Anyone who imagines poet/playwright/musician David Budbill being all Zen-like out there in the woods of Wolcott will have to revise their view. We sure did. Seven Days contacted Budbill last week to ask if he'd consider writing an essay on the beauty of "doing nothing" for this week's Summer Preview issue. After all, some of his poetry gives the impression that the guy watches birds and makes tea a lot. And perhaps he does. But the trio of professions we put in front of his name should have been a clue that he doesn't just sit around meditating.
"Actually, I've been trying to write a piece on exactly that subject, but I haven't had time," he admitted almost sheepishly. Turns out Budbill spent the winter working on not one but two plays. And he'd soon be in Montréal playing music, he said, and then it was off to New York . . . where he'll perform in the 13th annual Vision Festival on June 13. "I guess I've blown my reputation with you," he concluded wistfully, his voice betraying how much he wanted to write about doing nothing.
Maybe later. For now, we'll look forward to the pair of new plays, both of which will have staged readings in Vermont this summer. The semi-autobiographical A Song for My Father is "mostly about a father and son," Budbill describes. But it is also about women and "the battle of the sexes," growing old and dying, the meaning of marriage, memory, and class-consciousness. The two-act play calls for two men and two women who play numerous parts. The reading on June 21 at Harwood Union High School will feature Ruth Wallman, Bob Nuner, Monica Callan-Holm and John Alexander. A Song for My Father is the culminating event of the Vermont Contemporary Playwrights Forum - two weeks of staged readings by local writers (more on this next month).
Budbill's second play, to be read at the Forum on June 18, is entitled Thingy World or How We Got to Where We Are. The one-act - a rewrite of a 1992 play in two acts - satirizes TV network news, advertising and game shows in order to expose "America's self-centered, all-consuming, materialistic way of life and how it has created a culture of waste and destruction, which in turn has helped create climate change and global warming."
Whew. No wonder Budbill couldn't settle on a single title!
This Friday, May 30, he'll take time out from a hectic schedule to read poetry and play his shakuhachi at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Garden in Stowe. The occasion is the reception of a new show of paintings entitled "Be There Be Square," which includes work by Budbill's wife Lois Eby.