Spring/Summer 1993, Volume 10.2


Ron Carlson

Fierce and Fostering: David Kranes in an Interview

Ron Carlson (M.A., University of Utah), author of four books of fiction, most recently the story collection Plan B For the Middle Class (Norton, 1992), was himself interviewed in Weber Studies 8.2 (Fall 1991). His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy, Gentleman's Quarterly, Ploughshares, Story, Weber Studies, and others. He is Director of Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

David Kranes has been the most sustained force for writing and the fostering of writers in Utah for the past twenty-five years. Hundreds of people, dozens of whom went on to become teachers, editors, and writers, have come under his influence at the University of Utah where he has taught since 1967. He served and continues to serve as the model of the working artist, and he has been throughout the years a prolific writer, producing stories, plays, novels, screenplays, lectures, and criticism as well. He has received numerous Distinguished Teaching Awards at every level, from department through college to the highest accolade, the University Professor Award. Most recently he was the recipient of the Ramona Cannon Teaching Award (1991).

He came to Utah "on purpose" after graduating from the Yale Drama School and the major focus of his work at that time was theatre. His plays have been produced not only throughout this country but also in Scotland, England, and South Africa. Best known among these are "The Salmon Run" (1984), "Horay" (1973), "Drive-In" (1970), and "Cantrell" (1989). "Cantrell" and "Going In" (1988) have been published in Best American Short Plays and "Horay" won the CBS Playwrights Award. Most recently he has served as the Director of the Playwrights' Lab at the Sundance Institute.

His fiction works include the novels Margins (1972), Criminals (1981), The Hunting Years (1984), and Keno Runner (1989), and the story collection Hunters in the Snow (1979). He has just finished a new novel, The National Tree. He is currently writing a book on playwriting for Writers' Digest Books.

The interview that follows really began 25 years ago in Salt Lake, the night I finished what I still consider my first real story. I called Dr. Kranes, who was my professor, and he said, "Bring it over." Only then did I look at my watch and find it after ten p.m. I went to his house which was then on Michigan Avenue and he had me read him the story. We talked. He told me what it was about so I could focus the rewrite. I left after midnight, and as I drove home through the dark streets of Salt Lake with my manuscript on the seat beside me I thought, I could do this, I could write some more stories. Since that time we have worked together on scores of writing and teaching projects throughout the country.

We decided our format for Weber Studies would be that I would mail him questions and he would respond; and then I would mail a second set, and so on. We talked on the phone. Finally in December of 1992, we met in Las Vegas, in the state that has been at the center of so much of his work. We sat in the casino lounge of Caesar's Palace at seven a.m. one morning, and as the strange room came to life around us, I read parts of the interview to him, penciling in his interruptions.

Read a play by David Kranes

Carlson: You write both fiction and drama. For you what are the greatest similarities in the genres? The differences?


Kranes: There are common roots. For me. They are scene, tension, action. I'm told that my child m. o. was silent observation. I would, I'm told, station myself apart and watch intently. This seems quite possible. There is considerable memory of not thinking of myself as part of the world. I was outside it. I couldn't enter it; I didn't have the capacity. I wasn't sufficiently formed to enter it. And so there was an urgent need to watch it and get it down so that I might become formed and be in it. I would imagine myself being in the scenes I watched . . . or in the scenes like them. I was always adding myself, like a chemical, to them. And always the me-catalyst would change somethingsay something, do somethingsuch that the scene would become more charged. I wasn't always the hero. But I was the activator. I was the necessary reagent. Most of what I watched was very civilized, very composed, measured. And so, in my imaginings, I would revise the scenes so as to challenge their civilized composure. I would make the people have to fight more for what they said. What they did. I would let a given moment be calm. . . in my reimagining.

What I'm saying is: when I was young, I stood on the outskirts and observed. I took endless pictures, made endless tape recordingswith my eyes and ears. I stored a lot of stuff in my brain. And then I went away and began playing. What if? tampering. Adding myself in. Often rudely. Often quite outrageously. An elegant monologue of my father's would be impertinently challenged. He wouldn't be allowed, in the refashioned playback, to just hold forth. The smug bully on my street wouldn't be allowed to cow the smaller kids. So: I was taking these observed scenes and adding tension to themsometimes with words, sometimes with actions. And I think that dramatic quality roots in both my fiction and my plays.

