Back up a little first: I was going to write a blog about Beckett, John Hirsch and me. By now I have actually put some of it into my conversation but I still want to say something.
Happy Days (1961) was the first Beckett play I saw, in New York. It had to be 1962 by that time; i had four children. The last birth had been an ordeal for both of us. The baby, now a man of 55, is challenged but quote: “high-functioning.” (I’ve written a lot about him.)
Anyway, that event was still searingly close to my conscious thoughts. Happy Days, as you may remember, is a two act play. In the first act the heroine, Winnie, is buried to her waist in a mound from where she prattles desperately to stay happy. Her unseen husband behind the mound, seldom answers her but she is delighted when/if he does. In the second act, she is buried to her neck and wearing as thin as her ratty old possessions/props.
I was angry when I saw the play, angry with Winnie but really mad at Beckett. Men! They theorize, they dramatize, they are not practical. I pondered; what is a REAL mound that a woman is trapped in? An expanding uterus (not universe, though that, too). Pregnancy imposes the limitations that Winnie suffers. I wanted to explore that. I wrote a play about a woman in labour (me, my first time around). It’s not entirely a monologue. There is another woman in the ward, on the other side of the curtain, who responds occasionally, though she is going through a bad time (also me, the last time around), and she is taken away. A nurse checks on the primip (abbreviation for first birth) occasionally, so she is not alone. The title of the play is Semi-Private. At the end, the woman is ready to give birth and is being wheeled out. She asks how her room-mate is doing, she didn’t sound so good.
-The woman on the other side of the curtain.
-There’s no one there. You’ve been alone.
I gave the script to a couple of actresses I met at the theatre (MTC, now Royal MTC) who read it, shivered, and liked it. I gave it to John Hirsch, an old friend from university days and by then artistic director of the fledgling theatre he and Tom Hendry had launched while I launched four children. He read it, I think, but probably not all the way through. I asked him what he thought of it, any suggestions.
“That bed thing,” he said. That was all.
Years later, I put some of my heroine’s speech into a six-part "soap serial" for theatre that I wrote for Solar Stage, professionally produced as a lunch-time theatre event in an urban shopping mall.
No energy is wasted. Not entirely.
Story of my life.