Friday, August 10, 2012

A bear of a tale

My best-boyfriend-ever and I have been camping in the Adirondacks all week.  It's been lovely, exploring a part of the country I've never seen before.  It's also been quite an adventure, from an oil leak on the motorcycle to having almost no phone/Internet access to getting caught in a couple of heavy downpours to having a bear attack our campsite.

Yup, that's right, a bear.  At Lake Eaton campground near Long Lake deep in the heart of the Adirondacks.  We were warned that the park sometimes has bears, but the ranger also said "there haven't been any incidents".  So we did what we've done before - since we have no car in which to put food - stored the trash in the luggage on the back of the motorcycle (harder to get at that way), pulled the soft sided cooler next to the tent (figuring animals will be less likely to approach that close to a tent) and kept the dry goods inside the tent with us (cause certainly they won't actually try to get IN the tent with us in it).

We were right about one of those things.  The bear didn't try to get the food in our tent (thank god).  But she had no qualms about grabbing the cooler that was just a few inches from my feet and dragging it to the lake to rip it open and eat the yogurt, butter and salad dressing that was inside (the beer and watermelon were apparently too much trouble).  Getting at the garbage on the back of the bike was a bit harder, but she easily solved that problem by knocking the 550lb motorcycle over on its side to get the luggage off the rack and drag it into the woods where she could eat her prize in peace.

We were blissfully unaware of all this until I awoke for a quick bathroom trip and discovered the bike on its side and the the cooler and luggage missing.  I don't know how we didn't hear the bike get knocked over, but it's probably good that we didn't since there wouldn't have been a thing to do about it.  Fortunately the cooler is cheap and easily replaced, and the bike suffered mostly cosmetic damage which, while not cheap, doesn't keep the bike from running.  And we managed to find the luggage which - other than a couple of teeth marks - miraculously survived its ordeal unscathed.  If that bag could talk....

What does all this have to do with writing my play? Not a whole lot, but it's a great story.  When I told me dad about it, he replied "you will have a story to share for years." And that's true, we will. These extraordinary moments, these are the moments we tell stories about and are the stories we want to hear.  This is why one of the most important rules of playwriting is to answer the question "what is different about today?". Cause if it's not different, it's not interesting. At least not enough for theater.

The other take away for me from this is that part of what makes this a great story - for me - is that it could have been tragic, but wasn't.  There was danger, great risk, the consequences of our foolishness were potentially life-threatening (or at least severely life-crimping, if the bike had been severely damaged we would have been screwed).  Don't get me wrong, I love dark stories - that's what I both write and act best - but I always long for there to be a glimmer of something good in the end.  I find tragedy averted, or tragedy overcome, to be far more satisfying than straight up tragedy.  Those are the stories I want to hear and tell.

Which is one of the things I have been struggling to work out about my new play.  The true ending of the story (since it's an historical piece) isn't happy.  While I don't want to rewrite history, I have to make sure there is hope for the future, a glimmer of what can be in the way I chose to tell this tale. I don't want the bear to eat the people in my play.   I feel even more strongly about that now.  I have an idea for how to make that work - we'll see if I'm right!

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