My Old Familiar


April 23, 2013 by wandalusst

It’s the 23rd of April, 2013. On this date, exactly two years ago, my significant other and a goodly group of our family went away for a long Easter weekend and the celebration of a significant birthday.*

I stayed behind, attended by my familiar. (Pictured here.) I had no choice. I was in that exquisite state – far from beautiful, but keenly felt – of expectation, of incipience… I was “with play” in the most fearsome way. I had an extravagant title, nothing more. Deadlines had come and gone. New ones had been set, seemingly to no avail. I was broken, defeated; exhausted with thinking, with a-wishin’ and a-hopin’, with feeding it and with lugging the thing about in the recesses of the mind or the gut or the kneecap or wherever it is these damnable things lodge, like shell grit, as they wait to become.

Things That Fall Over: an anti-musical of a novel inside a reading of a play, with footnotes and oratorio-as-coda found something like a form that long weekend, bits and pieces of nonsense attaching themselves to the preposterousness of its name, insinuating themselves into the gaps between the words, and the hyphens, until by a process of accretion – accompanied by days and days of no sleep and mostly cereal for dinner – I had delivered to the page the bones, the belly and the stumpy little fingers of my text.

There was still much that was unshaped and unfinished. Even so, I could begin to see it for what it was. I could speak of it without shame. It was kind of ugly, kind of strange, yet, to my eye, appealing in its way. It had arrived. I had a First Draft.

Fast forward at high speed. More drafts and an exegesis. Grant applications. Gathering of like minds. Read for a feed. Gap year trip and more drafts, more grant applications. Swan-singing, the Peta to Peta trips. TTFO launched. Creatively-developed over two venues. Re-drafted. Partnered. Funded. Not funded. Funded. Not funded. Ironing Board set up. Swan-singing resumed…

Two years on, 23 April 2013. I am hunkered away again, my old familiar by my side. This time I am facing off something called the first folio of Draft Eleven – it’s not going well – and either I drop the metaphor right here, or I admit that I have one of those offspring that won’t get off the breast. It’s not that it’s failing to thrive. On the contrary it now has a veritable (!!!) army of nannies and wet-nurses, playmates and doting aunts.

I think I might drop the metaphor.

Gentle readers, friends and family of TTFO. On this date, two years on, wherever you may be, I salute you. Happy Birthday to us. I thank all who have been a part or remain a part of the story of Things That Fall Over. I could not have made it this far – premiere production possibility now in our sights – without you, and regardless of the outcome this year, I hope it’s been worth the ride. I salute our composer and co-directors, our old champions and auspicers, new producer and production associates. I thank our stellar performers, our creative team, our violists, our volunteers. I thank everyone who has been so patient and understanding of my devotion to this ill-mannered and all-consuming thing. I thank Jane. I thank everyone who has sung a note, sent a cheque, attended a reading, liked a facebook post, shared a suggestion, or simply just asked: “How’s it going? The thing with the long name…?”

This weekend, whilst tinkering at the edges of this re-write, I upgraded its degree of difficulty. Things That Fall Over: an anti-musical of a novel inside, a reading of a play, with footnotes, and oratorio-as-coda is now subtitled “a quadrathlon for performance.” And the Swansong – our part four and almost complete – is going to be beautiful. It will be worth the wait.

Such a long haul. Yet this “wondrous monster” is only two, and I need to remember that today as I gnash my teeth over grant applications, agonize over its prospects and curse it when a fresh approach to Folio One won’t come.


P.S. Please, airdrop your ideas to me in my bunker, where I remain encamped – with my old familiar.

* and Happy Birthday Gail!

8 thoughts on “My Old Familiar

  1. pruecarr says:

    We missed you that Easter P but are delighted with what you did with it at home! Happy Birthday TTFO (and Gailie) and looking forward to be involved in the Even More Beautiful production when you are ready for me. Prue

  2. petawilliams says:

    Dear TTFO creator,

    Happy 2nd birthday to TTFO! Extraordinary really. Yours and my ‘official’ 2nd anniversary is three days away – the day I emailed you after some 30-year gap in our contact (give or take the odd connection on the death of a mutual friend) and you responded with alacrity, as my father would have said. In your response you asked whether I would be interested in being involved in the music for this new anti-musical you were writing. You said, and I quote – ‘It is not a huge job, and it is more a task for a “compositeur” than for a “composer” if that distinction means, to you, what it means to me. It is a job for someone who is very classically/canonically musically literate, but also willing to go lowbrow, pastiche, and into the lexicon of “the musical”. ‘ (end of quote). It’s just as well you said it was ‘not a huge job’, as I might have said ‘no’. Two years later it has proved to be absolutely a huge job for both you, me, and the amazing TTFO team that you have gathered around you, but I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.

    And so this is an opportunity for me to remind you, two years later, what your mammoth extravaganza that is Things That Fall Over has meant for so many people. I reckon that even if it doesn’t go anywhere past this moment that I write, then your creation has affected in a most positive way a huge number of talented and creative women. And we know it will be going further than this moment that I write so the ripples of your imagination, tenacity and belief in life and justice and creativity and the whole damn thing absolutely flow on. As recently as just under two weeks ago when I had some time with you in Melbourne I experienced this very thing that I am talking about. You gathered around you some amazing and talented women who were with us because of Things That Fall Over; because of their belief in the essence of your new and mammoth work, and because it speaks to them. Your work reminds us of who we are, of who we can be, of the fact that we can take risks and be ageing and unsure and vulnerable and still ultimately believe in ourselves and be the most amazing Late Bloomers possible! You only have to read the posts in this blog, especially over the creative development period in October/November 2012, to see the impact your creation has had on us all, and is continuing to have.

    Re-writing, even with the support of your faithful familiar, partner and friends, can be hell. It is easy to lose perspective of what you are trying to do. I know this as I have lots of re-writes and re-creation of music to do after our productive creative weekend. But hey, who are we to give up when faced with a challenge? We do need time-out, we do need space to nourish ourselves, we do need to re-group so that we can keep on going forward. This might involve eating chocolate. But so we do, and so we are.

    I am very glad that I sent you that email on 26 April 2011. And that you responded. Power to the collective TTFO elbow.

    Peta Williams (TTFO friend, composer and Late Bloomer)

    • Wanda Lusst says:

      Very touched by this comment. Also most amused to be reminded that it (the business of writing the music) was not to be a huge job!! A bit like the business of writing the text…. What was I thinking?

  3. janemurf says:

    Yes indeedy- Hip Hip to TTFO.
    Can it really be 2 years since you appeared, swaddled and skinny, on our doorstep?
    You’ve got a voracious appetite and have gained weight and colour. You’re almost on your own feet- (will be any day now). You have a magnificent command of language and music. Your personality is infectious- with a list of loyal friends growing daily! (and your friends become our friends). You have taught us that there are never enough minutes in a day. That there is no such thing as No. And when all else fails, something new turns up…..
    I couldn’t imagine life without you!

  4. Jenni M says:

    Happy Birday TTFO — very well done for only 2 years still lots to learn and explore — enjoy the coming of age!

  5. gail says:

    Thanks Peta, and Happy Birthday to TTFA and many more!

  6. veepas says:

    A belated happy birthday/anniversary to TTFO and all who sail with her.
    Utter madness at times, but always engaging, challenging and rewarding.
    An incredible, talented and generous group of women.
    Thank you for being…

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TTFO, Things That Fall Over, concerning the creative development of an (anti-) musical of a novel inside a reading of a play, with footnotes, and oratorio-as-coda.

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