"You whom we love, you do not see us, you do not hear us…We are messengers who bring closeness to those who are distant. We are messengers who bring the light to those who are in darkness. We are messengers who bring the word to those who question. We are neither the light, nor the message. We are the messengers. We are nothing.” (Far Away, So Close)
Wim Wenders’ angels look down at the busy streets of Berlin from an impossible distance, perched on the shoulder of a colossal statue whose head rests beyond the clouds. The lines above are from the opening of Far Away, So Close, a movie theoretically about angels, practically about our salvation through the belief in the fantastical as it exists in the people we love.
Wenders, like me, is partial to very cool-looking angels, in long, black coats, and dusters that catch the wind at every turn. There is something obsessive about the way they listen to everyone’s thoughts in a crowded library, on a bus, or in the street. The chorus of voices, a polyphony of sorts, is the only connection between the inhabitants of the city.
Why am I talking about angels? Because angels have the courage to love, and ever since I started working on this play, I’ve been thinking about elemental emotions: love and hate, love and exile (is exile an emotion?), love and its anatomy, its archaeology, its rhythms. It was Wim Wenders who said, “Everything I loved, I’ve had to defend.” I understand him completely. (Should Revision be called A Defense?)
Here is my dilemma: since a love declaration creates no sense of obligation, why aren’t more people confessing to it? Is it the fear of ridicule, of vulnerability, or does it take less effort to be indifferent? To hate?
I love the desert. I love the sea (parts one and three of Revision). Saying it exposes me to sandstorms and hurricanes. In other words, confessing could kill me. But NOT confessing would kill me too. So the question is, how would I rather die: telling the truth or lying?
In Q I say “Every play is a hostage negotiation. Even if we survive at the end, we’re never the same.” But every play is a love declaration as well. Does this mean that every love declaration takes hostages? (And why does “a declaration of love” and “a declaration of war” use the same noun? Should we call it a love advisory instead?)
Remember Wenders’ angels. Now pause that thought.
Think of Mallarme’s Livre – the book of books, the project he worked on for years without ever truly explaining or finishing it – an impossibility. A book to capture the nothing of the nothing that we are, a book about the love of that restful, pulsating void.
Revision terrifies me. It is my play of plays (The Play) about everything I love and have to defend. It is about the courage to confess to loving impossible things, and impossible people, and never giving up on them.
What separates tragedy from melodrama? At times, the absence of a door through which one can make a dignified exit.
I want my play to devastate. I want to have the courage of angels in every sentence. I want to watch you watching it, like Hamlet watched Claudius (though Hamlet asked Horatio to watch the king for him – why would he do that? Delegate? Ah, how far we are from scopophilia…)
I think we are experiencing a different kind of Fall – the Fall of language, tied to an inexplicable fear of sentiment, of contact, which renders us speechless when it comes to caring. Oh, the vocabularies we have for hate, for outrage, for malice. Not for affection (that I can say “I love cheese” and “I love you” using the same verb is pitiful).
I am at an impasse. I say: never start a play with a mission, with an agenda. To be relevant, one has to expose a detail, not the universe. My dilemma: inside me a universe is raging and I don’t know how to turn it into a casual occurrence.
I think I’m writing a manifesto. I’ve split open a circumstance and words are pouring out. But a play is not an avalanche. It is a controlled experiment, a place where patients are treated but not cured, the safest and deadliest of quarantines.
I want you to be my eternal spectator. I want to live importantly so I can understand your relevance. I want to change the course of your destiny. I want the world to go blind when you close your eyes.
...but if I said that to an audience, who would ever come to the theatre?
I am the playwright. I am the messenger. To you, I am nothing.