The Devil and Lady Midnight

My friend Ellen Kushner often sends me playwriting/audioplay/narrating links out of the blue, since it is one of our mutual interests, and this is what I received yesterday:

“It’s basically Audible trying to get people to write specifically for Audio Theater, instead of just writing plays without actors on stages. They’re looking for writers who say that in their application.”

(I wrote it BIG, just in case any of you were interested and needed LARGE LETTERS and LINKS for encouragement.)

Anyway, of course I was interested, and immediately started thinking of things I might write or adapt as soon as I’m done with my novel edits and the half dozen other projects I’d meant to work on as soon as I’m done with my novel edits, but whether or not I end up with anything submittable is not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog, really, is to talk about joy. And possibility. And the thing you find yourself doing in those rare moments of fertile boredom, where you could be doing anything: playing phone Scrabble, or re-watching Lucifer, or reading the two-elbow-deep pile of books, or ANYTHING, but you chose to do THAT THING instead.

Last night, Carlos was playing Espergenesis, and Mir was watching some CultureLab thing on CultureHub, and I? Because of Ellen’s email, I was feverishly re-reading an old play of mine called “Theatre of the Underground” that I developed as far as a staged reading in Chicago with director Marissa McKown. (She bought me a pizza and a carnivorous flower and said she’d like to work with me. I was PUTTY IN HER HANDS.)

It owes much to Bulgokov’s Master and Margarita, except in this case, the devil doesn’t come to Moscow, she comes to Chicago. And not with the circus, either. This time, she’s starting a theatre troupe on the Harrison subway platform, and she’s out for blood. I mean, a leading lady.

The play was stronger than I remembered, and funnier, with some deeply problematical but also–in a way?–exciting issues. Exciting because in them I saw an opportunity to question, dig deeper, deconstruct, and rebuild from the ruin. Also, the play was shorter–a one-act, not a full-length, so there is room to expand. There were all these scenes in my head that didn’t actually exist in the page. I wonder if they were ghosts of former drafts. Well! If I rewrite it, those too may be resurrected.

The first thing I want to do is change up my protagonist from the woman who needs rescuing to the woman who does the rescuing. It’s unfairly skewed right now to the younger more ingenue-y character, and personally, at this stage in my life, I find the older, wiser, diner-owning, pyrotelekinetic (Carlos points out: “Isn’t it pyroSONARkinesis?” and he’s not wrong) blues singer to be the more interesting of the two.


And if I did, I’d change the name from “Theatre of the Underground” to “The Devil and Lady Midnight,” which is catchier. And I’d study a metric ton more of Chicago blues and history, and I would really dig my teeth in.

I’d have so many things to play with if I dove back in: Didier the Vampire, the demon Az, Mavis Day (Lady Midnight), Mr. Og (a familiar character you will all know and love from a certain novel by Gaston Leroux, popularized by A. L. Webber, and immortalized by the devil, whom he’d met and made a bargain with in 19th century France, what can I say, I’m a NERD), and best and brazennest of all, Lucy Lumen, of Lucid Theatre, Theatre of the Underground, who is, quite possibly, my Id.

One of my many Ids. One has so many.

It’s not the next project, but it’s a pleasant thing to have bubbling on the back-burner cauldron. Well, after my next album, Ballads from a Distance Star. Or maybe concurrent with it. Hard to say.

Hard to say–for, in this time of Covid, when it is just me, my beloved, and my best friend in a quiet apartment in quiet Queens, days together broken by a lot of long walks–all I have now is time and a determined joy to use it well.

And that is richness indeed.

My first focus is my novel, and I will be loyal to that. But it is exciting EXCITING exciting to remember the possibilities are infinite, even if we never get to them.

But, you know. We will.


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2 responses to “The Devil and Lady Midnight

  1. It sounds wonderful, and I hope you do get to re-address it, BUT I particularly at the moment like how you write ABOUT it, and it would be delightful to see it show up as a play within another story, so that all the readers can be wild with jealousy about never getting to hear/see that particular performance of it.

  2. sitaluna

    Oh, how exciting! I love that you have a gigantic ogre oven with lots of burners and MANY CAULDRONS !
    I will help stir and taste any of it, as you wish!

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