On Writing The White Goddess

On Writing The White Goddess
By Arne Katholm

It is common knowledge among people of the theatre, that a written play is not finished until it reaches the stage. (The play is the thing, in which I’ll catch the conscience of the King, to quote from Shakespeare´s Hamlet.)
That was Shakespeare’s genius - writing for performance – and he did so because he was an actor himself. As a playwright you’re writing for the actors, you’re writing for the singers – or one might even say – for their voices...
I began writing The White Goddess back in the nineties. Someone in the business asked me for some lyrics in english. So – to give it try – I chose a theme for a cycle “Songs for Today”, from a situation in Marilyn Monroe´s life. It was a time where she had gone to a remote Hotel to hide, and where she among others things wrote a letter to her friend Norman Rosten with these words, playing with some lines by W. B. Yeats:
Love me for myself alone, and not my yellow hair.
I found those words captivating. Also she wrote at the end of her letter: I would have written this by hand, but it’s trembling. I felt sorry for her. Like most men do, and I fell in love with her, one way or the other, I must have done. Rather convenient, because she wasn’t alive anymore, and couldn’t deny my feelings...
So, I began with these songs - there’s only little left of those now - but soon I felt there was a person behind it, and little by little I began to track the story of Miss Marilyn Monroe.
I was surprised, I must say! I thought I knew her, like I think most people think they do. But we don’t. What people generally know about her is probably their own projections. She’s got a lot of secrets. She’s a mystery.
So one might say that I wrote this play because I wanted to know her, to know who she was, and I’m still in that process of learning about who she really is. Is, I'm saing, because she seems to be more and more alive. It’s a mystery. She seems to have sacrificed herself to live on in our imagination. She seems to rise again, and survive through the ages, as a goddess.
Transformation, that was what she longed for. In her acting - and acting is transformation, that’s what the actors nature longs for (Michael Chekhov) - and in her life. My play is about that transformation.
And deep inside – in any human being I guess – we wish to conquer death with life. I believe that the whole idea behind art, is to win that fight against death. To me real art has got that kind of energy, the very same energy that keeps us alive, whatever that is...
Getting older you discover that death gets closer on you. I lost my brother when he was still a young man. Only 36, like Marilyn, when he passed away. To win that fight against death, I wanted it so much... and somehow writing The White Goddess has been a kind of recovery to me.
We can’t escape death, but I do think we can make a transformation of energy, that leaves death empty-handed, and delivers the goods of life to live on in our imagination.
And so it turned into a transformation-story. I hope it'll be able to transform you as well.