When I got a little bit older, I started playing with actually doing the meddling, the activating. I would step in from the outskirts physically and change the conditions of a scene. I rememberhaving moved to a new neighborhood and not being of the kids there yet, excluded from their gamesstanding on the periphery and tossing stones into the middle of their tag football game. That led to some action! I remember raising my hand in a class where the teacher almost daily mocked a specific studentand saying: "Don't do that. Don't make fun of Ned: it's wrong. If you do it again, I'll tell the PTA." I remember the silence that followed my stepping in with those words. It taught me a great deal about negative capability.

I think, over my life, personally, there's been a real rhythm, a real movement back and forth between the observer and the actor. I'll be on the outsideobserving, recording, having the world become inscribed, stockpiling it in my brain, rearranging it there. And then that will becomealmost physicallytoo heady. And I'll step out of the margins, actually, and into the scenes. Say. Do. Trouble the waters. Challenge what's there in my own way. Take the heat. Then remove myself and try to see the shape of what's just happened in retrospect. Sometimes I use writing to try to move myself forward, move myself out of the margins. Sometimes I just step out of the margins into who-knows-what, and then write about it afterward. When I was younger, there was more solitary in-my-head sideline living. Now there's more being in the world first.

Either way, though, there are scenes, and tension and action.


Carlson: When you have an idea or notion for a piece, how do you decide if it is going to be a play or a work of fiction?


Kranes: What I don't do is think "I'm in a play mood" or "I'm in a fiction mood." I think character. I think scene. I start adding elements in, moving them around. What if. . . What if. I spend considerable time in the world of a given notion. I'm seeing scenes; I'm hearing words. Then, some way down the line, I get to the questions: is this a play? is this a story? there have been any number of instances, where I tried it one way and then tried it the other. You saw the prose evolution of "Cantrell""Cantrell" the story. One night I was at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. I saw a play with a particular kind of open set and staging, and it was clear to me: "Cantrell" is a play. And it is. Because it's about a man who is dedicated to trying to act in a different way than he has.

For me the flesh of a prose-fiction piece is the language. In a dramatic piece, the flesh is fleshthe living flesh of the actor. In fiction, you touch words. In plays, you touch the physical world. In fiction, words make patterns and sounds in your head. In plays, words make actual sounds. In fiction, language is always language. In plays, language is flesh, it's character. For a while, I got confused, I think. I carried what I just said to such an extreme that I wrote out of the wrong-headed notion that rich and dense and elaborate language couldn't be used on stage; it would be unnatural. But if you invent a rich or dense or elaborate character of course it can! Now I'm having more fun. I'm writing a play about a man who quits the CIA at the age of 50. He's led a life of "not talking"; it's been part and parcel of his work: secrecy. Something happens and suddenly this whole notion of not talking seems outrageous to him. He discovers words at the age of 50 and runs amok with the discovery, revels in it. It's a little disconcerting to his son. I might add: to have lived twenty-four years with a silent father and then, overnight almost, all he does is talk! Talk heedlessly toowithout any discretion! It's great fun. In a novel, this character would be a great construct, a great invention. On stage, he's a great, burbling man.


Carlson: Talk a little about the kinds of preparations each genre requires of the writer. How do you begin? How much do you need to know before starting? With a play do you need to know more?


Kranes: (I need to know less but I need to know more about it.) The limitations of the stage are real. A play with a dozen characters is a huge and extravagant play. A play with two different settings multiplies the expense. My "talker" play, above, has only three characters. I thought of five, then four, then three. At one point, one of the characters enters dressed like another character and talking in another voice. And that's better! In a play which is about talking without limits, that a character can talk with another character's voicebetter than creating a separate character (and paying another actor). So I only need to know three characters for this play. But at least two of those characters carries at least four other characters inside himand I have to know each one of those characters. Sometimes in fiction, you can get away with just being panoramic. The variety of the panorama holds the reader's interest. And as your camera sweeps across the panorama, you don't have to know very much about a given treeexcept that it's there. So you may need to know more. You may need to know the whole inventory of the landscape or the city street at rush-hour. But an inventory's very statistical. I think there's a reason for the tradition of ghosts on the stage. There isn't as much on stage as there would be in a story or novelbut a lot of it's haunted.

