Stories I Want To Tell You In Person
Playwright Lally Katz thought she might be cursed. She visited a series of psychics and mediums in New York and various other places to find out for sure and, naturally, wrote a play about it. Was there a curse? “There were many and none,” Katz says, laughing. “It's more of a personal mythology. It's all the show.”
Stories I Want To Tell You in Person, two years in the making, is essentially an account of how love and creativity might be at odds with each other, at war in Katz's psychology. “It's like I'd made a deal with myself that I had to put writing before love,” she says. “Every time I would try to have love, one or the other would get messed up. I thought if I had love, my writing would suffer; if I found love, it would swallow up my heart.” Added to that, Katz says her subconscious led her into some strange relationships. “The first time I went to a psychic she told me everything I wanted could be mine, as long as she got rid of a curse.” For a fee, of course. Circumstances were against her and Katz didn't actually get the curse removed that night; later she found herself wondering about it. “When a relationship ended I wondered, if I'd paid, would that have happened? I found myself heading back to the psychic.”
In Stories I Want to Tell You in Person Katz takes to the stage herself to perform the one-woman show, which has had a happy run at Sydney's Belvoir Theatre: reviews have highlighted how funny she is. “I'm thrilled,” Katz says. “I didn't know what I would be like. Learning how to breathe and talk at the same time. I worry about losing my voice; I've got quite a loud voice but I lose it easily. Performance takes a lot of energy.” Stories I Want to Tell You in Person includes the sorts of things she would normally only tell groups of friends: is it difficult to reveal herself in public to such a degree? Katz reckons she's inclined to self-disclosure at the best of times. “I tell people everything,” she admits. “I always want people's advice. I give them a big confessional story. I'm missing a filter. I had a burning desire to do it; I've wanted to do this for a few years. I had to think about what was going to make this interesting for other people.” Katz finds that the more specific she gets with details in her stories, the more people relate to them. “Can you have work and love?” she muses. ”It's something a lot of women worry about. Men seem to have other stuff they worry about.”
Katz visited a range of psychics and mediums in her search for answers, including a ten day trip to Mississippi where she visited a spiritualist church. “I grew up without any religion but if I go into a church I feel spirit.” As a writer, she says, she's always in search of characters, always half-in, half-out of life. “I met a taxi driver in Mississippi who believes in Atlantis. She wanted to move her family to be by the sea, so that when Atlanta rises they'd be the first to be taken by the sea!” But does Katz actually believe in any of the things the psychics told her? “I believe in magic,” she says. “I am superstitious. I was brought up in a secular household, I don't believe in God but I've always found religion interesting. I'm not an atheist. I replace it in other ways, with rituals, with ways of being and understanding. As a child I'd make deals with the universe. It comes from having quite an active imagination.” Katz is Jewish on her father's side and wonders if her fascination in the spiritual side of life might be in her DNA. Does she have any writing rituals? “I'm a terrible procrastinator; I pretty much have to clean the whole house before I start to write. I have all sorts of practical rituals which help me get into the zone, like listening to one song over and over.” Katz says she wouldn't want to cross any of the psychics she went to see. She's since had any number of curses lifted and 'psychic top-ups' but curiously, the play's run was delayed in Sydney when Katz fell seriously ill on opening night. “That's too big a coincidence to be a coincidence!” But whatever the experience, there's inevitably something of creative value in it for a writer. “Life just always throws you crazy curve balls.”
BY LIZA DEZFOULI
Stories I Want to Tell You in Person will play at the Malthouse Theatre from Friday August 9 until Sunday August 25.