"In my writing I try to tell the truth. Telling the truth means being as unstintingly specific as possible, for in the specific lies the universal."
There was a literary imbroglio raging in the press that involved the novelist David Leavitt who had written a novel that used elements of the autobiography of Sir Steven Spender. This became a cause célèbre in literary circles and I followed it with great interest. I began to feel that there was a play in that, and in my experience as a teacher. The fact that I also became a parent at that particular time informed my ability to write both sides of the argument. Suddenly I was not simply the acolyte but I was also the parental figure in this particular story about literary appropriation. Also, I had always been interested in postmodernism -- people deriving art from artwork that exists. I am a collagist in my work and in practice I also do artwork. So those themes really did seem to coalesce in this particular play.
I empathize with both sides of the argument. I also know what it takes to be a writer and to be as ruthless as Ruth, so to speak. I don't come down on either side of the argument. I never do in my work really. I think part of the pleasure that audiences derive from theater is not to have solutions handed to them, or to be told whether something is right or wrong. For me one of the great pleasures of experiencing this play in front of many different audiences is watching audiences argue about the issues of the play. You have to suspend certain etiquette when you are a writer, and that is part of what is discussed throughout the play.
Our sympathies should shift from moment to moment in this piece. These women are both flawed, and don't always behave in what we would term honorable ways. Lisa can be selfish and impulsive, and so can Ruth. Ruth can be as Lisa says, she can be impossible. And much of it is out of her own insecurity and her own need to maintain a certain position in the rank.
Her hurt and her reaction is something very human. She's not simply being magnanimous in her approval of her young protégée. It's double-edged. [ Next Page ]