Problems are like buses…
In the previous journals, I have described how I wanted to encourage children and teenagers to read and write more by using texts from our literary heritage as a springboard. The text I started with was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In order to inspire the children to write, I wrote a twenty minute play and built a set which consisted of Frankenstein’s Laboratory and two monsters.
Reginald Easton painted this miniature portrait of Mary Shelley, on a flax coloured background. It incorporates a circlet backed by blue, the same seen in the Rothwell painting and a shawl. (Seymour, Mary Shelley, p 543) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
l I needed to do next was turn the ideas I had for workshops into structured lesson plans. I would then be ready to put Loony Literature into village halls. It seemed a good idea to take some photographs of The Laboratory for promotional purposes. The problem was that the whole of it was packed away in trunks. Every time, I wanted to take photographs or practise the play, I had to set it all up in the garden as there was nowhere else to put it. It was time consuming, heavy work and I had to wait until it wasn’t raining or windy. Reality was starting to hit home. If I wanted to take Loony Literature to village halls and schools, I would have to transport all the equipment and costumes, set it up and take it down again. All this will seem obvious to the reader but I had been caught up in a creative idea and practicality had not raised its ugly head up until that point. It was then that I hit the first low ebb in the Loony Literature process. Although, looking back now, that was nothing when compared with what was to come.
At this point, I started to re-write the play because it was too short. On closer scrutiny, I realised that what I already had could be the final act of the play. I simply had to unravel why Frankenstein wanted to meet his creator, Mary Shelley.
Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece to the revised edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831. The novel was first published in 1818. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Writing the play did not have problems, initially. Prior to Loony Literature, I have always opted to write fiction as opposed to drama. Although I have studied literary criticism of drama and studied creative writing for drama; I have only ever written plays to get qualifications and have not had to produce or direct my own work. The more we rehearsed the play, however, the more the constraints kicked in. In other words, when we write a play to be performed by a class of children – we can be quite blasé about how many characters we put in the play and have on the stage at the same time. In fact, up to a certain point, the more the better. It was the opposite with our play. As there are only two of us, I had to have only two characters on the stage at one given time. At a glance, that does not seem problematic. However, when one character goes off and has to do a costume change before he can come back on as another character, there has to be a lot of imaginative manoeuvring. I was spending as much time creating easy costume changes as I was writing.
When I look back at the difficulties we encountered, I realise that to someone reading this, they might all seem obvious. However, when we get pulled by a passion whilst wearing rose coloured glasses, we only see the end result. For me, it was Loony Literature inspiring children with our literary heritage. It was encouraging reluctant readers to read and getting the children to write because they want to.
One Sunday morning in late November, I woke up in terrible pain in my left arm and shoulder. I am left handed and could not even comb my hair. After a month of intense pain, x-rays revealed that I had wear and tear on my neck. I was told by my G.P. that as they couldn’t give me a new neck, it was something which I would have to learn to manage. At that time, I couldn’t even use a keyboard or hold a pen. I thought of Loony Literature, envisaged transporting and putting up the set, tried to imagine myself acting in front of the children and wondered if all my hard work was for nothing.