A common question heard at staged readings of new plays is: “What inspired you to write this?” An understandable question. With numerous possible answers that might include part of a conversation overheard, an article in the newspaper or a magazine, a story told by a friend, some event or single action observed, a dream. For this play it was a bit of family history and a tarot/psychic reading. Yeah, really.
In 1965, living in Battle Creek, Michigan, my mother remarried a lovely and kind man. Before making that decision she felt it was necessary to inform my brother and myself some background information so there would be no surprises. Two years previous, his first wife had been murdered. It was a violent murder which had not yet been solved. We would be living in the same house where it happened as he had up to this point been unable to sell it. How were we with all this? If we were not OK with it then she would not go through with the marriage. I was somewhat amazed that she was willing to do that, but there was no need as both my brother and myself liked Floyd a lot. They remained married for over twenty years until my mother passed on. Floyd died a year later.
Forward to New York, early 90’s. I’m at an astrology conference at Hunter College with my lovely partner Margaret. I sign up for some tarot workshop with a well known New York psychic. She teaches this new tarot spread and gives spontaneous readings. For the third and final reading she asks the class to choose the person. As if it were a rehearsed cue everyone points at me. OK, I’m game. With no questions of any kind she starts laying out the cards and telling a story that they are apparently relating. A beautiful woman. Having an affair. A death, no a murder. A bloody murder, looks like a stabbing. A crime of passion. She’s getting a name. A flower. Rose? No that’s not it. Daisy? She asks me, “Is any of this making any sense to you?” Yes I say, barely getting the words out as all color drains from my face. “You’re supposed to write about this” she says.
Almost twenty four years later, Nyack, New York. Hanging with some Elmwood friends. For some reason the history of Daisy’s murder comes up in the conversation. I mention the psychic story, and wonder if it’s been fifty years. One of them checks the web via her phone, ah technology, and says “actually it’s been fifty three years, and a book has recently been written about it.” Then she says, “you know I think you should write a play about it.” And so within a few months the process began.
Why did the psychic say “I’m supposed to write about this.” The crime was never solved. It’s not like I’m going to solve it. Will putting the story down in words within the context of a play somehow offer closure or peace to a restless soul? I don’t know. Some things just remain a mystery. But with any play that a writer enters a relationship with there is process, unseen territory, and the odd excitement and uncertainty of letting the characters reveal themselves to you.
I do know that it didn’t feel right to contain the play to the story of the murder itself. It seemed to call out for a larger context. In doing some research on various news items that occurred in 1963, I discovered the the book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ by Betty Friedan was published. That seemed interesting. The book was considered a major call for an awakening to what was and had been occurring in the creation of an image of what women were supposed to be, propagated through media and social constructs. I got the book and started reading. Betty was indeed a way shower. Then the idea hit me. Why not write about a group of women friends who are initially inspired and ultimately challenged in discovering who they really are during the time that their community is being rocked by a viscous murder. And how does the life of Daisy reflect in some way her own attempt to live unencumbered by the restrictions that society would put upon her. This is my challenge.
In the meantime you’re invited to see Act I of my play BLOOD and SNOW, and the process that is unfolding at the March 6th membership meeting. Look forward to seeing you.