I am better than two thirds through a working draft of The Last Man, with a goal to stage it within the next year. It is interesting re-envisioning something like a novel for theater. There are the mechanical aspects for one. The novel takes place in my head, moving among expansive and detailed scenes and vistas. In the novel there are shocking battles among the sewers of futuristic city, chases along city avenues, the great rubbish archives, the Arctic seascoast with the massive city skyline, the Dante-esque breadth and madness of the Reclamation center, the final battle there, and the open sea. It is easy to fling readers through those other worlds, but the stage is far more intimate. It draws far greater barriers limiting those huge and complex vistas, focusing the story upon the characters and dialogue.
The novel describes a world in which a single corporation controls the planet with an iron fist, rummaging in each “associates” thoughts as a means of ultimate control: SENTINEL SPIES, SECTION-21 PUNISHES, THE CORPORATION DECIDES. Production is the imperative. Those who do not or cannot produce any more are “reclaimed” from society. Race, religion and individuality have been eliminated, as relics of a so-called chaotic and unproductive past. In this constructed illusion of racial homogeneity, a black child is born. Studied by the corporation as a means of future prevention, the child, now a man, is put on trial.
The main character in the book is a man. As I began the script, I was still intending a man in the part. Then something truly revolutionary occurred. Last Christmas I wrote and produced my first play “Occupy My Heart: A revolutionary Christmas Carol,” with an amazing cast and a hot-shot your director. The play received national media attention and saw standing room only audiences for its limited run. All of the cast from that play went on with their own projects. One of then, a stunning and gifted African American actress named Donier Tyler, was giving a performance back in March that showed this amazing depth of power. Watching her that night, I had a revelation.
By then the novel had just been released. As I was watching Donier, I was suddenly struck that The Last Man, not only could, but should be a Black woman! as the subtext of the novel is to assail systems of power and oppression, casting a black woman, a strong black woman in the role seemed the ultimate realization of the story. Last night, rehearsing a scene that Donier and I will perform at an Art show on April 28 here in Chicago Donier found her Black woman’s voice for the piece, bringing a stunning dimension to the work.
What I discovered was that we all live deep within assumptions and paradigms. We understand other perspectives and experiences from the bottom of those assumptions and paradigms. Throughout, from the novel to the stage, the work was intended to escape the assumptions and paradigm of growing up as a white male in the society. It continues to be an exploration and a catharsis about the limits of my own experience.
The story is changing and evolving in ways I could hardly have imagined. What emerges I think is the space between creator and audience, and how what we create remains only ours until we realease it to the world. From that moment, it ceases to be ours. It becomes community. It becomes a negotiation between our assumptions and paradigm with and against those of others, hich may well be the real power of art.