Clarity

by DRM

becky play snap.jpg Fallujah, is being performed this week in New York at a summer festival called The Fringe. On Tuesday, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions of the writers and directors.

Becky’s been working at the front desk this summer, for the most part showing up and doing what she is supposed to do, answering the phone and scanning press mentions, despite not liking the field or the work itself. When I see her in the office, I enjoy the different person who interacts with the people around her without the self-conscious tics that mark our interactions. Tuesday afternoon I stopped by the desk to ask how she was feeling about the Q&A session. She’s been impatient with the play being performed, saying that she wants to leave it behind, this legacy from her junior year in high school. As I walked away, it struck me that the performance was open to the public and had been promoted, and that the name of the play — Fallujah — could be a magnet to people with specific experience. “Don’t be surprised if a vet is in the audience,” I tell her. Her reaction was an anxious, Oh no.

It turns out that she wrote the play when she was a sophomore, a lost academic year, during a Chemistry class. It was a long time ago and she was young. She wasn’t trying hard, she didn’t know much and the play just came out.

Well, there was a veteran in the audience. “An angry vet,” Becky said the next day, when I asked how it had gone. He’s been offended by the young British boy who played the wounded veteran. “You didn’t show enough of the passion,” he said. The director, one of Becky’s old teachers, got undiplomatic, inviting the man to watch Rambo with him.

Becky stepped in.

“I wrote the play when I was a kid, in Chemistry class, and when I went back to rewrite it, I found that I couldn’t and I stopped, because I can’t even imagine what that experience could be like, I can’t imagine what the experience of war is. But when you write something you don’t know about, you can put that the words that you think you should put down, and it can sound all right, but that’s different from acting. If he’d tried to act it out with more passion, it’s not from experience and then the performance would have been insulting and cartoonish.”

That took the air out of the room, it seems. “You’re great, kid,” the vet said.

I was struck when she told me, as I often am, of how clear-minded and intelligent she is about things, how sensible and in perspective she can be. I see the twisted-up emotion mostly, the bent twists and turns that is her relationship with her parents, the legacy of her childhood, her profound disappointment with me as a father who couldn’t quite come through as a solid figure, a role model, an anchor.

When I get glimpses of her as a woman, I see the foundation of an elegant clarity that I hope she can weave into everything that she writes.