Thoughts on structure

There was some debate about this:

We’ve got this opening scene for the play, where the little creature is born from the big crazy creation ritual, which gives us a main character to whom things could happen.  We tended to think that a narrator coming in just at the most crazy moment of screaming and pounding on a drum and waving arms around and so on, the narrator coming in at that moment would really give us one of those rite-of-passage laughs that we might want.  At that moment, the cave-people would shed their barbaric skins and bones and things and reveal themselves to be gentle puppeteers dressed in tighty-whiteys, endearingly vulnerable, at which point the narrator could continue along blithely about the nature of modern humans, which they could represent through interpretive dance and things.  That was one direction.

Then there’s the direction where we just keep plugging with the little fellow made of twigs and bones, and see en encounter the world and fight to survive and try to make babies and then die or something.

But then we realized this: whether we take the opportunity to alienate the audience for comedic or intellectual effect after the twig-person is born or not, we’d still want to pursue the creature’s story to its end — either by going straight from there or by coming back to it every now and then after our narrator has taken us on some different and contrasting journey (aesthetic, mood) for a bit.

So that leaves us with the task of building a journey for our twig-creature.  I believe my own father explained the fundamental story structure thusly: a hero wants something more than anything else in the world.   The hero tries to get that thing, and fails; e tries again and fails; and then e tries one more time and either succeeds, or fails, depending on how you want the audience to feel (hopeful/hopeless).

So: if you were a twig-creature — what would you want more than anything in the world?

(Part of the cathartic effect of theatre is, I think, being in the company of someone who knows what e wants more than anything in the world for a couple hours.)

Love?  Freedom?  Children?  Immortality?  Dominance?  The tribe?  Solitude?

Notice I’m trying out urvater’s gender neutral pronoun.  I’m probably getting it wrong, but I’m trying.

About Judd Trout

Judd Palmer is one of the Old Trouts.

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19 Responses to Thoughts on structure

  1. Judd Trout says:

    Others have already said it, better than I will, at this moment: your contributions have been marvellous, and vital to the whole experiment, and to me are shaping very much the entire direction. Everybody: the same. Thank you all hugely for your posts and comments. For certain, we’re a long way off of the actual thing taking actual physical form, and equally for certain much will be discovered as it does. But this stage is all about speculation, philosophizing, poeticizing, and imagining, all of which you’ve been doing exactly as one should; and beyond that, we’re all professional descendants of cave-people, that is, humans. Speaking personally, I’m a bit below grade on that front. Which is why the whole idea came about, I would say: the realization that a bunch of people would have a better idea of what being a human is like than, say, a smaller bunch of people. The more the merrier. That said, not to worry, if the WIP calls. And thank you for everything.

  2. Terminator E says:

    yes, this is our big chance to become the pros ourselves. the pros themselves may step in at their will before we do… for all we know the play is already written, rehearsed and ready to go, but still we can build the hype for the Bestpuppetshowever. I think this blog is our version of the group singing idea in the previouser thread.

    the trouts may become the first artists to make a work of art without the presence of spooks, if so that would be noteworthy in itself, and theatregoers at of the neanderthal-puppet-festivals would tell each other to go check out “Ignorance” because it’s “the one made with spooks”, and then they will see a really great play.

    I hope you will continue to contribute Urvater, I also look forward to your book.

  3. libidoless says:

    but urv, it’s the point of the blog… everything you say is relevant and triggers an idea or two or none,,, the blog would make a decent little book by the end

  4. Urvater says:

    Speaking of “foreign helpers” (above): it’s occurring to me that there are people working on this play who have produced rather more successful puppet plays than I have, and it would be wise for me, having slopped stuff all over these pages for some time now, to take now a more passive role, which is to say, let the pros take over without having to worry about off-stage relationships of whatever kind. I mean, it’s hard enough to make a work of art completely unhindered. In fact, impossible, actually, to make a work of art with some ancestral spook hanging over your shoulder (even if, or, maybe, especially if, the play is about ancestral spooks). Urvater here, also, as a personal aside, is writing a book, and the book is kind of taking off. So, again, wisely, I should spend less time on the fun of a play about cavepersons, and more on the rather workily tone of the WIP. (Work in Progress.) (Yes, I know. Workily is in the mind of the beholder. One person’s workily is another person’s mistaken idea of sport.) Meanwhile, if you have trouble finding any of the incredibly important gems I have inserted that have become hazed over time amid the swirls of fresher genius, just mention it in a post or something (I know I’ll be reading, and biting my fingers to keep from putting words in), and I’ll simply re-write the idea, with yet further distortion, confusion and obfuscation. That’ll get you going again!
    I end this little note with an expression of confidence that when the real wheels start churning on the real cogs of this experiment, the World is gonna change! (And, of course, I would never withold that lightning flash of pure insight that might re-set the course of the play at a critical moment in its creation, putting it way over any top anyone imagined! (But you can throw away that one, too! :o) )
    Also: as you all well know: the purest genius of the play is not going to arise out of words ABOUT the play, or proposals, etc. It will arise out of amazing little sensory or sensed details of stuff that happens during the process of creation. The little wooden people themselves will speak volumes before they even get on stage. THEY know what they’re trying to do and say!