The preparation for both forms begins similarly. As I indicated above, what takes root regardless of form is scene, character, situation. Maybe the center, the seed, is principally a given character trying to do something: trying to reconnect, trying to love, trying to talk, trying to celebrate Easter, trying to deliver a Christmas tree. From there I'll ask a million questions:

where is this person trying to do what s/he is trying to do? who else is there? what gets in the way? why is this person trying to do this? A lot of the questions have to do with testing, imagining tests for the person who says he wants to do. You say you want to deliver a Christmas tree? Well, what if you have to drive through a forest fire to do that? What if somebody kidnaps you? What if someone else steps in and wants to take over?

The endless questions will eventually lead me to a landscape. If the landscape seems pretty panoramic, chances are it's the landscape of a fiction. If all the questions can be posed in a single landscape, perhaps the arena is a play. So: the interrogation of the world of a given piece will eventually lead me to its preferable form.

Of course, once I'm at the form, the root divides. I'm a great believer in craft. Each form makes very discrete formal demands, engages very different gestures of craft. So: once I'm in a given form, the preparations are very, very different. On a subtler level, language, begins to live in me differently, once I've decided the form . . . the difference I've tried to speak of previously between symbolic language and embodied language. And even then, it gets tricky. When I'm writing a play, I know I'm dealing with embodied language, and I try to bring it to myself very much in that way. Often I'll speak it aloud as I'm writing. I will get my body in the physical state of the character speaking in certain instances, so that words are coming to mefor examplewith a lot of blood in my head. But even with knowing that, even with doing those sorts of things, there will be instanceswhen a group of actors first read a play and it, thus, becomes actually embodiedwhen I'll hear a passage or a speech, and it will be wrong. It won't yet have become embodied language on the page and I'll have to go back to it.But, with both plays and pieces of fiction: yes, I find I do more and more preliminary mapping. Though I alsorecentlyhave become able towhile writingput myself into a state, such that I'm almost totally ignorant of any preliminary work. Things will happen, people will speak words, which are entirely off the map.


Carlson: We've learned over the years that in a Kranes play or story absolutely anything can happen. In Margins a man uses a chainsaw to make art throughout Central Park; in Keno Runner a man can lift huge trucks and there are tigers in the street. You are not afraid of the outrageous. Or is there an outrageous? Is there an envelope and are you pushing it?


Kranes: No, I'm not afraid of the outrageous. I love the outrageous. It's the true world of art and of art's asking questions about how we got here and where does the wind come from. The true spirit of all poetry is the wild, the ecstatic and outrageous. It's where we all are obliged to go if we're going to write I think. The realm of possessed old men. We need to be the story-tellers and not simply post-Gutenberg scribes. The more "socially" and legally and technologically developed a culture, the farther it moves away from poetry. Poetry's deemed unnecessary; what are necessary are records. I keep terrible records. There's a wonderful phrase in Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens [Man, the Player] which addresses myth as existing somewhere between the barely imaginable and the clearly impossible. That's the ledge I want everything I write to be standing on. It's a grand, breathless, thrilling place. I feel enraged sometimes that I've written so few pieces that dare stand there, that I've wasted so many words in mere record-keeping. "Infrastructures" needs to be crazier.


Carlson: I wasn't surprised to see the characters in "Infrastructures" be bright and edgy. I can think of a dozen hyper-bright characters from your stories and plays; and their intelligence isn't doing them any good. In fact often it seems the very handicap they must overcome. What is it about you and bright people? What are you saying about the limits of intelligence?


Kranes: Some years ago I called myself an "anti-intellectual intellectual." This will seem immodest, but: I'm smart. I've always known that. I've not always known that I could arrange words to make sense out of what was smart inside me: manifesting intelligence has always been another matter. But knowing it was there as a given has been pretty much a constant. And for the most part, now, what I feel about being smart is: so what? Being smart is like a good lug wrench. It's not really something you declare on your "Valuable Items" rider policy, but if you need a tire changed, it comes in handy. I feel that, in our times, the lug-wrench of intelligence is too often used to break into boutiques or to bash people's skulls. I see that stuff happening, and I'm ashamed I own a lug wrench.


Carlson: The main character in that play, Cantrell, is a hitman, a hired assassin, cool and skilled at what he does. In Keno Runner you've written an amazing shootingboth dangerous and funny at the same time. I can think of scenes in Criminals and Margins in which people are harmed. And now you have this frightening entry of Kyle in "Infrastructures." Where does this violence come from? Or is the right word harm?


