Meeting David


I’ve never been under such pressure. The worst possible time, her mother has to come now. Ella never hears from her, as if she doesn’t exist. As if she doesn’t have a daughter. And Ella always thinks about the woman, always talks about her. Always hopes for more, for something. Usually starts with: if only …Then, all of a sudden we get a call, she’s arriving at the end of the week. Coming to stay with us for a few days, and then Ella drops the real news. Her mother’s [been] invited by David Mamet to be interviewed at the Cinemateque festival in Jerusalem. Sounds like a sham, like a scam. But she repeats it like it’s a god-given fact. Who knows! Maybe this is my ticket to the big time. I can’t rattle around in Yosi Alfasi’s shitty theater all my life. He says my themes are old, dusty, boring, don’t interest anyone. But what does he know! He has no sense of history. He says a guy my age shouldn’t be dealing with old memories when there’s a fresh new world out there – ‘write provocative stuff, not that kibbutz junk, not that pioneering dribble again, leave the 20s, 30s, 40s alone, don’t touch the split in the kibbutz movement, no one even remembers it happened. Get out in the world – into funky, sexy stuff… move on, move out’.

Yosi is a jerk, look where he is, hasn’t gotten further than Givatayim, a rented community center for a stage - and here I am – Noam Semel is going to read this – he’s going to love it, invite me to the Cameri. Tel Aviv – here I come! Sign me up on the spot – at least that’s what I thought when I got up this morning, and now I hear that Ella’s mother knows David Mamet – works with him, well they can all go to hell. World!! Here I come, move over, here I come.

‘Don’t just deal with displacement of the kibbutz’, Yosi says, ‘why keep working with worn kibbutz personalities. You’re too young to get stuck in that swamp of nostalgia. Don’t just line up those characters as though they’re the ghosts of long ago. Don’t eulogize the underside of that dream. Portray lives, not abstractions. You’re trying to make theater out of your grandparent’s lives. Deal with now. Real men. Your characters hold placards; everyone deserves sympathy, but not heavy words. Move away from that folklore, leave the facts, let your imagination move’.

Maybe Yosi’s right, but that’s where I am, and he isn’t able to see the future in it. I didn’t even tell him that my grandfather died two months ago, it’s still fresh, that’s why I’m using his world, a eulogy to him … he was a hero, a giant. He built that kibbutz. He had a dream, he knew how to dream, and how to work. That’s real life, but Yosi doesn’t understand that.

David Mamet has the spirit to realize my ideas. He’ll understand that it’s silence that gets to the audience, not constant chatter. Yosi doesn’t get it. ‘What didn’t happen is of no concern to anyone’, he shouts. I believe the audience is smart, they can connect the pauses. They’ll love that kind of challenge.

Mamet will be interested in the isolation of the pioneers, their aspirations, the distance between them and their ideals, how they ultimately did not even know each other. ‘Drop it’ – demands Yosi, ‘move on’… but I know these are the real issues in Israel today. Not Hanoch Levine with his biting satire, so cruel it makes me cringe. What I have to say sharpens social criticism for today’s society – not stuff like that.

I want to portray timeless issues, the eternal insecurity of a man and his dream. It’s not a gentle picture, I’ll tell Mamet, there’s brutality, the ever presence of terror and fear. I work through fragments of experience. Yosi’s always telling me to connect the fragments, ‘merge, merge, merge’ – that’s his motto, but I want a context-specific theater that can only be handled that way. I want to say that all suffering is unique - the kibbutz pioneers can tell it in their halting way.

I’m not dealing with the common good. Nor with regret. I want to get at the portrait of a pioneer – it seemed ordinary then, but was truly extraordinary, that’s the way it will look to viewers today. I admit that the dream has disintegrated. But this isn’t a lament, I’ll bring it into real time… twist the facets of chaos – deal with the shame they suffered.

The pioneers tried too hard to make a world. I’m both the witness and the subject. I was born into the world they made. They wanted me, the third generation, to say that it fit me like a glove, that I was grateful, that it was perfect. I always carry a bag of soil from the Galilee with me, that’s my place, and the pioneers were the first to turn that earth, cultivate, urge roots into that tough land. I’ve got a big story to tell Mamet. He’ll buy it, I’m convinced. He’ll listen to the twilight years of the kibbutz.

I don’t blame the pioneers, I admire them. They have to be heard. They have a message that has to reach people today. I don’t want these memories to fade, I don’t want banality and commercialism to take over. I want to remind the world of these achievements and the self-sacrifice. The bitterness and discipline.

And now Ella’s mother is coming!! How can she handle a professional role? She’s so lazy, misdirected, can’t dedicate herself to anything or anyone. Why would anyone want her? She’s merely flirtatious and crafty – that’s what Ella’s always said. Even the mother’s sister agrees. My play will consider the value of pioneering labor, exactly what Ella’s mother isn’t.

How brave and responsible they were, determined to build a new world, believed in what they were doing. Yosi laughs – ‘just small intellectuals with big ideas’… okay, but they built the country. I want to bring some of them back to life, give them center stage. That’s the metaphor. The extremism of their lives: routine dedication and ruthless social machinery. How their personal fulfillment was blurred in commitment to the movement. And now, the movement has unraveled. The life of the individual is threatened, he’s got to look after himself, and he doesn’t know how to do it.

