Truth Or Consequences In Writing Memoir

IMG_0687“I was sitting at a beach with my notebook, and I’m thinking about how to get back into [writing] and what matters to me, and I just sort of self-destructed at Brothers & Sisters. I had written about personal events that implicated other people in some way, that I hadn’t taken into account the consequences, and I found myself very much like the character in my play … a writer who is a dangerous creature.”

“And I had a note to myself, ‘play about daughter of a famous family who writes a book about her growing up in this family,’ something like that; ‘the danger of telling the truth that turns out to be a lie.’”  — Jon Robin Baitz, playwright

This past weekend Bill and I went up to the Arena Stage in Washington, DC to see a show.  Every year we buy a half series of season matinée tickets, jump in the car and make the two and a half hour trip up and back in one day.  It’s a great way to get out of Dodge for a short period of time, cleansing the mind of huge and trivial pursuits, and giving us a taste of city sophistication. Though Charlottesville is a pretty sophisticated place it doesn’t hold a candle to being in the capital, where like it or not, it all happens, good, bad and indifferent.

The only persons who know where we are and our cell phone numbers are family members and whoever is looking after our dogs and cat.  And we don’t usually hear from any of them. The only huge drawback is the trip itself, which involves sitting in the car and the theatre for about eight hours in one day.  Not my favorite thing to do, especially if the show doesn’t grab me, which sometimes happens.  My body gets stuck in its seated position and as the years go by it gets harder and harder to get my muscles to get myself upright and walking again. If the theatrical production we see doesn’t stimulate my mind, my entire body will start asking questions like, “Why do you insist upon doing this to me?  Don’t you know that the more you sit, the shorter our life span will be?”

This past year has been a fairly good season for us in which we saw, Pullman Porter Blues (great music, so-so otherwise), Metamorphosis, and Good People, both stellar in almost every way.  Should you want to know more about them go to Bill’s blog, at View In The Dark, for his reviews and his interesting theatre chatter.

But in my mind, the best this year is the last of our series, Other Desert Cities, by Jon Robin Baitz, who created Brothers & Sisters for ABC.  And if truth were told I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and often, and I think I’ll even read it.  A very rare thing for me.

Set in the living room of the well-connected Wyeth family, who live in the desert community of Palm Springs, this family drama caught my attention for it’s references to writing memoir and truth.  Something many of us who are involved in the genre of memoir deal with every day as we put pen to paper. In this theatrical production, daughter, Brooke, comes home for the holidays for the first time in six years. She brings with her the manuscript of a book she has just sold and will soon be on bookstore shelves.

Intended to be a novel, her story turns into a memoir during the writing process, as she deals with the suicide of her brother, with whom she was very close.  Her parents, old friends of Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and the darlings of Republican politicians, far and wide, plead with her to wait to publish the book until after their deaths, claiming the consequences would damage too many lives.

I won’t go any further in telling the story and the secret that eventually comes out, as I hope all of my memoir writing friends and everyone else for that matter, will go out and see this heart-wrenching drama when you have a chance.  It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, and will hopefully continue to make its rounds in regional theatres across the country.

This entry was posted in family, Friendships, Memoir, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, Theatre and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Truth Or Consequences In Writing Memoir

  1. shirleyhs says:

    Sounds like a great play for memoirists, Joan. I’d love to see it. Always appreciate when others like you and Bill warm up the seats and tell me which ones I can miss and which ones I can’t. I trust your judgment.

  2. jzrart says:

    I think you’d like this one, Shirley. Don’t know how much longer it’s running, but it’s very much worth the trek.

  3. krpooler says:

    Joan, I had never heard of this play but it sounds like a very interesting one, especially for memoir writers. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  4. jzrart says:

    You’re so welcome, Kathy. I hope you get a chance to see it sometime. If you do let me know what you think.

  5. Becca says:

    This sounds like a really interesting drama. I’m always on the lookout for good plays to suggest to my friend who is the artistic director of a small community theater. She loves bring new things to the stage.

    Have you ever seen a play called August, Osage County? She’s been raving about that one, but tells me it’s heart wrenching.

  6. jzrart says:

    Hi Becca, Yes, I have seen August, Osage County. I saw it first in New York with Estelle Parsons in the lead role. Last night I saw it again on a local stage with my husband playing the role of Beverley, the patriarch of the beyond dysfunctional family portrayed in the play. It is not a show for the faint of heart. Very heavy, very depressing but a Pulitzer Prize winner. Just for the content I prefer, “Other Desert Cities.”

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