Kranes: Where does this violence come from? If I were defensive, I might say something like: "Hey, look around you, Boyo! I didn't make this world!" But of course I'm not, so I won't. When I was quite young, for whatever reasons, I became the locus of sudden moments of violence at school. There's always some kid who "gets chosen" to be beaten up. I was that kid.

My mother was such a dear, such a gentle person, that I think the physical violence seemed all the more startling, all the more naked and marked. At a certain age, after having lived in an environment of restrained speech, I encountered verbal violence, and it was shock #2. Sometime later, I had an equally abrupt immersion into the world of emotional violence. Every time and in whatever form it would always startle me. So: that's one lens on the question.

But the better lens, I think, is: read any seminal literature. Read the epics and sagas and great narrative poems: read the scriptures of any civilization. People are devoured. People shoot people with lightning bolts. Beyond the borders of any sacred space lies a darkness, a violence, a chaos. We are not an archaic people any morewe think. And we imagine that violence belongs to the untamed, the menacing; the people who inhabit our underworlds aren't of us, they are separate from us and from our cosmology, rather than an integral part of it and the power of its formation. And of course we're wrong. They are. Of us; with us. To explain them in any other way is to imbue them with more power. In archaic literatures, the violent people owned half the world. Only. Only. In our literature, they are not of us, but they own more than half. They run the show. And we feel victimized andresorting to pop-psyche languageunempowered. And we've done the unempowering to ourselves. And we seek the stupidest forms of legal and institutionalized redress in order that we might climb out of it.

I noticed a couple of years ago that characters rarely, if ever, die in my work. That's bizarre, I think, and untruthful. More people have to die. They do. I've lost friends. That's real. I've had a couple narrow scrapes myself and I'm at that age where my own fuel-line could explode. We're mortal. What's "troubling" (in a bad sense) about my work is the presence of violence without mortality. For people who find my work "scary" (and that's a word I've heard used), it's because there's violence without death: whether they understand that or not: there's no other reason. People bleed, and sometimes their blood runs out and is not transfused. For myself, on some level, perhaps "Infrastructures" is a kind of wake-up call. Though the present draft of "Infrastructures" doesn't get to where I want to get to with it.


Carlson: Now your panorama seems to be the West: Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and here we are sitting in the Panoramic Lounge of the Flamingo Hilton. What is it about this place (the West, not the Panoramic Lounge) about which so much is written these days that gets to you?


Kranes: Yes: I love it. I love it because it's not mine. I don't possess it. I'm always entering, or trying. It's like the Godhead: The West can bless my existence or eat me alive. I feel like I'm on some altar here. Whether it be here at The Frontier (I've changed venues) where the altar is so patently shaman illusion out of a myth out of an illusion out of a myth . . . possiblyor whether I'm in some redrock maze or going around some new bend on the Salmon River or getting lost on a mesatop in New Mexico: I feel like an offering, a possible scrap of appeasement for the larger universe. And my "scrapness," my meagerness, feels quite blessed. On the East Coast, I feel like a scrap too. But uninvested, unimbued. A disposable scrap only. I love the world of the Spirit. I cherished it as a child, questioned it, changed my mind repeatedly about what it was, felt it take its leave from me. I moved West and began to approach it again, or allow It to approach me. I love awe. I love helplessness in the Eye of God. Not that such moments are ever comfortable. But who said we should be comfortable. Comforted. . . comforting: yes; of course; certainly. But never comfortable.


Carlson: How do you reconcile the "fierce and uncompromising" nature of your writing and the "sensitive and fostering" nature of your teaching?


Kranes: "How do you reconcile the fierce and uncompromising nature of your writing and the sensitive and fostering nature of your teaching?" The question was too nicely spoken not to quote. I always thought my teaching was fierce and uncompromising and my writings sensitive and fostering. That shows how little we know ourselves. There's a level on which the perceived contradiction amuses and baffles me. Even entertaining possible truth in the observationwould people actually not see the common source? Does the flame of hope burn just that way: that you attempt to nurture the best in others and won't have it any other way?

But I know that, for a good many, I seem to contradict myself, seem to be, in turns, two kinds of people: one harsh and the other gentle. Someone once said to me: "you're not at all like the person who writes your work." So: I have to take the perceived discrepancy seriously. Is it true? Is one of those "selves" true? and the other fraudulent? Am I trying to be someone I'm not when I write? Am I trying to be someone I'm not when I teach? Is one of the two manifestations unauthentic? Is the division of labor too pronounced?

