A little bit about...
follow the links, but come back here...
(there will be more links, eventually, quite a few!)
Copyright © 2000 Lawrence Santoro. All rights reserved. It is illegal to archive, reproduce, or redistribute this work in any manner or medium without written permission of the Author.
I'm a writer.
For a long time, I fooled myself into thinking there was something more to me…
I worked at theater, film, television. You see, theater people tend to think there's something important about what they're doing. I did some bad things. I did some good things.
I did some voice work -- commercials, audio instruction tapes. Somewhere on the Yucatan peninsula there is an Aztec ruin. Every evening, a sound and light show instructs tourists on the life and history that happened there. There, every night, to this day -- in English, at least -- mine is the voice of God, an old God, an Aztec God. I'm also an assortment of peasants, merchants, soldiers, but somewhere in Mexico, I am a God. An English-language version of God.
A slender version of me played Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. I was okay, not great.
I have done more productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – actor and director – than any human should have to. I have played Puck, Oberon, Theseus, Bottom; directed sweet productions, tough productions, light versions and dark…
I acted in other things, but, mostly, I directed.
I also taught theater a few places...the Minneapolis Children's Theater Company, in a few high schools, a couple of small colleges. I taught acting and writing plays in Fargo, North Dakota.
Early in my career -- and later, when it was all coming apart -- I did lighting design, carpentry, sound design, other things. I tweaked my modest skills into a few jobs: in some museum exhibition departments, in a couple of set and prop shops... I once worked with Morris the Cat for two exceptional weeks in Minneapolis, for example. Later, I built little beds and tiny chairs for -- yeah, we can call him Prince again -- for the Prince formerly know as a symbol when he made his screen debut in Purple Rain...
One of the actors mentioned above, I liked and respected. The other was an over-inflated fluff-ball.
I once produced a series of books on tape in Chicago. That worked just fine.
I did casting. I was Chicago-area casting guy for ABC daytime. The soaps. All My Children was one.
Mostly, I directed. I did the upper-Midwest premiere of The Elephant Man at Park West Theater in St. Paul; great reviews, excellent audiences. I did a highly critically acclaimed production of...
Forget it. It was Shakespeare and it was good. Innovative, without destroying text or intent. People loved it. Critics, civilians, kids.
It was the thing I was trained to do.
All the theater stuff probably came from my parents.
For years they told stories. They had been, as they said so many times, on the road during the Depression. On the road for years… Every time they started talking about it, I’d leave the room, go elsewhere.
Eventually, I left town; went on the road.
I'd end by writing.
It was for money, the writing. Or part of a ploy to keep me out of Vietnam...well, okay, it was acting kept me out of Vietnam, but the writing helped too.
The writing… I'd write an article for a couple of bucks, or I'd put something down, just to remember; write and rewrite, to improve a script I was working on... Finally, I wrote myself into a good job in the Air Force...then I wrote myself out of the Air Force.
This pattern that moved me through adolescence, kept me moving through life; through 14 years of undergraduate college-hopping, a marriage, a series of long-term monogamous relationships either side of the marriage... I drifted.
Writing about IT, about other things that were analogues for IT, about things that were fanciful avoidance's of IT, about the history of IT, about the past, peering into speculative ITS down possible or impossible roads...that's what life became, what IT became. Writing seemed to be tapping me on the head, saying, "Yo! I'm IT! I’m your life."
You know this already: writer's are bores. Or boors. Look at this. Do you care about Larry Santoro?
'Course you don't.
Maybe though, since you've come this far, you can get a handle on the idea. Trust me: talking to your favorite writer probably wouldn't be the blast you think. Since you're here, you've probably gone to a con or two -- World Horror, World Fantasy. Once you get over the idea you're playing tag with history or touching greatness, shaking hands, say, with Norman Mailer...
(An aside: I used to babysit for Norman's kids in Provincetown, Mass. See? My whole life, I've never gotten over the tendency to name-drop, even when I'm counseling AGAINST it! Geeze! Besides which, how impressive is it to have been a sub-minimum wage worker for one of America's literary lights when you, yourself, are...never mind... Norman was not my major memory from Provincetown. An old woman you've probably never heard of is the person I remember from there!)
