February 24, 2019
It’s 3am in Coventry and I find myself thinking about Time.
Which, to be honest, is not an ideal use of the 3am hour. But here we are, in jet lag country!
Isn’t it an odd and interesting thing that we can talk about time as a place? Here we are: 3am. Do we talk about place as a time, ever? My Mom and I left JFK airport 24 hours ago and my brain is running on fumes and I can’t come up with an example…but I wonder if we do. Comment, please, if you can think of other ways that we mix up time and place in how we talk about them.
Mixing up time and space is surely something that theatre does. All storytelling does, I think. We take a story about something that happened elsewhere, elsewhen—and we make it happen again, now. That’s the magic trick that a play does. As I have been doing the archaeology of AVALON—trying to unearth the roots of these legendary figures, these stories that are buried in so many layers of other people’s agendas, I have been ruminating on the idea of the “once and future king”. Of how one of the things we do when we tell a story is to take a once and future thing, and make it a now and right here thing.
We landed in London on Saturday morning. Over the next two weeks I will be traveling through the UK and Northern France with my mother Eloise, visiting sites associated with Avalon, Camelot, and their legendary inhabitants. From Glastonbury Tor to Tintagel, to the ancient standing stones of Orkney, to the enchanted forest of Broceliande in Brittany, I’ll be trying to mix time travel with place travel, and writing about it here. I’ll be posting about my play AVALON, and any inspiration for it that I find along the way. I’ll post pictures too, promise. And even, perhaps, jokes. If we’re lucky and I hear any good ones.
3:55am, an even less ideal place for wakeful blog-writing. But…here I am. Vibrating with anticipation of the extraordinary places I’ll be seeking out in the next two weeks. Standing, perhaps, in places where long ago, Merlin walked. Morgan LeFay wandered through the woods. Arthur met Guinevere. The Knights of the Round Table rode out to seek the Grail. Places where real people lived, before they became legends.
I’ll leave you tonight with a short excerpt from the prologue of AVALON, spoken by the Player Queen:
How many folk have strayed through these lands, think you? How many stories do we stand upon? Past reckoning it is: to tell each soul who hovered here, whose heart turned the flips of first love here, or broke here, who strove here against great odds, who tilled this soil, who wore the crown, who washed the pots.
Answer: No one tells a story honestly. But we mean to do it dishonestly. With dishonest honesty, by your leave…
Excerpt from Avalon ©2019 Melody Bates
Image: Melody Bates dreaming of Avalon in an apple tree with a draft of her script under her head.
This photo was taken by Siouxsie Suarez on the grounds of Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies during the June 2018 workshop of AVALON. Sculptor Peter Beerits a co-creator of the work, and the play will be staged in his multi-acre art installation.