by James Martin
It was a case of too many
people, too few chairs, as 75 people crammed into H-762 to hear this years
Concordia writer-in-residence, Toronto playwright-poet Daniel David Moses.
Starting with poetry, the soft-spoken, bespectacled Moses selected a very
personal poem from last years collection, Sixteen Jesuses.
One of several poems crafted around lunar imagery, Breakdown Moon
is the poets meditation on his sisters schizophrenia, an illness
fraught with uncertainty. So you say Goodbye / to the Moon instead,
he read. Thats easier done. / She loses her head / right on
Moses jumped from dark to dawn with a second family poem, Aubade
About Dad, followed by the elegiac Last Blues, dedicated
to the late dancer René Highway.
Moses, a Delaware, raised on the Six Nations lands on the Grand River
in Ontario Voice, is a prolific playwright, particularly about native
issues. He told an anecdote about Coyote City, his 1988 play about
displaced natives struggling to withstand the challenges of materialism
presented by city life.
During rehearsals, an actors persistent questions But
what happens to my character after the play? made him indignant,
then amused, then inspired. He wrote a sequel, Big Buck City.
The opening scene comes from a scatological/theological epigram in Milan
Kunderas novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, especially the
phrase, He is not responsible for mans crimes. . . . The responsibility
for shit, however, rests entirely with Him.
Big Buck City opens with a confrontation on Christmas Eve between
a street preacher and a package-laden shopper. Reading both roles, Moses
drew laughter with his darkly comic dialogue.
The piece was born at a 24-hour playwriting contest in Whitehorse. Moses
had gone into the contest with specific ideas for a new play, but the
muse had other plans, and he found himself inexplicably fixated on some
Old West characters hed created years earlier.
Fourteen hours later, Moses completed first drafts of The Moon and
Dead Indians and The Angel and the Medicine Show, two one-act
plays later collected as The Indian Medicine Shows (1995).
He set the scene for The Moon and Dead Indians. On the porch of
a lonely cabin in the foothills of New Mexico, in1878, a widow cradles
a rifle while quietly singing hymns. Her son appears, fresh from visiting
a travelling medicine show. The two converse about Civil War ghosts and
Like the Big Buck City excerpt, their brief exchange hinted at
bizarre things to come. Moses let it hang in the air. Well,
he said, closing his book. Thats kind of a weird beginning,
Concordias writer-in-residence, Daniel David Moses, is available
for one-on-one student consultations and guest lectures. Book appointments
through the English Department, 848-2340.