Monday, February 23, 2009

Aloha again. and again.

After a period of quiet, Aloha Say the Pretty Girls has once again surfaced as a topic of conversation. During an entertaining wine and cheese soiree at Dean and Becca's abode, Dean and I got into a delightful discussion about Naomi Iizuka's text.
Now, if memory serves me correctly (feel free to correct me in the comments section, Dean) Dean Knight has an English literature background, which leads to a very specific interest in nice wordy textually-rich plays (ie. Shakespeare). So, naturally he had noted an interesting thing about her script.
While at first the whole no-uppercase -letters thing that she frequently utilizes annoyed him, Dean said that he was surprised at how quickly one became accustomed to it. Within only a few pages, her imposed style melted right into the background. Personally, I think this speaks highly of her work as a whole. I've read numerous plays where the "style" has been so distracting that I've actually given up reading in disgust.
We also discussed her use of punctuation. Whole speeches and conversations in the play would take place with nary a period in sight; instead, commas littered the page. Her sparing use of periods really brought emphasis to when sentences and thoughts actually ended. In fact, the only example I can think of right now of more effective punctuation use is by Shakespeare (heard of him?). Like the great one, Iizuka seems to use her commas to suggest stage direction (pause, breath, continue). One of the characters who is prone to rambling discourse, has page-long speeches peppered with commas, but without a single period. What an old trick she's borrowed with that one! Using the punctuation in the text to suggest characteristics. Neat!
So, I know: Aloha is amazing. All hail Naomi Iizuka. You've heard it all before from us and you're getting bored. Well, too bad. I guess I can't really help you there.

- Kerry

P.S. and if you haven't heard it all before, here's the link to our original discussion of Aloha Say The Pretty Girls:


Anonymous said...

Hi Kerry, and everyone--yes, I was an English major, and when I first picked up "Aloha" one novel that came to mind was Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury", the style of which was so foreign to me at the time I read it that when I first started to read it I actually wondered if I had somehow gotten hold of a "bad copy", and considered asking my professor, a well-known Faulkner critic and biographer, where I could find a "good copy". Fortunately I avoided that embarassment and stuck with reading it, and "The Sound and the Fury" is now perhaps my favorite novel.

My initial reaction to "Aloha" was not that extreme, and I didn't worry about not being able to understand it, but rather I thought something like, "Well, what's the point of this?"

It didn't take me long to grasp the value of her style.

When I did "Much Ado About Nothing" along with the Night Light Directors, and several other talented people, we were given a script taken directly from the First Folio, which was new to me. By this I mean not that a modern script with modern spellings and punctuation was based on the Folio, but it was the Folio script itself, albeit trimmed down a bit for time. I'm just realizing as I'm writing this that when talking to Kerry about this I hadn't thought of the fact that her part in Much Ado was mostly or all verse, whereas mine (Dogberry) was all prose, but what hit me was the interesting similarity between the prose parts in Much Ado and Aloha--with the punctuation for the part of Dogberry Shakespeare had given the actor leeway to make his own choices as to how to speak the lines. For instance, a line from Much Ado reads, in the Folio: "Come you sir, if justice cannot tame you, shee shall nere weigh nore reasons in her ballance, nay, and you be a cursing hypocrite once, you must be lookt to." No emphasis or stage directions given.

A typical 20th or 21th century playwright might do something more like this: "Come, you, sir!! [wiggles finger in front of Borachio's face and squints] If Justice [points to court building insinuatingly] cannot tame you [makes lion tamer's motion], she shall NEVER weigh more reasons in her balance. Nay--[shake head, look gruff; Borachio looks shamefaced, but not really--the audience should be able to tell he is unrepentant] and you be a cursing hypocrite once [hold up one finger], you must be looked to!!"

So I guess what I'm saying is that Iizuka, like Shakespeare, has with this script given actors blueprints or guidelines rather than dictums. It seems as though she is a writer who trusts and respects actors and can thus give them scripts that they can infuse with their own choices and spirits. She does it well.


Kerry said...

ahhh. i was really hoping you'd expand on my terribly fragmented account of our conversation. thanks for bringing more to the table than i could.