I saw Mac Rogers’ and Gideon Productions’ Sovereign last night, and not to crow about their achievements, but Mac, Sean and Jordana have pulled off absolutely transcendent theater. Don’t take my word for it: during its run, “Sovereign” was the best-reviewed show in New York City. Think about that. I feel honored to have seen it, even though I had to take the red-eye from LA to catch the final performance.
“Sovereign” was the last of a three-part series called The Honeycomb Trilogy, and while I was present for the reading of Part 1 (“Advance Man”), I didn’t see Part 2 (“Blast Radius”) and only know certain facts through bits of conversation and context.
By all measures and gossip, “Blast Radius” was the play everyone went bonkers over, maybe even sailing Gideon Productions into a sea change of different oceans, and yet I can say for a fact: you can see Part 1 and Part 3 together in one evening, be utterly moved, and never know anything was missing.
This is partly due to Mac’s burgeoning storytelling muscle, but it’s also a fascinating thing about art: many times we can experience something out of order, all fucked up, through a dirty lens, missing entire chunks… and still LOVE LOVE LOVE it.
At the Carolina Student Union, a bunch of us went to see “Taxi Driver” one night after a round of girl drinks. This being the pre-internet era, none of us had seen it before. The projectionist, it turns out, hadn’t either – and showed reel 1, then reel 3, then reel 2 (skipping the credits in reel 3 when he’d seen what he’d done). Thus about 75 of us watched “Taxi Driver” ENTIRELY OUT OF ORDER and WE HAD NO IDEA. And we still loved it.
Sure, it was a little confusing, and the middle seemed bizarrely violent, but then the flashback made sense, and it was all so awesome. It was about five years before I realized what had happened.
Another example? Let’s take the “Star Wars” hexaptych, where a brilliant, radical redaction has become de rigeur in a matter of months: The Machete Edit. Software blogger Rod Hilton posited this order of watching the Star Wars movies: Episode IV (the original), Episode V (Empire), Episode II (Clones), Episode III (Sith), then Episode VI (Jedi). YES, “THE PHANTOM MENACE” IS COMPLETELY DELETED.
As Hilton explains:
…this creates a lot of tension after the cliffhanger ending of Episode V. It also uses the original trilogy as a framing device for the prequel trilogy…
…not to mention you get rid of Jar-Jar Binks, you still get the “Luke, I am your father” at the right time, and, well, just read his excellent post.
Here we have the work of the famously-controlling George Lucas made a thousand times better by completely ignoring the beginning of his entire story, and possibly ten years of work. As a writer, the implications are pretty boggling.
Therein lies the lesson: you don’t get to decide how the world views your stuff, and an idea you’ll die defending is quite possibly your worst. I say this as a control freak myself – I will go back and change words ON THIS VERY BLOG ALL DAY LONG if I feel like it could have been better, even if nobody gives a damn one way or t’other.
I missed the “best” part of Mac’s trilogy, an entire third of it, and it doesn’t matter, I was still blown away. People weep in front of the Venus de Milo, and she doesn’t have any arms. I obsess over each word and plot point in our scripts, and one day they will turn into a TV pilot because a high-level exec will say, “I can’t remember what it was about, but it was pretty goddamned good.”