I Know How What It’s Like to be Dead

We’re three days out from opening “Dead of Winter.” I’ve been at the theatre much too much, terminal exhaustion is setting in, and I’m entering that space where everything either makes you laugh hysterically (literally…hysterically) or makes you feel like you’re going to fall apart…crack…tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. There are tons of decisions to be made and details to take care of, and you can’t find your pen. Then you can’t find your paper. Then when you find pen and paper you can’t remember what you were going to write down.

The good news is that, after writing the plays, hearing them read, hearing them read three million more times, hearing little snippets of them read over and over, seeing them staged, seeing little pieces of them staged over and over, repeat and rinse as needed, there are still moments that raise the hair on my arms. You get so numb to what’s happening that it’s almost impossible to gauge how it will feel to an audience exposed to it fresh and finished. I think it’s going to work. I think. I think, I think, I think….

No. I guess. And hope. But I don’t really have a clue. We are in grand mysteryland, and only performance will tell. As one of the characters in “Wet Paint” says: “It’s a ritual. I think you have to experience it for it to have meaning for you.”

Or something like that. Maybe she says “weasels ate my rowboat.” I can’t really remember. I know at some point last night, someone was talking about butchering an aardvark, and I’d swear I hadn’t written that. I kind of like aardvarks.

Does any of this make sense? Hell no. Which I think is exactly the point: when you die, it’s all dark, you’re confused, you can’t see, and then there’s a tunnel of white light, and you follow it, follow it, until it’s right in front of you, everything white, all the world white, blinding, encompassing light….

And you realize you’re staring up at a lighting instrument and the lamp has burned a hole in the gel.


About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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