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Episode 30

INTRODUCING ROBIN PAIGE

Tuesday Morning, August 11
A knock on the office door . . .

Yes? May I help you?

"Actually, I was going to ask if I could help you. I hear you've got problems."

Excuse me?

"With Neverland? Oh, and Drema ask me to bring you these Fellini videos."

Ummm . . . I was hoping she would forget about those.

"Memory like an elephant. Except for her lines, she never forgets anything. She's up in the rehearsal hall right now with the sound people, fooling around with an earpiece and palm signaling transmitter. They've got some poor ASM following the script, ready to feed her her lines whenever she dries or signals. Problem is, she keeps picking up cell phone conversations and weather broadcasts. Still, I suppose it's better than writing her lines all over the set and costumes. David refused to have her big second act speech tattooed on the back of his neck."

Who are you?

"Robin. Robin Paige. Nice to meet you."

Paige?

"Drema's my grandmother. I'm staying with her while my mother's out on tour. She didn't want to let me go off on my own this morning, so she brought me along to rehearsal."

Robin! I'm glad to finally meet you. Your grandmother is very proud of you; I've heard all the stories. Does your presence mean that Drema and Millicent have . . . reconciled?

"Hardly. Mom and Drema are still at each other's throats every chance they get. I keep telling them they should tour Night Music since they've lived it all these years. Drema thinks it's a good idea, but only if she gets to play Desiree and Mom plays Madame Armfeldt. I keep telling them if it doesn't happen soon, I'll be too old to play Frederika, and we lose the hook of three generations of Paiges on stage together. But, you know how Drema and Mom are."

Ah! So you want to be an actress?

"You can stop patronizing me any time you want. Don't let my face and voice fool you, I'm 19 years old and I am an actress."

You look 15, maybe 16 at the most.

"I know. Mother loves that part. I've been working full time in England since I was seven. Last year I made more money than mother did. Of course, I pick better projects than she does. Aren't you going to offer me a cup of tea?"

Would you like a cup of tea?

"Not really. I hate tea. But Americans always offer it when they learn you've been working in England for over a decade. Is that coffee fresh?"

No, it isn't. Why don't we walk down to Starbucks and I'll buy you a -

"It's my treat, please. Besides, I need to soften you up."

Very well. Why?

"You're going to hire me to direct Neverland."

Am I?

"Yes, it's a foregone conclusion. You really don't have any other choice. Shall I explain why?"

I wish you would.

"Not until you take that smirk off your face. I'm perfectly serious. You should be too."

Is this better?

"Not really, but you get extra marks for trying."

So, tell me, why are you the right director for Neverland?

"The guy whose writing the book and lyrics, he's in his early 30s, isn't he?"

Yes.

"And all of those directors you've interviewed, none of them are less than 40, are they?"

Maybe one or two are younger.

"But most of them have been around for a while, correct?"

In a few cases, a very long while.

"As have you. That's not an insult, just a fact. All of you are too old to really understand what Billy Finn is all about. You're all too jaded to remember or understand the sense of wonder that's at the very core of Neverland. You're all trying to fit it into molds you are comfortable working with or that you think will be financially successful. You can't do that with this story. You've got to deal with it on its own terms."

You haven't told me anything I don't already know.

"What's your target audience for Neverland? What audience is going to come to see it and make it successful? Who are you creating this show for?"

Do you seriously think I haven't worked this out already?

"But did you come up with the right answers?"

Okay, where would you target it?

"Not at the 36,000 New Yorkers who all see the show in its first month and establish its word of mouth. If you play to those old farts, you're dead. You can't go the prestige route and play to the critics, it's not that type of show. And you certainly can't target the tourists, at least not right off the bat, that never works."

So?

"People my age."

Kids?

"I don't consider myself a kid."

You're talking about the Rent audience, right?

"Those street chic wannabes? Forget it. No, I'm talking about college students, beginners, those of us who are just starting out and want something so much you can taste it. The Neverland audience is the people who haven't given up, for whom compromise and settling for what you can get isn't yet a way of life."

Do you realize just how cynical that sounds when you say it?

