Hotel Room Drapes

Recently I spent a weekend in a hotel room in the Albany area while my wife attended a dermaplaning class at The Aesthetic Science Institute (ASI); she works as an esthetician in Fayetteville.

On the Sunday afternoon, while my three-year-old son curled up on the bed and fell asleep, I could not turn on the lamp to read or flip on the TV because I was afraid the bright light or the noise would wake him. I’m sure parents of toddlers can relate—you don’t mess with nap time. So while I had nothing to do, I listened to the AC unit purring and studied the drapes fluttering. And I thought about the loneliness of hotel rooms—especially on a Sunday afternoon.

I thought about all of the lonely people passing solitary hours in hotel rooms scattered across the globe. If I could have listened to music, I would have selected some Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison or Hank Williams. If I could have read a book, I would have chosen a Kerouac paperback or Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America—or even pulled the Bible out of the drawer and thumbed through the New Testament.

But with the baby sleeping soundly nearby, I dared not move. Instead, I pulled out my phone and captured the hypnotic motion of the drapes blowing. I wanted to freeze the ephemeral moment and preserve it digitally.

Later on, when I thought about the scene, I was reminded of Edward Hopper’s Hotel Room (1931).

Hotel Room (1931) by Edward Hopper.

And just a side note: the best part of my hotel weekend was being able to get fresh diner coffee from the Denny’s nearby.

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Beyond the Glass Premieres in Las Vegas

My full-length stage play Beyond the Glass, inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks, premiered last weekend at the Las Vegas Little Theatre. As the winner of its ninth annual New Works Competition, the LVLT has produced the play in the theater’s black box space.

Images by Courtney Sheets and the Las Vegas Little Theatre.

The show closes on May 14, and I am going out to Las Vegas this weekend to see it. Prior to the production, the play had staged readings in Toronto and Chicago. Here is the synopsis for the work:

In Beyond the Glass, one of the diner’s customers, Ray, wrestles with an existence he abhors but cannot alter. Ray feels trapped inside the urban coffee shop, but he cannot leave, since there is no door. The character Ed then reveals that he once lived on the outside as the artist Edward Hopper and had painted the diner scene. Ray plots to escape, but his plans are thwarted by the restrictions of the space and the realization that he is a figure locked in a painting.

Images by Courtney Sheets and the Las Vegas Little Theatre.

As excited as I am about having my first play produced—with real sets, real costumes, and real actors speaking the words I wrote on the page—my greatest joy is that I finished the piece. The project proved to me the importance of persistence when it comes to the creative process.

Images by Courtney Sheets and the Las Vegas Little Theatre.

I started writing the play in the mid-1990s, but I struggled with the plot. None of the versions I wrote worked because I tried to make it so Ray could leave the diner. I thought about what would happen to him in the outside world, where he would go, how he would survive, etc. He ended up coming out of the painting and “falling” onto the floor in one of the gallery spaces at the Art Institute of Chicago. Security guards chased him and then he roamed the streets of the city, hiding out while the investigation into his disappearance from the painting continued. I even questioned whether his painted surface would wash away if it became exposed to rain. The whole idea seemed artificial and forced to me; I became blocked, and then I gave up and decided to shelve the script around 2006.

Images by Courtney Sheets and the Las Vegas Little Theatre.

But a couple of years ago, a question tickled my brain: What would happen if Ray could never leave the diner, if he found out he would remain stuck inside for all of eternity? How would he react? What would he do? That was my breakthrough, and the drama of the play laid itself out for me in a simple and direct fashion. I’m not sure if the story works in its current form, but I’ll be observing the play with the intention of revising the script after I return from Las Vegas.

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Filed Under Miscellaneous

I’ve been busy with video projects and working on my long-term nonfiction project, so I haven’t had time to blog much lately. But I wanted to share a few items worth noting.

The No Extra Words flash fiction podcast has produced one of my stories, Frozen Food, as part of its Episode 39: Sum of the Parts. The story was originally published in the online magazine The Literary Hatchet. You can listen to the podcast from the website or access it here.

Secondly, one of my essays, on the topic of “the writing life,” has been posted as a blog entry by the online magazine South 85 Journal. You can read the story here.

I also have good some good news about my experimental short film Fragments of the Living. The piece has been accepted as an official entry in the 2016 Athens International Film + Video Festival in Athens, Ohio. It will be screened on April 10.

And NewFilmmakers NY has selected Fragments of the Living to be part of its Spring 2016 Screening Series on April 25 at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

new filmmakers laurels 2016

Lastly on the writing front, my full-length stage play Beyond the Glass, inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks, was read by actors recently at the WILDsound Writing and Film Festival in Toronto.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942.

Here’s the link with some information about the project, which I still consider a work in progress. When I get the time (and the courage), I intend to watch to the table reading with headphones and a notebook so I can jot down ideas and notes about problem areas in the script. Revision Awaits Me!

And finally I have one personal note I must share. And this trumps everything else. My wife Pamela gave birth to our son, Colin Joseph DiClemente, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, at 10:29 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

Colin Joseph DiClemente at the pediatrician's office.

Colin Joseph DiClemente at the pediatrician’s office.

Both mother and baby are doing well, and we are getting used to having a little one in the apartment. Of course, this means less sleep for us and short writing blocks for me, before I get pulled away from the computer by the sound of Colin screaming or a request by Pam for me to make up a bottle of formula. So I will be writing in bursts, trying to get down bits of text before duty calls. I hope the words I type in first-draft form will make some sense to me later.

 

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