Words Not my Own

Words Not my Own

It’s a strange thing that happens to us writers sometimes: suddenly our words are no longer our own.  This is what I’ve wanted, been working towards, and yet it doesn’t feel easy.  Like a child growing up and leaving home, I suspect.

I’ve been writing my play Whose Blood for over a year now — nineteen drafts, last time I counted.  I’ve done readings, had lots of input, but up until now my words were always mine.   When I didn’t want to work on the play, the script just sat on my shelf, waiting for me — I could neglect her for weeks and even threaten to never come back.   But now that rehearsals have begun, everything has changed.

My words are no longer my own, instead they are now the contours of a universe that the director, actors, and crew inhabit.  The actors chew on the words and spit some of them back: I make changes.   The costume designer listens and then sews outfits, the sound and lighting designers create the light of candles and the sounds of a 19th century carriage.  The director constructs dances and movement to fill out this world that she now also imagines.

I want to run away.  It was easier when the words were only my private playthings I could control.  I’m at times embarrassed: it sounded better in my head.  I’m not sure if this child was ready to got into the world.

When I leave rehearsal the actors are singing and dancing.   I go back to my quiet apartment and look at my script and try to pretend she is still mine, but it doesn’t work.  The director calls: questions about some lines and plans to move into dress rehearsal.  I look online and there is publicity “a new play by Alex Burger.”   These words are really no longer mine, they are a map to a world we construct together.   I hope the world is beautiful, but I’m still not sure I’m ready for the shock of the visit.

Whose Blood opens the 23 February at the Old Operating Theatre.  For more information and tickets go to www.whoseblood.com

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