Balancing the Moon is my first full-length play.Â Set in 1934, the story revolves around Jared Thornhill, a Freudian psychoanalyst, who expects his wife Charlotte to put her poetry aside to type his professional papers.Â When an Irish love fairy possesses Charlotte in an effort to teach Jared the ways of women, Jared learns he must tap into something much deeper than Freud to get Charlotte back.
The idea for the story came from Virginia Woolf’s 1929 book A Room of One’s Own.Â In it, Woolf presents the dilemma of the woman writer who has no money of her own and no time or quiet place to write, because ofÂ limitations imposed by her roles as obedient daughter, wife, or mother.
Woolf’s book struck a chord with me, because this was something I, too, was experiencing even 70 years later, as I juggled my day job and marriage to find time to write. I decided this was serious subject matter, and still relevant today.Â And so it was that Balancing the Moon began as a drama, in which the main character was Charlotte Thornhill, a frustrated poet struggling to pursue her craft, constantly interrupted by her domestic obligation to support her husband’s career.
When early scenes were read in my Philadelphia playwriting class with Michael Hollinger (Opus, Red Herring, Incorruptible), my “serious” scenes got laughs.Â When this kept happening, I resigned myself to the fact that this play wants to be a comedy.Â As my writing progressed, I continued to get the strange feeling that the play was “telling” me what to write.
A big challenge I encountered was the fact that with Charlotte becoming possessed by the fairy in the second act, I was essentially eliminating her character from the play – a major structural flaw.Â I had a great deal invested in Charlotte, so it was very difficult to “let her go.”Â But I soon realized it was much more interesting to explore the damaging effects patri-centric society has on a man.Â Thus the play became a screwball comedy with Jared as the main character. Charlotte’s artistic struggle remained in the play, and is a key part of the story, but it was Jared’s transformation driving the play.
From A Room of One’s Own also came my inspiration for Jared.Â In it Woolf holds up the the ideal writer as someone with an “androgynous mind.”Â This idea became the genesis of Jared’s lost thesis on “psycho-sexual balance,” and got me exploring the psychology of his day.Â I started reading Sigmund Freud, and revisiting his profound influence on early 20th century culture.Â His relationship with Carl Jung I found particularly interesting, especially their famous “break-up” over Freud’s emphasis on the sexual theory. A self-professed scientist and atheist, Freud was uncomfortable with Jung’s interest in spiritualism.Â It seemed to me that Jared was of two worlds, both Freud and Jung, of both science and the occult.Â To up the stakes, I took the latter a bit further, and made Jared a “latent” wizard, too.
I had the title Balancing the Moon from the start, which guided me like a little light.Â Again, the play told me what to write.Â At first the title related to Charlotte’s struggle and the cosmic influences of the moon on women.Â Then it both figuratively and literally became directed on Jared, as he re-embraces his theory of psycho-sexual balance, and tries to unravel the “mystery” of the female psyche. In mythology, the moon represents the ideal marriage of earth and sky, male and female, but it is also a powerful image of the Goddess – a force Jared both fears and lacks.
Workshop readings had a huge impact on the development of this play. They allowed me to finally “hear” the words and get them out of my head, and I received invaluable feedback.Â Putting a work on stage in a workshop performance is the final step.Â I have so enjoyed watching the inspired work of director Wynn Marlow, as she and the wonderful actors in this production breathe life into my characters, and I look forward to what the audience tells me works or doesn’t work.Â Let’s hope what the “play” told me was right!
Balancing the Moon, presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground. Opens Oct. 30. Plays Sundays at 7 pm. Through Nov 20. Tickets: $15. Â Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 818-202-4120. www.zombiejoes.com.
***All Balancing the Moon production photos by Patricia Lamkin
Patricia Lamkin has written 11 plays, 10 of them produced.Â Los Angeles productions include Tarzan & Jane Share Their Erotic Jungle Fantasies at the Three Rose Players’ The Writer Speaks, and Angel City at the Next Stage Theatre.Â Her ten-minute play The Trestle is published by Youthplays.com.Â She is a member of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights and the Dramatists Guild.