"Does it to you? It doesn't sound a bit cynical to me. It's the truth. Maybe the reason you and the people you've been talking to don't know how to approach this material is that you don't understand the audience that will respond to it. Ever thought of that?"

It has occurred to me.

"In a way, that's the point Drema was trying to make by pushing all the Fellini on you, isn't it? The one consistent thread running through all of his movies is that of the child, the innocent, who participates in his life, but is also able at the same time to stand back and see how wonderful, how bizarre, how absurd, how funny it all is. That's Billy Finn and that's your musical - or, it should be."

I've been trying to put that into words. You're absolutely, one hundred percent right. But you see, I already knew it.

"Good. Then we're on the same wavelength. My point is that you need somebody my age to put this vision, this attitude, on stage."

You don't think anyone older is capable of doing that?

"You could try. But you wouldn't be able to stage it without layers and layers of intellectual or emotional comment. Your experience wouldn't allow you to stage it without a knowing smirk and conspiratorial nod to the audience. You wouldn't be able to tell this story without embellishing it, contaminating it, with your own failures. And that's where I come in. Don't laugh at me!"

I've heard people pitch projects and themselves thousands of times . . . a few minutes ago you demanded that I stop patronizing you. Well, now it's time for you to stop patronizing me. I believe that you are quite correct in your assessment of the best approach for developing Neverland into a musical. But I don't for a minute think that what is required is beyond the capabilities of the professionals I've been discussing it with. And I cannot and will not accept your assertion that you are qualified to direct this project simply because of your age.

"You're turning me down?"

No. I simply expect you to prove that you are qualified for consideration.

"What does that mean?"

If you want the job, you're going to have to audition for it. Agree?

"How?"

There is a scene that was cut because it didn't seem to fit in anyplace. I want it back in the show because I think it's significant. Billy's first big job as a dancer. He works around the clock perfecting his part of the big number. When they put it all together for the first time, the Star successfully demands that the director/choreographer cut Billy's part to almost nothing. Later, at the first full dress, the Star finds her shoes nailed to the dressing room floor and ends up on stage in bare feet.

"Billy did it, right?"

Yes. More important, how would you make that scene work?

"Let me think about it."

No. I'll give you three days working with the writer and composer to get that scene on it's feet and working. If you can, I'll consider hiring you as the director. Agree?

"Agree. I'm going to surprise you."

One way or another, I'm sure of it.

When the 18-year-old, self-taught director Peter Brook brought his first play to the London stage he inaugurated a long and illustrious career. Perhaps best known for his London production of the play Marat/Sade and the nine-hour stage epic Mahabharata, Brook also directs film - Lord of the Flies is his best-known movie - and opera. In his uncommon autobiography Threads of Time, he assiduously avoids "personal relationships, indiscretions, indulgences, excesses, names of close friends, private angers" as well as "taboos [and] hang-ups." Instead, Brook focuses on the development of his artistic vision, his philosophical leanings and his quest for meaning in both of these areas. With Threads of Time, Brook proves that he is also a talented writer for he pulls together the strands of his experience and ideas to offer readers an evocative view of his fascinating life.

Threads of Time is an extraordinary book by a genius of the theatre, Peter Brook, whom The New York Times has called "the English-speaking world's most eminent director." The English reviews of this book, just published here, are amazing. "He has written wonderfully about all levels of the theatrical process . . . Brook writes of his spiritual path with honesty, clarity and simplicity" - Financial Times. "The muse of the theatre, anchoring author, director, actor and audience in an interlude of grace, seems made for Brook. For a while, it can heal." - New Statesman. "Brook is entirely unafraid of emotions. The book is like his own best productions: spare but resonant, intellectually complex yet accessible, deeply personal yet surrounded by a sense of regal privacy." - The Sunday Times. "Brook can be a descriptive writer of terrific power and sensuous precision." - The Scotsman. "This memoir takes you into the mind of a creative, humanizing thinker. It is a rewarding voyage." - Independent on Sunday. And on it goes, each review is of this calibre. Threads of Time is for all the people who kept The Empty Space in print for 30 years.

Threads of Time

Threads of Time
by Peter Brook
Price: $25.00
Counterpoint Press
ISBN 188717835X


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