As I began Nightingale, I had a feeling that I was on to something similar. Holding hands with the living and the dead. Knowing where we came from. Remembering. A universal need. And the fact that Beatrice, known as "Beanie," was not very lovable made it all the more important that I somehow write a story, based on very little evidence, that would make her real to me. No one dies who is remembered.
I love to write. I start early, before the light comes up, with a pot of tea and candles. I don't wait for inspiration, I just start. Very often, it's out of sequence. An idea comes as I type in the first words. The characters seem to speak for themselves, and I am often surprised by what they have said. I enter their world. I often think about my father's oft-repeated statement: "An actor makes his own luck!" He meant that by putting out energy one could attract energy back. I'd always believed in this, and now I saw it happening for me.
My plays, and there are four now, begin with a world I know and are inspired by family myths and memories. Shakespeare for My Father and a new piece I am working on, Rachel and Juliet, are basically factual. The Mandrake Root, and now Nightingale, blend fact, oral history and fiction, but always in dramatic/comedic terms. Perhaps because I start with personal family issues, audiences seem to find themselves in my stories.
I cannot imagine how I previously lived my life without writing plays. I started at the age of 50, and it's only the theater I write for. I don't want to write a novel or a memoir or a screenplay. Just words and emotions and stories that involve that living organism, "the live audience." All of my plays have been produced, and with each production I learn more and more about telling stories. With Nightingale at Manhattan Theatre Club, I am, for the first time, through all the many early readings and two regional theater productions, writing with two voices: Lynn, the writer who must find the missing connection between herself and her less-than-lovable grandmother, and Beatrice herself. And after that emotional discovery of her blank gravestone, which started me on this odyssey, I reach out to her now because life's journey in the past few years has been filled with speed bumps. I must hold hands with both the living and the dead in my family. Or I am lost, shipwrecked at this crossroads in my life. And as the play progresses, I look to find myself within her life.
I love this journey.