Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"What I recognized in that image, face, incident or three-inch newspaper story that stopped me, is that it held out the possibility of looking at something in myself,"

"It comes after a lunatic year in which I directed five productions of my play SORROWS AND REJOICINGS on three continents-an exercise that lived up to the title of the play in every sense of the word. It left me physically and emotionally drained and made it very easy for me at the end of it to decide that my days as a director were over, in much the same way that I decided a few years ago that I would not do any more acting. Those two roles had been forced on me in my early years of making theatre in South Africa when I discovered that no one wanted to touch the plays that I wanted to write. I had no choice really but to get up there and have a go at it myself.

There are a few other resolutions as well and, taken together, they have given me a sense of adventure as I face up to whatever time is left to me, but now without any clutter to my essential identity as a writer. I've reinforced that sense of adventure by replacing the rickety old table I've been working on up to now with a beautiful, solid slab of mahogany on four legs-my new "home"-the safest place in my universe.

That year of rehearsal rooms and nerve-wrecking and depressing openings (I never did learn how to cope with them!) gave me no chance to write. All I could do, in the succession of hotel rooms I lived in, was a few vacuous entries in this notebook and a lot of yearning for the time when I would be free once again to explore that ultimate terra incognita, that most outer of all outer spaces-the blank page...

Why is it that certain stories, faces or incidents from the thousands that crowd my daily life will separate themselves from the others and take on an imperative quality that demands that I deal with them and, in my case, that obviously means writing about them?

That, of course, is what a writer is always looking for-a strong story with an unhappy ending. In my case, however, I know that there is also something else at work, something less easy to define. It involves one of my more important insticts as a writer, because it has chosen the stories I decided to tell. What I recognized in that image, face, incident or three-inch newspaper story that stopped me, is that it held out the possibility of looking at something in myself, even though in most cases I was not aware of this at the time. Only afterward did I realize that these stories, these images, were a shield I had held up so that I could slay a private Medusa...

I switched off my neurotic obsession with time and sat down on the sand with no other intention than to watch the setting sun. The last time I did that was in the Karoo, in Nieu Bethesda, on my walks around the village when I would choose a convenient sun-warmed rock and sit down and let time pass, just "be" (to the extent that my restless nature is capable of that meditative state)."

by Athol Fugard
Appointment with Despair: Pages from a Writer's Notebook
American Theatre/November 2012

1 comment:

  1. His desire to embrace the totality of story-telling caused him to stray from his primary instinct. If writers only write, then how can we improve if we only write?