It's possible I've separated the "division of labor" more than it ought to be separated. I believe in courage. Most of my life, I've been concerned that we live in a world which dis-courages us rather than en-couraging us. We may learn to be tough. We may respond in rebellious ways. But toughness and rebellion are very different from courage. Courage is proper in our world. Wemore than everneed it: the courage to speak our hearts and minds. And soas teacherI do all that I can to nurture and foster courage in students. As writerI try to do all I can to enact that same sort of courage. The teacher activitybecause I am in contact with and accountable to othersrequires patience and generosity of spirit. The writer activitybecause I enact it alone principallyhas me accountable only to myself. It requiressome, I suppose, feelcertain "good manners" with people who are editors, agents, that sort of thing. I have never felt very much under that obligation. If it comes down to being mannerly or speaking truly, I will try to speak truly every time.

I'm currently teaching a course in Modern American Drama. It's a course I love. It's one of my best courses. We always start with O'Neill. A student asked me: Did O'Neill have an attitude problem? You bet! Absolutely! Maybe it's democracy that does thisbut it sometimes seems that the public thinks art should be written by Supreme Court justices, by reasonable men and women. Great art is apocalyptic. Great art is dedicatedly unreasonable. Great art is the lone artist's vision . . . which strikes chords in the hearts and minds of a considerable number of other people. O'Neill discovered that large numbers of other Americans were compelled by his "attitude." He said, "an artist or nothing!" And I thank him for that. It's the only stance, really. And it'soh, yesan attitude. And it certainly is fierce. And it certainly is uncompromising.

Another anecdote. Just this past week, I had a wonderful student tell me thatbecause she'd so enjoyed my classesshe'd taken it upon herself to read my fiction. "I'm glad I got to know you as a person first," she said. Why was that? "I might have been scared otherwise. Your writing has real hard edgeswhich I likebut it's a little intimidating." I'm glad I got to know you as a person first. That's one I won't forget. I think that I got to know me as a writer first. Which I'm grateful for. The writer's, actually, easier to get a hold of. Or was. I sense the distinction has begun to be less sharp. Begun, even, to blur. Perhaps the person and the writer will change places, the teacher and the writer, and trick everybody. Isn't the National Holiday Halloween?


Carlson: What has been the largest detriment of the teaching life to you as a writer? What has been the largest benefit?


Kranes: The obvious. Time. Having it when you want it. Or not. Not having it when you need it. Years ago, I used to be able to pick up pieces of time, such thatwriting through broken piecesthe seams and fissures weren't all that visible. I could grab a half hour before breakfast, another 20 minutes before I headed up to school. I could write on yellow pads during any fragments the day gave me between teaching and student contacts. I could maybe get an hour in at night. I had the stamina to drive through and still have some semblance of continuity. I can't do that now.

I can't do it. I'm older; my biology's different; my stamina's different. And I don't want to do it. I discover that where-I-want-to-take-my-writing requires long, reflective stretches. I work more slowly, more quietly, more reflectively. Work takes its own slow direction and will not be jammed together, welded, forced. So that means I have to try to teach differently. Less. I need to try to cluster my teaching, so that I can have the unbroken time with my writing. Sometimes I'll just take a week in the middle of a quarter and go off by myself into the mountains. Because I'm a very responsible teacher, I make up for the "lost time" both before and after my "removal." I'm sure there are people who would say I've been purposely irresponsible, and they'd be right. I won't miss a class, but I will miss a meeting. The structure of the university wants to absorb your energy. I think teaching may have kept me from going as far with my writing as I would like to have gone. In depth. There have been too many relatively "easy" pieces. I've written too fast. I've produced too muchperhaps in a mistaken "compensation" for the teaching-time demands. I may have "honored" the teacher in mepush coming to shovemore than I've honored the writer in me. If I err now, it's in honoring the writer. The irony of that is: I don't care where it leads. It's nice when something gets "taken" or a play gets produced. But that isn't really the carrot any more. The carrot is in feeling that I've gone someplace I'd not gone. Part of the ferocity of writing is that you and your work make demands on each other. You try not to let each other off the hook. And we're bothmy writing and Imaking more demands these days. And it's not easy in many ways. But I love the heat of it.

