Vicodin, tobacco smoke, and John Steinbeck.

Some words from playwright Octavio Solis, live from the first day of our fourth workshop of The Pastures of Heaven.

I showed up at 10:15am, still crashing from three and a half days of Vicodin uploads. I just had surgery on Friday to mend the hernia on my right side and the weekend was lost in a haze of anesthesia aftermath and stinging pain in my lower abdomen. Now, I was finally venturing out to work on my ongoing project with California Shakespeare Theater and I was still not entirely myself.

We all gathered at the Ashby Stage (home to Shotgun Players) in Berkeley: Jon Moscone, Jessica Richards, the Word for Word team, select Associate Artists of Cal Shakes, a few other actors, and two of the four musicians who form the group Cascada De Flores. Chairs in a circle. Dave the stage manager. And the spirit of John Steinbeck wafting over us like good pipe tobacco smoke.

We talked some about the genesis and history of The Pastures of Heaven project, discussed the novel it was based on, and then proceeded to assign voices to the first story we worked on, Tularecito. This took the bulk of our day. In another room, JoAnne Winter worked on the Lopez Sisters corrido with Arwen Lawrence de Castellanos and Jorge Liceaga of Cascada de Flores. We caught snatches of accordion music and singing on occasion as we worked the text. All during this process, I revised the third story involving Molly Morgan the teacher, making wholesale edits and reorganizing the events to make the story less Steinbeck’s and more mine. This involved a degree of multitasking I was hardly capable of today, listening to Jon and the actors work on one story while overhearing a second being turned to song, and reediting a third for tomorrow’s workshop. All while I kept an icebag by my lower right side and fielded questions from my agent on my iPhone.

I’m groggier now that the day is almost done, but deservedly so!


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