Working for the Mouse

(and other plays) by Trevor Allen

 

Foreward 

by

Kent Nicholson

Director, Playwrights Horizons, New York

 

"Trevor Allen’s plays"

 

When I was a “wee” one studying music and beginning a singing

career which somehow morphed into a directing career, I was taught

a song which helped me define the nature of a fugue. It went like

this: “A fugue is an odd sort of form/it jumps it skips/it’s far from

the norm.” It’s a catchy little lyric written to a J.S.Bach tune which

perfectly describes the work of Trevor Allen.

 

Perhaps it’s that early training, but I have always been attracted

to writers whose work has an innate musicality to it. This is why

Trevor’s work has always been of particular interest to me. It’s not

just that he writes what he describes as “fugues,” but his plays can

really mostly be understood best as a kind of musical composition.

More seriously, Merriam Webster defines a fugue as “a musical

composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated

by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a

continuous interweaving of the voice parts.” When we look at the

plays in this anthology, even the ones that don’t immediately strike

us as following this structure, we find that Trevor unfailingly gives us

a look at a multiplicity of voices repeating and imitating each other

until their themes begin to transform into one larger one.

 

In Tenders in the Fog, one of the pieces more directly attached

to the fugue form, Trevor tells the same story through the interior

monologues of four different characters, three generations of

fisherman and a Selkie found off the coast of Northern California.

And of course the Selkie transforms into a Shanachie, and serves as

a guide, telling the audience the story and delivering up a “moral”

for good measure. While our doomed fisherman complete repetitive

tasks, and relive their own failures and generational conflict over

and over, we get to listen to all three perspectives, drawing our own

conclusions and letting our sympathies slide between grandfather,

father, and son. Life is complex. And short. And unpredictable. And

we often can’t see ourselves clearly because the fog can get really

thick. By flowing through the current on this ever drifting boat, the

reward we receive is getting a chance to cut through the fog, literally,

and see the bigger picture of how our lives gain some meaning by

the addition of small details.

 

In The Creature, we get not so much a fugue as radio for the

stage. What’s remarkable about this piece is its point of view. Mary

Shelley wrote Frankenstein from Victor Frankenstein’s point of

view. But The Creature flips that script and uses Shelley’s own text

to reverse our sympathies and understand that maybe Frankenstein

was the monster, not the Creature who wanted nothing more than to

be human. The play never lets us forget Shelley’s original by keeping

Frankenstein as a sometimes narrator, but really allows the

Creature’s voice to be paramount. Again, by juxtaposing the two

voices side by side, contrapuntally, we see a bigger picture and

eventually have to ask if we aren’t our own worst enemies as well as

our own best friends when we can fully admit to our own humanity.

 

Even in a solo play such as Working for the Mouse, there’s a

multiplicity of voices ringing out. The Mad Hatter, Alice, Peter Pan,

Gary, Tammi, and of course the young Trevor himself. These voices

weave a tapestry of life off-stage at the “happiest place on earth.” The

story, as many of Trevor’s stories are, is non-linear, moving back and

forth through the major incidents of his time as an employee. And

while we laugh at the many indiscrete actions of the actors inside

the suits, we also get a story of a young man who doesn’t want to

grow up, but eventually learns that he must. It’s touching but not at

all sentimental, in part because we see the ramifications for those

who choose to stay behind and continue as perpetual adolescents.

Life backstage may be fun for a while, but it starts to become a little

seedy the longer you stay.

 

I’ve had the good fortune to work on all three of these plays

directly with Trevor. Building them together, watching and listening

as he carefully places each voice side by side, overlapping, and

orchestrating them for maximum impact. In each instance, the

visuals were left for me to work with, deciding how best to let these

stories be heard and helping to tell them by creating a visual world

to support that telling. A rotating ship, changing its perspective and

relationship to the audience as the story unfolds. A radio play. And

a bench in front of a brick wall. That’s how we chose to do this. But

the options are really endless. The text tells the tale, but Trevor is

interested in how others will choose to show it to us.

 

This isn’t kitchen sink drama after all. It’s a complex world, with

complex problems, and a multiplicity of personalities and characters

to fill it. These plays are interested in how these voices and disparate

personalities interact. So it’s only fitting that a world filled with

a multiplicity of performers and directors and designers and

producers should all get their crack at telling these stories. I hope

you have as much fun making them sing as I did.

 

 

-K.N.