Friday, May 23, 2008

In the Realms of the Unreal

I went to a show last night where the entire audience wears these:

This is the last weekend for As Told by the Vivian Girls from Dog and Pony, and it's definitely worth seeing. The performance takes place throughout the enormous Theatre on the Lake space with simultaneous action in different rooms. Watching epic battle scenes from the queen's box really did feel like entering another world.

The world is that of outsider artist Henry Darger, a reclusive janitor who wrote the longest known work of fiction, In the Realms of the Unrealat over 15,000 pages, not counting illustrations. This is a case where the stories this man created are somewhat less compelling than the fact that he created him, that he enmeshed himself for so long in a strange world of his own creation. The production includes a really beautiful image of the artist entering his own work; there's a compelling juxtaposition of the love he has for these characters with the violent impulses he acts out on them.

One of my friends asked me if I related to the show as a writer, if I ever feel like I'm doing this reclusive thing that no one else can really access. That's the fear, I think, that you spend so much time in your own little world that you lose it, that you become the crazy artist who's more interesting for their craziness than for their art. Still, there's something heartbreakingly beautiful about this man's dedication to his work in spite of any speculations about the impulses that inspired it.

I had a great writing day yesterday: 2,186, part of the new piece I turned in for workshop at the VC summer residency. For my next packet, I'll be moving forward with Manatee and turning in all that I have of the novel so far -- daunting but exciting.

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