  5. Urvater says:

    I should mention, in case it’s not clear, about the sudden exchange of fire between the jungle and the village. We fired not a shot. No targets. It was over before we had any picture of what was happening, other than machine-gun bullets going into a village made of cardboard and people. We had an agreement with the village that we would shoot up illumination mortar rounds if they called for them, and would certainly back them up on targets outside their perimeter. But this time, it was over too quickly.
    And, all we found out the next day was that people had been hit. No idea of the real story: the typical fate of foreign occupiers or would-be “helpers”.

  6. Urvater says:

    OK. The travelling kit works way better with just the single-voice commentator. Everything else is non-verbal (puppets, projections, images, sets, lighting, music, grunts, cries, screams, crying, sounds of joy, grief, affection, anger, etc. etc. etc.) In other words, the non-language stuff gives us huge scope. Scope so big, I’m thinking, that a speaking commentator might be actually a weak element. A draw-back. The tone set by the documentary angle — spoken, in the language appropriate for the audience — might bring us down from the possibilities of the pure art and sound. The vitality of the puppets. The commentator might be an unnecessary, even counter-productive distance imposed between the audience and what is happening: movement; music; dramatic lighting effects. etc. Keep hitting the audience so hard and fast with stunning visual/sound/movement/music/action that they are constantly on edge, following what obviously is a profound analysis of where mind and soul and feeling and social interactions are 40,000 years ago, and, thus, where they are in 2011. The strange, scary feeling when you look into the eyes of a gorilla, that it is us. I’m thinking right now that that could be so great. It’s a multi-sensual, non-verbal analysis and sythesis. You come away changed.
    OR: Better. All of the above is achieved with very very fine simplicity. Puppets. Simple lighting. Some darkness. But, music. Like mime acting. Periods of contemplation and feeling, periods of evolving, changing emotional states and relationships between characters, interspersed perhaps with enigmatic visuals. Perhaps violence so slow and visceral that it’s agonizing to watch.
    Here’s clue, from my own background. I was in a shore-based Navy camp in Vietnam during the war. Below our radio/radar ground height was a terrible refugee village. One night, gunfire broke out down below, between the forest and the village. Tracers. A machine gun. The exchange only took about 15 seconds (although, within 15 seconds, a world of action transpired in our camp, basically getting to gun posts in our underwear). The shooting suddenly stopped. Black, terrible silence. We held our breath. Nothing happened. And then, little sounds. A village weeping. A shriek. Crying. Breathless talk. Calls, plaintive, unanswered. Quiet, frightened wailing. Moans. What really got us all in our bunkers was a single child’s voice. The child seemed to be walking around in the village, calling out. It went on for what seemed a very long time. Finally, it quit. We comforted outselves that the child had found the mother or whomever e was looking for. But notice: a big part of the effect on us was the darkness.

  7. Urvater says:

    I solved this cosmic/micro problem in a new post today, called “Another view…. “. Set the scene and characters as primitive, equip them with thought and speech that leaps the millennia, and, presto, there you have it! Ancient source, modern relevance. Mythical scope. Dramatic leverage. Irony en masse. Humour.
    It also offers scope for some of the very intelligent contemplations that have arisen in our group notes here. It also combines the force of the visual, the possibilities of action, uses of sound, etc., with a “language”, you might call it, that the audience could understand. And quotations that could be passed on to future generations, in Bartlett, and stuff.

  8. Urvater says:

    Urvater may have good ideas sometimes. But, I don’t know ….