Teaching's benefit, of course, is people like yourself. Friends. Who have opted for the same sorts of enactments of courage, the same modes of attempted generositywriting, teaching. I love communities of heart. Each quarteron a microcosmic scaleone or two of these form. And from those, students/friends spill over into more comprehensive communities. You and I have been friends for 24 years. We've asked each other these sorts of questions for most of those years. We met in a classroom. What a reward! What a payoff!


Carlson: You have developed a clear prose style which is at once angular, condensed, and lyrical. There is nothing ordinary at all about it; every time I read Kranes I am reminded to tighten and sharpen my own language. What role does "language" play in your creative process?


Kranes: Language is important, tricky, seductive. In those days when I was a youngsterin the margins, observing, absorbing so much of what I saw and heardI was taking in and storing an enormous amount of language. What my story-teller friend calls "blocks of language." The environment of my homeespecially from my father's influencewas one of language: rich, measured, cool, precise. I was not a reader in my early years. But I was read to. I was not a talker in my early years. But I was talked to. Language was there, considerably present, coming at me. And that language was not a lush or extravagant language. It was pared and thoughtful and precise. My father always seemed to take pleasure in a "right" word the way I've seen people since take pleasure in a "right" wine. It was one of the few sensual pleasures I observed in him.

When I began to speak (as opposed to talk), I remember trying to mimic him. I remember being about 12 and using the word "pensive" in school, using it just right, and startling the teacher. "Where did you learn that word?" she asked. "Somewhere," I said, enjoying the power and the mystery of not offering up my source. I remember using the word "assiduous" in a killing-time conversation with the father of a girl I was dating when I was 14 and the expression on his face. He always seemed to be elsewhere for the next year, whenever I paid a call. Which was fine with me. Who wants to talk to the doctor-father of some girl who's making you light-headed?

At any rate, I was developing the sense that you could get people's attention, turn their heads, with a word. There was a weird power. Whenever I could, I would try to use words that my teachers didn't know.

Then, of course, there were bad words! What a treat! Now I could tell someone that he was a pensive shit. Words are like our musculature and nervous systems: if you hit the right word, in just the right way, you can make people jump.

The point, I suppose, is: I was gathering a sense of language that might stop people and have them pay attention. I don't thinkgrowingthat I felt I had very many ways to do that. And so the ways that workedlike wordstook on a special kind of force. Words were also a means by which I could get things that were inside me out. Emotions were a questionable area in our house. To be alert and interested were praiseworthy qualities. To be excited was another matter. Excited people were suspect; chance was: they were out of control. Excitement was like spilled milk. It needed to be cleaned up, and you might get sent from the table when you did it. But through words one could get excitement on the inside out. . . in an unspilled way. You could express excitement in a way that didn't make you feel that you'd embarrassed yourself on other members of your family. I think language has always been a saving grace in that sense: a way for me to negotiate emotion.

But being drawn to language can have its own seductive drawbacks. One first feels the power of language; then one can begin to like the power for its own sake. The first year I went off to college, an English professor said to me: "You use language so well." Oh-oh! Watch out! Be careful when you praise people: they may continue doing the thing you praise them for. And I did. For too many of my writing years, I have tried to elicit the compliment again and again; I have tried to "write so well." In trying to "write so well," there have been far too many times when I've overlooked or not properly asked myself: what it was I was trying to write [so well]. I'd come out dressed in whatever language might attract people's attention. I'd think their reaction to my language was their reaction to me. You know: we make that mistake. I'd think they were listening to my voice when all they were doing was listening to my wordsand all the time because: that's the way the package was presented.

I love language. The play of language is too deep, too internalized, at this point, to discard. But in the last 3-4 years I have tried to clean my closet of the wardrobe of language. Especially where character is concerned. I may still give myself to language landscape, impasto landscape with language. But I try not to do it with character.

On the other hand, its delicious to make characters who are from within engaged, themselves, with language. Characters who consider what they're saying. Who start to say something, then know it's not going to be rightso stop. Who say something, then revise it and revise it, working toward the getting-of-it-right. I love to get characters to that emotional point when language just rushes out of them, non-stop, uncontained: they can't help themselves. I'm learning to "write so well" myself and to create characters who are hoping to "talk so well."

In this new play the characters are all trying to translate each other. And isn't that what we're trying to do? We speak to each other with imperfect languageno matter how hard we try to get it right, no matter how hard we trywith a wordto make the other person's eyes go wide. We speak to each other with imperfect languageand then we try to translate. We listen closely, so we can try to make the sounds of the worldso we can talk to the world. That's why I write.