The writer who has had the greatest influence on my intellectual and creative development isn’t a playwright, but a novelist: Kurt Vonnegut. I can’t remember why I first read Slaughterhouse-Five — it may have been a school assignment — but I immediately began reading every single thing he’d written, and I continued to read everything he wrote for as long as he continued to publish. (I even read his son’s most excellent memoir.) I connected with his work stylistically, and the ideas on which his work is founded were new and invigorating to me.
In the last few years, I’ve noted that there have been a few stage adaptations of his novels. Longacre Lea, here in DC, did a version of Cat’s Cradle, and I seem to recall discussing a version of Sirens of Titan with someone, though I can’t find it now. In any event, the few productions I’ve noted have put in mind of an idea: what if, given the fact that so many of his novels are interconnected in one way or another, somebody adapted, say, five or six of them into a complete cycle of work?
You’d probably want to include, in addition to the novels I’ve already mentioned, Breakfast of Champions, Mother Night, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, though I wouldn’t blame you if you went old school with Player Piano or new school with Timequake. You might want to focus on the novels in which Kilgore Trout makes an appearance, if only to find an easy way to unite them all; you could do them chronologically, too, to show how Vonnegut’s work evolved… but given how much he thought about being “unstuck in time,” that would probably do a disservice to his memory.
So, here’s the question: do I have the stamina to do something like this? Would I be willing to devote the three or four years it would take just to get to a solid first draft of the entire cycle? (I work methodically, not slap-dash.) Would the Vonnegut estate consider granting me the rights to doing something that ambitious? I really don’t know the answers to any of those questions.
I suppose what I’ll do is just file the idea away for now… fully expecting it to return, nagging at me, until I address it one way or another. (The truth is, I’ve had conversations already, brief ones, with a potential collaborator who shall for now remain nameless… though only time will tell if they bear fruit.)Â Because I really do think I’d like to do this. If I can figure out how.