  9. Urvater says:

    I’m a little slow. This is just now occurring to me. If you name a play Ignorance, and say it’s about people who lived between 35,000 and three million years ago, and you plan to show this play to people who are living right now, then, look at this. This play cannot be about individual people. The whole concept casts the play into a cosmic context. We can’t care much whether one caveman eats another or beats another at chess or wins an election or whatever. I mean, we can’t KNOW these people. They’re all dead! (Monty Python Dead Bird skit.)What we DO care about, though, is the role that all of humanity was going through back then, and what effect this has on the people in the theatre. We’re into a kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whether we like it or not. So, as I touched upon in a comment on New Theory, this can’t be about what Twig Creature wants. It must be about what happens to Twig Creature as e represents the whole human race over the last few million years. Where do we have an example of this kind of narrative? Well, mythology. What a Beowulf says, thinks, does. What Moses does. Ulysses. Ruth. Abraham. People like that. Or, also, people who did little things in the Bible and passed their weird funny names down through Colonial America. Also, I guess the Jewish Heroes play a role in this, even in the modern era: you know the ones I mean, Spiderman, Superman, Batman. This is challenging. Even when the puppets are sitting around the fire gnawing on something, they are way way way bigger than life. They are all of humanity. Maybe one of them should stand up, walk to stage front, and point this out to the audience, just so the audience recognizes this, and doesn’t get hung up in the interpersonal drama on stage. Maybe one of the cavepersons realizes, as e explains this to the audience, that, what the hell, es life is smaller than one of the grains in the sands of time, e’s really nothing at all, and what worries and pre-occupies and stresses the hell out of en, seen in the context of a couple of million years, really means fuck all. Maybe the other caverpersons have to gather around en and comfort en, just so the whole audience doesn’t get depressed to shit just thinking about it. People may never go to another puppet show again!
    Unless — unless — we can show them one person who DID make a significant change! How Touigquidd changed the world! Present the unimaginably bad situation we would all be in now, if Touigquidd hadn’t done what e had done, eh? Like, how Touigquidd, singlehandedly, arranged for us today to have, what? Intercourse? Drinking? Poetry?
    You know, you have to really envy the guy (it would have been a guy) who wrote the Bible, eh? Thinking of God. What a brainstorm! That one idea just made a really big difference in the sales of that book. Without God, it’s really just like humdrum daily news over and over again. War, murder, starvation, disease, betrayal, exploitation, slavery, destruction, greed, all that sort of thing that makes us comfortable as modern human beings. They even had environmental catastrophes over and over. (I bet the Flood was just the result of global warming.)
    Maybe Touigquidd discovers lying. Or fiction. Or exaggeration. Or denial. Denial would be good. Beautifully ironic. How, with denial, thanks to Touigquidd, modern man can face anything, carry on doing everything e does, with perfect impunity and completely guilt-free! T0uigquidd discovers this two million years ago. Es tribe is panicking all the time, depressed, feels hopeless. But Touigquidd introduces denial, and teaches it to es tribe. And they catch on. And within a million years, es idea is genetically imbedded in the whole human race! It’s our strongest point! Victory for Touigquidd! Victory for Humanity! And we all live happily ever after!
    Denial can take many forms, all of which we cannot go into, either here, or in the play. But examples would be: political systems; religion; education; private property; medicine; institutions like marriage; etc.
    Yes, I think Touigquidd’s earth-changing invention would be denial.
    Works for me!

  10. Urvater says:

    Please refer to Urvater’s amazing, definitive notes in Theme.

  11. Urvater says:

    What I mean is: humanity fails. E, however, surmounts. This fits J. Trout’s and his father’s dogma, that the hero(ine) knows precisely what e wants. Here, we realize, finally, Michelangelo’s tortured vision, as well as Bibilical. David slays Goliath. Goliath is the original Ignorance, eh? We can win!!!

  12. Urvater says:

    I think we’ve got Twigkid a trifle misnomered. I think he is more like Michelangelo’s David. The Ideal. He rose out of the pile of bones in a standard cave re-birth ceremony. He is ultra, zenith Humanity. He carries the hope of the great Race. What an amazing responsibility. But he tries. (OK. Maybe e’s not a he. Maybe e’s not a she. Maybe e’s a e.) It is E who confronts the great moral challenges that the human race faces — and fails. It is E who leaves the audience feeling, after all the miserable, cynical little failed (yet totally historical, right back to Old Testament) dilemmas —- that Life offers Hope.

    • Terminator E says:

      Yes… and then StickBone maybe is Dionysus/Homer Simpson/Buster Keaton. Always getting trampled by rhinos, rocks drop on head, falls in campfire everybody laffs cause he’ll be OK, the danger of the worlds is comedic .

