Project book update…oh who the hell knows anymore

Book what book?

So it’s been a while. And when I sat down to write this update that’s not an update I thought I wouldn’t have anything to say because I haven’t been working on the book. But while I haven’t been comitting words to a page, I guess there is still work that’s been done. Even if it is mostly the ‘waving pages around in rage’ variety.

Firstly, yes the book has mostly been on pause. This is mostly because for the last 6-8 weeks my life has been consumed with getting a first draft of a play to the page (and juggling temp job, and life). In April it came down to making a decision about which to work on. And the play won simply because timelines of me getting it to the page, impact more people than myself. I could have negotiated an extension, but the knock on effect there is wider than myself, and the book quite frankly isn’t. So for the past 8 weeks I’ve been consumed by that. Anyone interested in that ‘journey’ can read about it here. And so project Angels book has (sort of) been on hiatus. To the extent last week I negotiated an extension to the first draft deadline.

And that for a moment felt like both failure and relief. I’d known for some time that I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my original deadline. As things crept ever closer I increasingly worried that I’d get it taken away from me. No matter that I rationally know that most people end up extending such deadlines, the anxiety ridden part of my brain couldn’t help but worry I’d have it taken away. And I’d feel guilty about writing the play. And tell myself I should be focusing on the sensible ‘grown up’ thing of the book (I didn’t say my brain was rational here). But then worry I’d be losing the chance at the play if I pushed back that deadline etc etc. Oh and in-between all this I go and work as a receptionist and get shouted at a lot. It’s super fun.

Ultimately it was all fine. The publisher is perfectly understanding and we’re now working to a much more realistic deadline. But there’s something in doing this independently, in juggling a temp job, allegedly job hunting, and a number of other projects that increases the stress of this exponentially.

That aside, I’m glad I’ve pushed it back. I’ve waited long enough to write this book, and I’m damn well going to do it right. Because I’m not committing anything to paper on this play that I’m not confident is the best work I can do. I’ve always had a lot to prove- from a disaster PhD, and supervisors who thought very little of both my topic and my work on it. To now fighting independent of the academy, still a bit outside the theatre world, to show what I can do. And in a stubborn point of pride that no, I didn’t have a book out while Angels was on Broadway but instead I get the incredible privilege of reflecting on that production. And while in the short term that might have been a struggle, in the long term I’m going to be incredibly proud of what I can and will write.

And so yes, since I last wrote…well anything much on the play, it’s been chugging along on Broadway. And doing incredibly. So while I’ve been not-writing I have been doing a lot of listening. Reading the press (the good, the bad and the ‘what the damn hell’) and watching fans tweet and share their excitement.

As someone interested in audiences this has been fascinating. Firstly the Broadway press machine and what it thinks audiences want- especially in comparison with the classy, engaged campaign the NT ran last year. There have of course been some wonderful engaged articles from some of the very knowledgeable American theatre writers. But there have also been pieces that…well. What can I say, I offered my ‘Dr Angels’ services many times and was rejected…

What has been an utter delight is watching fans engage with the play. Seeing tweets and blogs spring up from people seeing the play for the first time, or returning after decades away. While the good press and the awards are a delight to see this is the stuff that makes my heart sing both as a researcher and a fan myself. Delightful in particular have been the Lee Pace fans. A few of his fan accounts have engaged with me on twitter and its been lovely to see a dedicated but respectful group of fans come to this play via their favourite actor. Meanwhile just seeing people experience the wonder and the joy of the play from afar has been delightful. And honestly that reminds me why I’m doing this. And why I love it.

Research wise I can’t write this blog without an acknowledgement of the wonderful Marianne Elliott, who spoke to me once again to help with the research. And who continues to not only give intelligent brilliant insights into the play that help me, years into this nonsense, but is also so supportive and generous with her time. In the middle of a particularity bleak run of weeks my research interview with her re-energized my commitment and faith that I know what I’m doing (spoiler, I probably don’t but I’ll give it a go). And I feel very lucky to have the director of this piece be so generous with her time.

So that’s where I’ve been. And now I’m in the ‘home run’ before seeing Angels. I’m going out the final week in June, and it feels like waiting to ‘go home’. Practicalities meant the end of the run was most sensible timing-wise. But I’m glad I waited- seeing it early in the run and knowing it was carrying on after would have been torture. Waiting to see it until the end has just made me savour the build up.

I’m doing the 2 show day twice in a week (sorry Mother…) once for ‘research’ to make notes, evaluate the changes and all that fun stuff. And the second time for me, to enjoy, and to say goodbye. Already if I think about the latter I start to cry. In London I knew it wasn’t goodbye at the last show, but this time it is. And I know I’ll be a mess (Sorry Mother…). Because as much as I know this play will always be around, it comes back every ten years or so, this production has been something special for me. And as much as I’ll be enjoying every minute of that final visit. It’s also going to be one tough goodbye to this play.

But hey, once it’s gone I might actually get the rest of this book on paper.

Published by Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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