...back on course: once you get over being in the PRESENCE, you realize, all you're doing is staring at a guy or a woman who made some money sitting alone, remembering the way things used to be.
Same with actors. Why do you think they always carry big books around with them? They're afraid people will think they're dumb.
Ditto musicians. Why do you think they try so hard to be bad? They're afraid they're not.
It's like poets and drinking. Everyone expects it. Like folk singers and dumb hats.
And remember what you told your friends when they asked how was he? "Aw...a really great guy," you said. Or, "What an asshole!" you said. And the truth was, he was just some guy who probably wanted to be talking to his agent about a contract, or sitting alone working... Of course, maybe there was something interesting about him or her...
For months and months I was production stage manager for a mostly autobiographical two-Irishman show called A Couple of Blackguards. The blackguards, Frank and Malachy McCourt, were doing it for the money. At the time, both were pretty much down on their luck actors. They were living the skint lives of a retired high school teacher from Brooklyn with surfeit of ex-wives and a retired saloon keeper, down-heel'd raconteur, and buckless bon vivant.
Damn, though. Blackguards was an extraordinary two-guy show about growing up wretched and Irish in Ireland and the States. It's a funny, sad, moving play... Grinding poverty and the joy of being alive mixing exuberantly. It was wonderful. They were wonderful.
Of course, what made them fun to be around was not their show, not their writing, not their acting, but that they had lived a life and could laugh about it. That made them wonderful, that made them worth being with for an evening. They'd survived.
Later it was, that Frank became a millionaire phenom for having written Angela's Ashes. The not so great film adaptation isn't his fault.
Malachy wrote A Monk Swimming...and drew heat for trying to ride his bother's wave! Bullshit. Malachy's has his own tale, one worth the telling!
We've crossed paths since, had a few chats, dinner... Then I settled back into being me, and they...? Who the hell knows. They were still really great guys.
I spent several years at the Organic Theater in Chicago. Literary manager/dramaturg (I still don't know how to spell that!) I worked long hours, long weeks; helped develop a couple of pretty decent scripts, put together a production deal or so. I directed a couple dozen workshops, handled about a thousand over-the-transom script submissions, and dealt with the writers behind each...with a small army of interns doing the grunt work of reading and writing preliminary reports.
One of my interns was Cathleen Schandelmeier.
Cath was in the process of becoming -- turning into a poet before my eyes. She got me to attend a barroom reading of some of her stuff.
Okay...nobody's ever going to get this far, reading this... But YOU have, come to think of it. Haven't you? Really... Thanks!
Point is: I came out the bar thinking: "Jesus, I can do that." Not so much about her work, which was (and remains) quite good. But about the others... Geeze!
Next week I did that. I read my first poem in public, Nanna. It was about my grandmother.
Reading in the back room of Sheffield's Bar on a Sunday night in Chicago, was the most satisfying performance experience I'd had since I'd played a 4th grader doing a play in, I believe it was, 4th grade.
It set me on the parlous path of repeating myself. It set me on a course of examining my life.
Not every time was as successful, not every poem was as much fun to do as that one about my grandmother's death. But I was having a good time and, honest to God, I was better than most.
And I was finding out things I had never known. Each poem became a few hours visit in some place I'd not visited in years. I was discovering that smells, colors, textures, flavors, sights are all part of a place that lives in the head, in the heart...
...and I was building a body of memories in shorthand...
It was inevitable that these little poem things -- let's face it: I'm a lousy poet. My "poems" are only tales writ small, cut down -- these shortform notes, became stories...stories fleshed out and made into fiction. Lies. Characters and strangers playing myself, my parents, chums, people I never knew but always wished I'd known, people I always feared I knew...or people I always feared I was.
Soon, the poems were becoming a novel. Recently, that first poem, Nanna, became a chapter of a larger work. The chapter is called, Sunday Morning. The book doesn't have a name. I think the book may just be a long-form screenplay treatment...
The Organic dried up and went away.
There's a lot there that's still impossible for me to talk about...but I probably can write about it. That's what I'll do.