My message is: the pioneers are betrayed by the 2nd and 3rd generations – I’ll exaggerate if I have to, to make my point. My conclusion is: every generation has to invent the kibbutz for itself. I believe that human beings need ideology, they can’t only be concerned about themselves.

I’m not just lining up characters, it’s not just about a baker, a shoemaker, a farmer a dairymaid, even though every one’s known by their occupation, through their work. Mamet’s sense of character and narrative excitement can bring it together. His latest, with lesbian lovers in the ‘Boston Marriage’ is so far from the raging libidos of the pioneer’s tents, but his low-down sexual puns, and compressed sexual tension can work for me too. I don’t have any upper-crust confusion of identity, but I want Mamet dialogue: sharp and tough, with muscle and brawn.

Even if Ella’s mother is my ticket to David Mamet, I’ve got other stuff to tell her, really serious stuff – like - I’ve learned about betrayal from her daughter, how dangerous it is, how uncertainty can erode one’s spirit. Ella’s had such a tough life, a real orphan, but worse, she has a mother who behaves like a teen-ager, running off in every direction, with anyone and everyone. One husband after another, more children to add to the pack, and Ella never gets mothered. Sometimes one of the husbands is a decent guy and tries to lead her along, tries to be a father, but he can’t replace what isn’t there.

I’m excited about what her mother can do for me, but the truth is, she really has no right to push into our lives, upset everything, come when it suits her, just landing on us. This is a terrible week for me. I’ve got to get this material together, and even with the possibilities of Hollywood, I still live here and I’ve got to get this stuff to Noam Semel by the end of the week. I have to.



Seymour threw me out. I couldn’t tell Ella that. I lied – I’m not here for a few days – I only have a one-way ticket. I don’t have anywhere to go. Nothing left. Except for this diamond, that’s it. Hard to believe that everything I own is in these three bags. At least they’re Gucci, something from Seymour’s grand life. He really knew how to live, but he had his limits. Sleeping with the graduate student was the last straw – Seymour said it was over immediately – didn’t wait for explanations, got me a ticket that very day, sent me home. I didn’t want to come back, but he said he didn’t want me in Portland, nor in America, nowhere close to him. Out!! He screamed. I liked him, suppose I loved him, but I can’t help myself, the student was sweet and ready and so was I, always am. Indulgent, lazy, dishonest … slut … he said between his teeth and slammed the door. Even the taxi driver was shocked!

Ella doesn’t know what happened, and now she thinks I’m an actress. How can I keep up the sham ! I can’t tell the truth, not right away, not when I painted such a glorious picture about Mamet and the interview and Jerusalem and the festival.

I can’t admit that I met his secretary on the plane, and she said if I was in Jerusalem, I could come by and try to find her, and maybe she’d be able to get me a seat. But she didn’t promise. I begged her to give me two tickets, at least a business card that I could wave at an usher, but she didn’t go for it.

Rami thinks I’m going to get him into the big time, get him a ticket to Hollywood, to New York, at least to Broadway. Ella will never forgive me. Maybe I can bluff my way for a few days, till I get things together, figure out what to do, where to go. Just chatter away for a while till I make some contacts. Leah always has a solution and I’ll phone a couple of old friends, maybe get a job as a hairdresser, a waitress, although I hate standing on my feet all day. But what else can I do. Never really had a paying job.

Ella said Rami’s looking forward to discussing Mamet’s ideas with me. Thinks I was in Mamet’s ‘Boston Marriage.’ Thinks Karen Kohlhaas directed me, thinks I played opposite Kate Burton. I’d seen an article in the Portland Star the day I spoke to Ella and read out the whole thing to her. ‘Boston Marriage’, I told her, rather I read to her ‘is Mr. Mamet’s response to critics who say he does not create meaty roles for women.’ She was so impressed, really amazed, kept turning from the phone to Rami, repeating what I was saying, and I could hear that he was impressed too. So I continued: ‘Rumors are that it will be made into a provocative movie, with someone like Sharon Stone’ – I could hear Rami’s excitement. ‘They say the directing suffers from a central imbalance between its leading ladies’ shouted Rami, ‘what does your mother say about that?’ he asked. I got so nervous, but said, as calmly as possible: ‘Well, we have lots to talk about, don’t we?’ and that seemed to satisfy him. ‘Paul did my hair,’ I added, to Ella, reading: ‘ the wig and hair was by Paul Huntley.’ How long can I keep this up? Rami sounds energetic, interesting – I can’t wait to meet him, but what can I talk about? That’s all I know.

And then there’s Ella – she’s so difficult to deal with. She wants so much from me. When will she finally realize that she can’t expect more from me that what I am, and I can’t be her mother. I can barely look after myself. She talks so much, I don’t have the patience. I can’t handle her demands. She’s a pleasant girl but so different from me. If she was prettier, sexier, fashionable, more like me – maybe we could be friends, but I can’t be her mother. That was over a long time ago. Can’t she forget it!

In the paper it said that Mamet is concerned with more than sex, with emotional risk taking, relationships dealing with rejection, humiliation. Mamet has an appetite for thrills. Sometimes his characters seem weightless, the plot blurs - that’s why Mamet is so exciting. If only I can remember some of this stuff, maybe I can repeat it over and over – find different ways to say it, just fill the time.

Women are now running half of the six major movie studios in the US. Huge profits and strong midstream instincts. David appreciates this, the article says, thinks women have large appetites, then quotes Mamet: “An eastern sense of time, with a western sense of theater.”

That sounds good, I’ll try to remember it.