Sunday, October 16, 2011
I'm just starting to make submissions for public readings and productions. If you're interested or know someone who might be, please drop me a note and I'll send you a PDF. Here's a summary of the play, which is based on the novel of the same name by George Fetherling who asked me to do a stage version. The novel is published by Random House Canada and reached #6 on the Canadian best-seller list.
Love can be imponderable and unrecognizable even for someone who wrote about it as eloquently as Walt Whitman. In fact, Whitman never experienced a fully realized love. At the same time, as he aged, Whitman’s prodigious poetic talent eroded forcing him like most of us to come to terms with an incomplete and in some ways disappointing life.
For most of his life Walt Whitman promoted his work assiduously, but he is now an old man, so the task has fallen to a young friend and disciple, Horace Traubel, who seeks Walt’s love even as he works to spread the poet’s fame. But, Walt is oblivious to Horace’s desires due in part to his advanced age and also to memories of the painful conclusion, decades ago, of his only great love affair. Meanwhile, Horace, chronically unsure of his emotions and sexuality, is also courting Anne Montgomerie, an intelligent and accomplished woman.
Horace introduces Anne to Walt and she quickly becomes the poet’s friend, a searing critic of his later poetry, and an unattainable object of his romantic imagination. Walt’s feelings for Anne remind him of his great love, an uneducated hack driver named, Pete Doyle, who comes back to Walt in ghostly form to recall the evolution and tragic conclusion of their romance.
Smitten with the unobtainable Anne, Walt pushes Horace toward marriage with her and finally Horace acquiesces. But, the marriage soon begins to unravel when Horace is attracted to another man. Walt warns Horace not to pursue the doomed affair by recounting the painful story of his own relationship with Pete that ended when Pete told Walt a tale about his participation in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Walt’s recounting of his past enables him to find reconciliation, but Horace fails to take the lesson and continues his ill-fated affair and destroys his once-promising marriage.