Here’s another of my collaborations with the independent theater group The Civilians. Early last year, they approached me about a book they’re putting together based on their show, Gone Missing. As they said when they contacted me: “The show is about loss and about how the loss of small things can seem enormously resonant despite the relatively trivial material value of something. Six actors portray more than 30 characters who have lost everything from rings and phones to dogs and favorite toys and family heirlooms.” Again, right up my alley!
They continued: “Anyway, we are working to produce a book based on Gone Missing. It’s not exactly a published version of the play. Rather, we’re taking the monologues and pairing each vignette or story with an artist or illustrator. The book will be primarily an art book, something to look at rather than something to read, and I’m very excited about it because its a way for The Civilians to expand the range of artists they work with and the methods behind their philosophy of engaging with the ‘real world.'”
They provided me with a monologue from the show, a harrowing personal reminiscence alternately called “Drunken Englishman” or “No Words.” I’ve never seen the show, but it was my initial feeling that the monologue would be very difficult to adapt. But I love a good challenge — in many ways, that’s what makes a collaboration come alive — so I went at it. I approached the piece from a formalist viewpoint, imposing a series of restraints on myself. In the end, I wanted it to be not exactly comics, not exactly a straight recitation of the monologue, but something in between. Most of all, I wanted to use the panel format to capture the rhythm — the beat, if you will — of the spoken piece. The result is for you to judge.
So, without further ado, I present “No Words.”