Sunday, March 08, 2009

The First Complete Journey of THE TRAVEL PLAYS

Last night, Saturday March 7, 2009, I finished the short play, "Schuylkill River", the 37th and final "travel play" in a series of works that journey from the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, through both the mythical and real Ozona, Texas, and back to the "Cradle of Liberty".

Along the way, the plays move through Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and back through Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. All tolled, the trip covers over 4,000 miles, traveling through 32 cities in ten different states.

During the trip, we meet: Walt Whitman, Two Orioles, A Faceless Man, Martha Washington, Hercules, Robert E. Lee, a Giant Elephant, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Ted DiBiase, Ted DiBiase Jr, aTrumpeter, Willie Nelson, Jimmie Rodgers, Howlin' Wolf, Bjork, the Statue and Ghost of Davy Crockett, the Statue and Ghost of Elizabeth Crockett, identical-twin political scientists, John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Andy Kaufman dressed as Elvis Presley, Dr. Martin Luther King disguised as Jerry Lawler, General Lafayette, Jimmy Winkfield and his horse, Joni Mitchell and her smokes, Terry Funk, a one-armed Stonewall Jackson, Wilt Chamberlain, two thousand giant bears, conjoined twins, a Blue Whale, Hiawatha, George Washington, a deer, the ghosts of two first-graders, and the SS United States (and others).

And the best part is that all 37 plays were inspired by and made possible by gifts from 37 different friends (or groups of friends).

I have been writing these plays since the summer of 2008 and have enjoyed every minute of it.

This first completed collection will always be, foremost, a gift. And now, secondly, a possibility, in whose continued life the gift will keep on giving.

In January 2009, a team of collaborators and I began the first three-dimensional exploration of these plays. With the help and support of The Kelly Writers House and Philadelphia Dramatists Center, we staged the first 14 plays and read the remaining 12 that were written at that time. We learned a great deal about these impossible plays and the impossible amount of imagination they require to fully come to life. Because these plays were never intended to be staged-- they were always intended to exist only as gifts-- there was never any attempt on my part to observe some of the normal constrictions that theatrical writing insists upon. The result is that we are faced with a seemingly unachievable and glorious challenge of imagining how to present and express these impossible works/gifts. A challenge that will require the full strength of our imagination, which is exactly what I could have hoped for.

As they stand now, the 37 plays are a dream-like journey through American history, geography, people, and possibility, exploring time and place and gift-giving. It is my hope that, through continued work and development, they will become even more.

I look forward to the journeys ahead for these plays, and thank everyone again for their gift. It is my hope that this return offering is worthy.

The full sojourn of The Travel Plays's first leg:

The Plays and The Gift-Givers:

1. Walt Whitman Bridge, for Sarah Bowden
2. George C. Platt Memorial Bridge, for Christiana Molldrem
3. Abingdon, for Brian and Jamie Grace-Duff
4. Crossville, for Marshall "Spaz" Richard
5. Huntsville, for Gigi Naglak
6. Guntown, for Joy Cutler
7. Lake Lamar Bruce, for Eve Tulbert
8. Fellowship and Oak, for Kristin Leahey
9. W.K. Webb Sportsplex, for Jason Tremblay
10. Tupelo, for Stephen Colella
11. Starkville, for Ruth Engel
12. Jackson, for Tim Fawkes
13. Clinton, for Kristy Chouiniere
14. New Orleans, for Rand, Barb, and Mae Harmon, and Paul Carney
15. Austin, for Shelby, Jess, and J.P Goggin (and their awesome pets)
16. Kerrville, for Lee Pucklis
17. Ozona, for Wally Zialcita
18. Barnhart, for Jessica McMichael
19. Granbury, for Robin Rodriguez
20. Dallas, for Dianna Marino
21. Sulphur Springs, for Ilana Brownstein
22. Memphis, for Jeff Williams
23. Horse Cave, for Nancy Mouton
24. Versailles, for Andrew J. Merkel
25. Chilesburg, for Cherie A. Roberts
26. Weston, for Larry McGonigal
27. Morgantown, for Tim Long
28. Paw Paw, for Tim Errickson
29. Funkstown, for Genevieve Saenz
30. Chantilly, for Mark Jude Sulllivan
31. New Freedom, for Tom Tirney
32. Hershey, for Timothy Verret
33. Deena Museum of Art, for Deena Gerson
34. Reading, for Megan Breen
35. Plymouth Meeting, for Leah Walton
36. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, for Paula Diehl
37. Schuylkill River, for Richard Kotulski

Thank you again.