Malaria

3 l_9ff0e4f0ff3810569fda8748f132cdc5At some earlier, undefined date–when American still had traveling carnivals, a couple of Nebraska kids get their fortunes told. Things rapidly go awry, and suddenly Edward finds himself on a tramp steamer headed for Asia. His interactions with his shipmates grow increasing surrealistic, especially after Edward catches malaria, and the voyage becomes a race home to save his life. There’s more going on than that, with the play operating in layers, to achieve a sort of dreamlike, collage effect. Definitely a trip for the audience (and the actors). Full-length, two-act drama. Two women, three men.

From Malaria (contains mature language and subject matter)

Performance:

  • April-May 1995, Pavement Productions Mobile Theater, Portland, Oregon; full production, six-week run.

Tonic Magazine, 1995: ‘…oozes infectious charm…. Patterson achieves expressive and surreal poetry….worthwhile and very entertaining….’

About Writing: Malaria

I’d been writing naturalistic, short plays at this point (or at least as naturalistic as I get), and I felt like taking on a longer, less realistic piece. Malaria resulted. It marked the first time I’d tried a first-draft writing technique where, without working from an outline, I’d stop a writing session when I didn’t know what would come next. Then I’d deliberately try not to think about the play until I sat down to write again. This assumed that my unconscious mind would work on the story while I was otherwise engaged, and dive deeper into a highly symbolic, unreal world. Good times.

It’s definitely a nervy way to work, given that the whole thing can go sideways on you, but it’s also as fun as hell. The real work comes when you have to revise the thing. I often use music as my compass, helping me drop back into the play. In this case, I was probably listening to too much Tom Waits. This also was about the time that the words “prolific” and “weird” attached to my name.


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