Thursday, March 24, 2011

Talking Trees

Yesterday I was at UCSD for a class. I got there a little early so I went to the eucalyptus grove to practice some stories. The eucalyptus grove at UCSD is one of my favorite places in the world, not only is it a fantastic stand of eukes that just screams "wander through me" but two of the trees were cut down, covered in lead sheets and had speakers embedded in them so that they play music and tell stories. The talking trees give the whole place an "enchanted forest" feel. I wonder, if I threaten to cut one down if it will grant me three wishes?

My plan was to pace through the trees and work on The Giant who had no Heart in his Body to get a sense of timing and work out some details.

There are two things that initially drew me to this story.
The first is the character of the prince. In each of my source documents he has a different name but I call him Prince Bootes after the constellation. He's a fierce warrior, an honest gentleman, he has the resources of a prince, but because he's seventh in line for the throne so he's not bound by the responsibility of rulership, and he rides a wolf instead of a horse. He's a great character who I intend to use again and again, like the Paper Bag Cowboy and the Queen of all of the Fishes of all of the World.
The second is a scene that doesn't actually exist in any of my source material - the chase scene. I imagine that, since the giant has the ability to turn people to stone, the area outside of his lair is a kind of octopus' garden of petrified people, and I imagine him using these people as ballistic weaponry against the enemies who escape his gaze.
In all the sources Prince Bootes seeks out the giant's heart without the giant knowing. Presumably this is because if the giant knew he would turn Bootes to stone. But I like a process (more on this in an upcoming post), the giant just can't turn someone to stone, he has to "fix his gaze upon them" and the grass around them crackles and turns gray, the bushes turn gray and their leaves fall tinkling to the ground like flint shards, the horses shriek as their legs become fixed to the ground and finally the giant's enemies are petrified with a look of horror frozen on their faces. I like that because it makes the giant's gaze escapable. And, if you escape the giant's gaze, and you're headed for where he keeps his heart hidden, he hurls his prior victims at you - and that makes for some pretty intense action.

But here's the thing, you have this fantastic action climax, but there's a long ramp up, and in practicing the whole thing I wonder if it's too much to drag people through to get to the big pay off.

The last big performance piece I built was King Kong. King Kong is ninety minutes in the telling. It takes about twenty minutes to get  that train out of the station but once it's going it's a runaway locomotive - explosions, dinosaurs, machines guns and dive-bombing aeroplanes, right up to the end (there's only about 90 seconds of denouement) when I collapse exhausted upon the stage.

In the Giant, the telling is about thirty minutes long and the action is compressed into the last ten minutes or so (still working on the timing), not only is that a slow start, but it's also relatively complicated. The first twenty minutes spans a year and a half and the entire length of Scotland, introduces twenty or so characters, contains a story within the story that flashes back ten years, and one of the main characters is suffering from depression, which really moves things along.

It still needs a lot of work so maybe I can punch things up. I've scheduled some recording time next week so I'll try and have it running by then to collect opinions.

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