      • Terminator E says:

        And Mossdung Feather, the youngest, is MacGyver/ Donatello/ Inanimate Carbon Rod, solving seemingly inextricable plot problems with contrived and unexpected inventions.

  13. Urvater says:

    No. There’s no bingo hall effect, voting, “Canada’s got talent” effect or anything like that. As in all really great literature, we know what choices we present to the audience, we know/plan what choices they must make, and we know what effect this choice has on them emotionally, philosophically. They don’t have to show us anything. We know them like the back of our own hands. We might read vague echoes of the effect in perceptive reviews, should there be any. But we’ll know we’ve made that essential contribution to life on earth. Let theatre be theatre. The audience sits there — profoundly moved.

  14. Urvater says:

    I find Urvater unbearable.

  15. Urvater says:

    Something specific here. Kohlberg’s Dilemmas. Wikepedia. Kohlberg, a psychologist who proved useful in educational theory, established a chart of levels of maturity in individuals. Fascinating. Very relevant. It’s about the value systems at various levels. For infants, might is right. For little kids, magic rules. For teens, its peers. For older kids (or immature adults, say) it might be clan or family. For young adults, its institutionalized order (like, cops). For more mature adults, its constitional — national identity, code, law and order. For older people, its comparing constitutions and seeking some higher governance of these fallible instruments. But Kohlberg’s testing method is dilemmas. He has people read problems, and then offer solutions. A rough example: does a man break into a pharmacy, kill a nigh watchman, to steal a drug he needs, but can’t afford, to save his wife’s life in the middle of the night? So, dilemmas could be acted out convincingly by cave people or cave puppets (they represent basic, primeval humanity, but, ironically, also represent modern day Wall Street, or Washington, or a family watching TV). The audience is then invited to suggest solutions. Maybe they get a score on, like, a three-level chart, projected on the wall: Ignorant; Uselessly Ignorant; Dangerously Ignorant. Something like that. There. The play is written. Let’s start carving bones!

  16. Urvater says:

    J. Trout has the neutral pronouns down pat. The e es en doesn’t replace he, she, it, his, hers, him, her, etc., when the gender is meant to be expressed. It’s only for when expressing the gender is not wanted. You want a neutral pronoun. We don’t know Twigperson’s gender. E doesn’t really have one. Or, we don’t know es gender. So we just call en Twigperson, sort of a thing. Twigboy would be he. Twiggirl would be she. Twigperson is e. Pronounced the Canadian way, eh? Use it anytime you want. Just accredit the author. Me.
    BUT, yes. What does Twigperson WANT??? Absolutely, that is critical. Because, presumedly, what Twigperson wants, is going to be the draught imbibed by the whole audience.

    I’m thinking power of some kind. Not being pushed around. Like Jim Carrey in The Mask. He did it with magic. A big, kind, power is attractive. Like what Christ tried. But that’s been done. I mean, in theory. Certainly rarely in practice. Stallone shows us how Twigperson can beat people up or blow them away. Mystery novels show us how the hero knows everything before everybody else does. Yes. What does Twigperson want??? Let’s work on that! That’s key. Another way to look at this is, no matter who the point of view character, or the protagonist, or hero(ine): what is the main VALUE thrust of the play? What does the whole PLAY want, strive for? In War and Peace, that value is Tolstoy’s “Life”. It over-rides everyone, great and small. So the core essential value could be something outside the main character, something outside all of them. They might be pawns in a game that’s bigger than all of them. So, another way to pose J. Trout’s question about Twigperson would be: what’s the object of the whole game?
    In the film The Red Tent, a dirigible has crashed in the arctic, in the 1930’s. Actual event. Italian. A few surviving Italians are wandering around, dazed, in the aftermath. Underdressed. One collapses. We watch him, still, in the snow. It’s dark. But we hear something mysterious. Suddenly, out of the darkness, dogs, a sled. The dogs rush by the fallen man. As the sled goes by, a furred mit reaches out and grabs the Italian by the collar and pulls him onto the sled, and jams him under furs. See? Life just took him. A kind of universal life. A universal generosity. Maybe some trace of that is what has carried us through the last few million years. Maybe it’s all we have. Maybe Tolstoy was right. Napoleon screws up bigtime, life goes on.

  17. Terminator E says:

    Maybe Twig is the oldest of three siblings, and they all want different things, and they all have their own separate creation myths. Twig is the leader. StickBone is a party dude. Mossdung feather is very talented at knapping flint.

    Together they go on a great journey…