Tuesday, November 6, 2007


It started at the creek behind my home. The Stonykill by name. I will admit to having my astrological chart done annually by a gifted reader, Brian Evis, and it was on this day, Brian had counseled, the planets would be right to start a new project. So I sat on a stone slab in the middle of the Stonykill Creek perched on a sandchair wondering from which direction the story would come. Stories are like that ... they lurk ... pouncing when the time is ripe.

The air was electric. You know, those days when already frizzy hair becomes live wired? Who can blame Medusa for being in a bad mood? It was just such a day. I was just noting it in my journal when Sadie popped into my head, followed closely by Grandma, Edmund, and Henry. It is here I will confess to being a magnet for strange events. Never dire, just weird.

As a child my mother would call me up at boarding school to ask where she might look for her car keys. It never occured to me until I was much older how odd a thing that was, to call a 9 year old 45 miles away to ask about your car keys. Even stranger is that I often knew, "on the small table by the back door", "they've fallen under the chair where you put your purse" - though I may not have been home in weeks. One survives strangeness by not talking about it. Though by age 11 I had formed a coven at that convent finishing school, performing spells and enchantments in the back meadow by the rock ringed campfire circle, but that's another story altogether.

But on this day in 2003 the journey into Racing Daylight's magic began. I call it magic for lack of a better term to describe the self-determined energy of this project - energy to be made - to be seen. It was during this time, shortly after the deaths of my mother and brother, deaths to wasting illnesses, and in the beginning of my sister's 2 year demise, that this story of hope and forgiveness came to show me the path back into the light...but I've jumped ahead.

As I began to write about mousy Sadie caring for her catatonic Grandma ... I'd always liked the idea of the hospital bed in the dining room. Of generations coming and going in the same place. The sense that death is something you invite in rather than shut it away in some sterile institution, where the human is less important than the details written on a chart. I liked the idea that it was something that happened at home with people you love living their lives all around you. Where death is but the closing of the circle, to be celebrated, to be witnessed, an opportunity to walk cleanly into the next chapter in history, the chapter which begins after the death of anyone ... So I began to write about Grandma and Sadie about what it means to live life with someone who's dying. Especially Sadie who's not really good at living her own life.

I'd been doing research on another script that dealt with the paranormal, with reincarnation and had been exposed to the writings of learned scholars and psychiatrists who mine(d) the unexplained to diagnose our presents; the late Dr. Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia, Monticello, and Dr. Brian Weiss (Many Lives Many Masters), Mt. Sinai, Miami, to name but two. I wondered about the beyond, about forgiveness, and the underpinnings of this screenplay are steeped in the conclusions drawn from this research, this arena of learning.

However, the research was but the bones to build the skeleton, the meat and sinew came from the creek. Whenever I would lose the strand of the story I would return to the creek where I had found it. The first visit the small pebbles yielded up a ring, cast-tin, Victorian in style, stone missing, which quickly became a plot catalyst and the story surged forward. The second time I stalled I returned once again to that same spot, to discover a small limestone facing
square with the numbers 7-31 etched into it. I hurried back to my story with the treasure in hand and furiously wrote the stone's part into the narrative. The third stall brought me again creekside, but this time nothing came. No artifact surfaced from the pebbled water. I was to return to my efforts stymied, or so I thought ... for as I walked away from the creek I tripped over something. A piece of rusty metal which when unearthed became the prototype for a buried easel the third piece of the puzzle which seemd to solve itself after that.

I finished the first draft not long after finding that easel bit. Not sure whether it was ready for other eyes, I was looking around for some way to assure myself that it was whole. The radio was on. WDST, which I listen to in the mornings for the school closings and delays. They had a radio psychic on that day, Linda something, I apologize for not remembering her name, and I decided if I got through it would be a sign. I did. So I asked her,

"How many things are there to find in the creek?"

She replied, 'That's pretty cryptic, but I know you're not going to tell me more. There are 3 things. How many have you found?"

"Three...!!!" trying to hold my excitement in.

"So the story's finished." she said.

I bought a ticket to 'A Winter's Tale", printed up a script and had the joy of watching David Strathairn play Leontes before I went backstage and presented my lovechild to him. Telling him it was 'the best thing I'd ever written".

Several days later David phoned. I remember his words very clearly because I knew that any production of this would hinge on the Henry being an everyman with a glimmer of magic. He said,

"It's beautiful ... do you know what you've done?"

I did know, but it was nice to have someone else think so too, especially an actor like Strathairn. Once I had Henry/Harry I started looking around my female actor friends, those people for whom I am in awe every time they inhabit a new character and birth them whole, and it didn't take long to realize that I had written Sadie/Anna for Melissa Leo.

Part 2, Production, next time, where the magic continues.

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