by Ned Devere (@edevere17)
I came late to Evan Dara. You see, to entertain myself and a few like-minded others I blog pseudonymously as the pseudonymous author of certain plays and poems written in the 16th century. This requires a lot of homework, a perpetual pile of nonfiction meant to keep me from making an utter hash of my alter ego. There isn’t much time left for novels. The few I purchase tend to collect at the bottom of the pile.
2015, September. An American northwesterner named Jeff (not a pseudonym) followed my pseudonymous new Twitter account. We began a running, random conversation. He and some friends of his had a mysterious connection to a writer they clearly revered, whose name was not really Evan Dara. Another pseudonym! I was intrigued. I bought The Lost Scrapbook, and I didn’t put it on the pile.
In a nutshell: TLS blew the top of my head off. The Easy Chain and Flee weren’t relegated to the pile either. I now had a favourite living pseudonymous author to go along with the dead one I played on the internet.
2016, April. Jeff was my proxy in obtaining Dara’s permission to include a substantial excerpt from The Easy Chain in one of my blog posts. My topic was four hundred years in the making, yet Dara’s insightful invention was the perfect illustration.
It’s my belief that authors’ lives not only inform but fingerprint their work. As the poet Wallace Stevens put it: It is often said of a man that his work is autobiographical in spite of every subterfuge. It cannot be otherwise. Evan Dara was a fascinating puzzle, despite and because of the missing pieces.
2018, July. Dara published Provisional Biography of Mose Eakins, a two-act play in progress. While drama’s terrain was more familiar, this was drama by Dara, so I kept my hand on my hat. Mose was worlds away from (let’s say) Hamlet, yet I felt a resonance. A protagonist disadvantaged by unexpected new circumstances. His deep struggle to come to terms with the changes, find a way forward. Who is threatened, who threatens, how he responds, what happens as a result. Not verse but Dara’s extraordinary voice, spoken through Eakins, those close to him, and uncounted if not uncountable others. Dozens of workers, bosses, doctors, vendors, pedestrians, police, several guys named Bob, and a shifting collective called the Swirl. Dara didn’t know how many. Nor did he specify the size of the cast, only giving a minimum with a note that all the actors but one would play multiple parts. In progress, indeed. Insanity to sort out in three dimensions, but on paper it didn’t matter. I read it again, marvelled some more, then returned to my homework.
3. Mose in the time of Corona
2020, beginning of March. Email.
Jeff: By the way, ED just made a request. I might need your help.
Me: Okay, Mister Cryptic. Whatever it is, I am IN.
The request: was Jeff interested in taking the Mose playscript and distributing the near-infinite number of parts among what would likely be a finite number of actors? He was. Was I interested in participating? Yes.
Insanity had become challenge. Set up a framework, figure out a process for nailing down the variables. Work together in the cloud. Have some fun. To hell with time zones.
At that moment, a protagonist was disadvantaged by unexpected new circumstances: SARS-CoV-2. Jeff was literally at ground zero in the US’s first frightening viral hotspot. Priorities changed almost overnight. I’d have to work alone on the framework, and Jeff would return to the project once things settled down. If they settled down.
They didn’t, until much later. Our collaboration became an early, though fortunately metaphorical, Covid casualty.
Dara trusted Jeff’s trust in me. Duo became solo.
Quote from The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination [archive.org] by Wallace Stevens, page 121