Today has been both unbelievably lazy (it's 5:15 and I'm still in my pyjamas) and incredibly productive.
I was supposed to start rehearsals for Radio yesterday, but my actor was ill so we postponed until tomorrow. I decided to use this extra time to do some context research about America in the 1950s and 60s, in particular the space race. I thought I'd share a little of what i found.
Did you know that the first animals in space were not in fact Russian dogs, but American fruit flies? I'm having trouble finding out if they were intentional passengers or accidental casualties, but either way i find that kind of exciting.
Laika the dog was a stray. The Russian space centre selected stray dogs because they were already used to extreme cold and little food, and so were thought to be better able to withstand space travel. Her flight was never intended to return, and on the day before she was blasted off one of the scientists in charge of the mission took her home to play with his children, saying "I wanted to do something nice for her, she had so little time left to live."
Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon and return to earth, broadcast live on television 31 hours in to their journey, reciting the first 10 chapters of Genesis. Video footage is on youtube, and becomes even more moving if you listen to it while Clint Mansell's soundtrack for Moon is playing in the background.
Most of the other things i found out are more directly relevant to Radio, such as the fact that his parents were married the day Big Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, Or that Rugby, North Dakota was never officially recognised as the geographic centre of the North American continent, but the townspeople erected a monument anyway, or that the way cartographers in 1918 decided Lebanon, Kansas was the geographic centre of the contiguous United States was by making a cardboard cut out shaped like the country and balancing it on a point. All of these things bring me great joy, and an insight into the characters in the play.
I'd like to ask you guys a favour. I think most people who regularly read my blog are around the same age as Charlie, the character in my play (he was born June 21st, 1950) and were in San Francisco the same time he was. The majority of the play is him telling the story of his childhood in relation to America as a nation, and in particular the effect that the space race had on him. Two very important points in the play are the Apollo 8 mission (Christmas 1968) and the moon landing. I only know about these things as historical moments, but you guys have living memories of them. If any of you feel like it, I'd love to know anything you can remember about either mission, where you were, who you were with, what you were doing, and most importantly how you felt. I feel this will give me and my actor a far greater insight into Charlie and his emotions than anything i can research on the Internet.
Sorry to give you guys homework, but I'd love to know anything you care to share.
That's all for today.