Last September, almost a year ago, I had the joy of spending a few nights under a unpolluted, starry sky with the team of artists congregated for In the Water's month-long retreat. I was not a permanent fixture of the retreat, but rather a guest, momentarily privy to some of the customs of this group. Any small gathering of people who spend a significant amount of time together will develop certain social and linguistic shortcuts as they learn each other's habits, likes and dislikes, their strengths, their weaknesses. This particular assembly of creative minds gravitated, seemingly wordlessly, to these moments of calm silence where they could communally enjoy their private thoughts in the presence of splendid nature. I can only assume that for the actors and for Jonathan these were moments of present rest for the mind and body after a long day's hard work on Bacchic. For me, these moments proved invaluable for their inspiration.
I doubt I'm the first person to spend a good hour looking at the stars and come out of it feeling an overwhelming wonderment the plurality of her insignificance and simultaneous connectedness, but the perhaps trite nature of such an experience made it no less potent. At surface level there is an irreconcilable contrast between the two concepts. How can a person matter so completely and at the same time not matter at all? It developed into this sort of buzzing in my head, this notion of our small dramas that play out beneath a vast landscape of celestial beings whose lives far exceed our own, who cannot see us or know of our existence. When I got on the train back to New York City after my brief visit to ITW's practice, I opened my laptop and began to write The Nothing Train, which, as you may have guessed from the title, did also receive some inspiration from the Amtrak ride where it was born.
The Nothing Train peaks in on the life of a couple, Gideon and Isaac, as they embark on a lengthy train journey. What I've tried to do in this story is to catalog their bumps in the road, so to speak – this tiring trip, a seemingly growing difference in age between the two, the way their insecurities bounce off one another, Isaac's family drama, Gideon's brain cancer – and imbue them a sense of greater mystery. In a way, we all act with this sense of the surreal unknown at the back of our consciousness. We might make a petty remark to a friend, or even lose someone we love dearly, and then moments later watch the sun filter its way through a set of leaves in a tree and inevitably in such an instance we stop to think how silly our lives seem in the context of the greater something that is out there, whether it's the universe or God or something entirely different, something of which we cannot even begin to conceive. There is also some back and forth between questioning our world and reveling in this unknown. I am speaking very generally, but really these are the seeds I have attempted to plant in this story. Everything that happens to us and around us is so important, but at the same time it is practically nothing. This exact exploration of the connection between the small stuff, which we know too well, and the big stuff, which we cannot quite comprehend, has been a driving force behind so many creative minds. I know I am merely joining the herd, hopefully with some degree of grace.
Now, whether or not the universe does hold something greater for us, it certainly has a way of bringing things full circle. So, while I am thrilled, I am not in the least surprised that In the Water will be producing the first staged reading of The Nothing Train. It is only fitting, after all. Soon, the company will be heading back to Block to create more memories and infinite moments of inspiration. It is my hope that this reading can serve as both a culmination for me of the preceding year, and a hint of what is yet to come for ITW. I am so lucky to be supported by these fine people, so it would make me very happy to be able to give them something in return.