The Director’s Cut

Note: This is a cross-posting from Paul Holmquist’s “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere.

The Director’s Cut

Last night Rob and I got to see Neil Gaiman in the flesh, thanks to a cousin of a friend snagging some extra tickets for the annual Naperville Reads event, featuring Neil this year. We arrived with our copies of NEVERWHERE in tow, in case there would be a book signing, and just soaked in the ambiance of the pre-event buzz building around us.

Probably close to 450 – 500 people were packing in the Waubonsie Valley High School auditorium. I was lamenting to Rob that we should have postcards and banners promoting the show everywhere – so many avid and adoring fans of Gaiman’s work right here and NONE of them, at least MOST of them, have no idea that they could see a flesh and blood NEVERWHERE not an hour’s drive away. Maybe Gaiman would mention it himself? There was a Q&A as part of the meeting, how could we gracefully promote ourselves?

Once the man came out and got to the podium, a spell was cast and any thought of marketing to this gathering of the faithful went furthest from my mind. He is so charming and present and his sense of humor so warm and inviting, I just settled back to enjoy the art on display. He read a chapter from Stardust which was a delightful revisiting, having worked on a stage adaptation of it back in 2005 as a movement coach. He then read a chapter from Anansi Boys, the one that begins with the incredible layers of describing Fat Charley’s epic hangover, and the audience was rapt.

And then the lights came up and Neil did a half hour of Q&A. The line was long quickly so I just sat and watched. Someone asked about the process of writing NEVERWHERE, and while it isn’t news (Neil has written and been interviewed about this a lot) it is interesting to see how even 15 years later, the pain and frustration of writing the TV series is still very powerful for him.

How about that? The director’s cut.

His book will always be definitive, of course. We are making a theatrical adaptation of his book not because we think the source needs any improving or we want to re-imagine his story in any way but because we love the story and want to bring it to physical life. We want to play in that world, say those words, believe in that storytelling power to transport us outside of our known into the new. We respect the work, respect his process and in OUR process we do have to cut and change things.

We cannot have a giant boar set loose in the theatre, so we have to find a creative solution to making the boar feel right, feel like Neil wants us to feel when we read his words. What we can’t achieve in pure details that our imagination conjures up when reading Neil’s work, we will evoke and inspire our audience to create with us.

Neil ended with a reading of his poem Instructions, which will be published with new artwork by Charles Vess later this Spring. I wanted to record it but it is so beautiful and magical I just wanted to listen. It is an invitation to living creatively and courageously. Here is a clip I found of him reading it elsewhere… enjoy.