Still Life With Chickens was going to be a co-writing venture with my Lovely Wife. She came up with the title and the concept, and I suspect she envisioned a situation where she would roam the study reeling off dialogue and scenes while I sat dutifully at the keyboard and typed everything in.
Because I love my wife dearly and I value our marriage, I worked on the play in secret for two years, and presented the script to her — crediting her appropriately, of course — as a fait accompli.
I acknowledge my fellow longlistees, in particular Maraea Rakuraku for kindly accepting this award on my behalf.
Thanks to Creative New Zealand for its support in getting the first draft to the finish line.
Thanks to Playmarket: Murray, Salesi, Kirsty, Allison — and before Allison, Stuart Hoar — for their tireless work in developing, supporting and hustling for New Zealand playwrights.
Thank you to the Adam aiga for these awards.
And thank you to my Lovely Wife who believes in me more than I do.
Sometimes I’ll get to an early stage of developing a project and I’ll stop.
It’s not writer’s block, or a gap in character, story and/or background knowledge. You likely already know that at Fortress Mamea, writer’s block is never an issue, the characters write themselves, story is always a cakewalk, and I never let ignorance and incuriosity get in the way of a first draft.
I used to think it was a crisis of confidence — What the hell am I doing, thinking I can write? — but what it really is is a crisis of permission: Who the hell gave me the permission to write about [SOMETHING POTENTIALLY FAINTLY/REMOTELY CONTROVERSIAL]?
With Kingswood, a love play to my friends and our misspent youth, the question of permissions were sidestepped by accident: the acts of writing and development (and rushing to meet deadlines) meant that actual-event-inspired truths quickly gave way to more dramatically efficient emotional truths. At this point in time, I would have no hesitation in comping my friends to a production.
As for Still Life With Chickens, basing it on my mother’s adventures with poultry gave rise to concerns about my excavation of Mamea family history. I don’t actually recall a crisis of permission. And when I wrote the first dozen or so pages in a blur of creativity and read them back, I found I’d repeated what I’d done with Kingswood at some subconscious level: dramatic emotional truth trumped the source material.
Those are terrible examples, aren’t they? I was rescued by circumstance and dumb (creative) luck, respectively.
So. There’s another project I’ve added to my development slate: it’s an all-female four-hander period piece.
Who the hell do I think I am to write four female characters?
I don’t know but I’m not going to let that stop me.
Postscript: In looking up earlier thoughts on writing female characters, I found something I posted a few years back. Sometimes, I just surprise myself.
Sharp-eyed (and long-suffering) readers of this blog may have put lua and two together to know that I’m working on a new play called Still Life With Chickens. It’s about an elderly Samoan woman who reluctantly adopts a barnevelder chicken and learns that there’s more to her sunset years than waiting for death.
I don’t usually announce projects in development but since Creative New Zealand has kindly provided a grant (and I’m a week behind on feeding this blog), I thought, What’s the harm in putting pressure on myself by announcing a work-in-progress that I’ll probably be asked about ad nauseum?