it feels more a vignette or scene within something bigger, not a stand-alone excerpt.

(I know, excerpts are by definition not stand-alone, but there’s a fine line where it’s a part of something bigger but still makes sense and has action on its own.)

That piece being a thought experiment on the question of “do our ancestral gods continue to care about us when we have stopped caring about them?” It’s perhaps an odd question, I guess, but I was out of the theatre loop and thus I was looking on websites talking about how to write a 10-minute play, etc., and one that kinda resonated with me suggested that all plays ought to ask some big question to be answered within the play. And I liked that but had no idea what to use as my question so I got all Zen and cleared my mind and that question about the ancestral gods emerged from the blue and I figured it was as good as any.

So I wrote a little piece involving Freyr and Freyja, and I like it and all, but it definitely needs work. And probably would be best as one scene in a longer play, not on its own.

The other night I came up with something a little… I dunno… punchier, I guess? I remembered something from when I was a snotty full-on Laveyan Satanist in the early 2000s (actually, I was like that from the mid-90s until 2011ish, but the specific scenario inspiring the new excerpt was a couple years in the early 2000s).

I had changed my major yet again into the music program (Bachelor of Arts Music major at UBC, which is to say, the lesser of the two music degrees, and us BA misfits were sure made to feel it… or maybe we just did feel it and always assumed the BFA kids and the faculty looked down on us… maybe it was just me but I remember other BAs rumbling about that too… but anyway…) and was taking a bunch of what they call musicology, or more accurately, ethnomusicology, which is technically the study of any music culture other than Western European Art Music (classical, opera, that sorta shit), but practically the attitude is that ethnomusicology is where you study the strange noises the primitives make… and “primitives” includes the likes of the Beatles and every other pop or rock band you like as well as the sorts of music you might guess would be considered as ethnomusicology.

Some of us would say that the real meaning of ethnomusicology is “music that people actually like.”

Anyway, in a few of those classes, but definitely in the “Pop Music” (Music 403: topics in ethnomusicology) class, there was this fellow, who I’ll call Tom, because that’s not his name but it is what I called the character I based on him in my new excerpt.

Tom, I guess, had once been a goth kid somewhat like myself, or at least I know he used to listen to Marilyn Manson because he told me he’d either burned or thrown away his Manson albums and t-shirts. However, he’d had a religious conversion and was now an evangelical Christian, so now he was more of a U2 fan, mixed with a large dose of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

I had just gotten my Church of Satan Red Card, spent 6 months in the local grotto before realizing the leader was an idiot and leaving the locals, but I had my Active Membership (this is a separate thing in the CoS from merely paying the membership fee). Which is to say, I was an asshole to Tom.

A card-carrying asshole. Literally.

Nonetheless, in every single class we had together, he dutifully sat right next to me, usually on my side, and he almost always had a bag of candy with him that he offered to share with me.

I never accepted any, and rationalized this to myself on the grounds that Tom liked mints and sour candies while I preferred chocolate covered almonds, gummy bears, and cola bottles and the like. Would I have taken any if he guessed the right kind? Meh, probably not. Like I said, I was an asshole.

At the time, of course, I thought he was out to convert me or at least preach to me, so I viewed him as a pest to be (barely) civil to.

It was 15 years before it suddenly dawned on me one day that maybe Tom had a crush on me even though I was a total asshole to him, and he was just too shy to ask the spitting cobra out to a movie. In other words, I was totally wrong about Tom.

(Over the years I’ve tended to realize that I was mostly wrong about Christians in general, too. I still don’t believe as they do, but meh… given the choice between hanging out with your average Christian and your average atheist, the Christian is probably nicer. Or at least it would come down to other factors if I decided I couldn’t stand them.)

Anyway, it popped into my head that the story might make for an interesting play, or at least an interesting scene, because of all the layers of conflict, so I came up with a couple friends for Tom and “Eve” to chat with and I decided to make my character, Eve, at least a little bit less of a bitch than I was.

The first draft is done, and I think pretty strong, so it will likely stand as-is.

I may well end up writing the whole play, which I guess would be a funny sort of rom-com. I have no idea how it will end; I guess I’ll start with the scene I’ve got and build an outline from there and let the characters tell me how they want it to go.

But at least for now I have a much stronger stage play excerpt for the portfolio.