Frankenstein Script

Miranda: Table in Queer Voice

Miranda: Table in Queer Voice

Fifteen days before Queer Voice opened, Darcey was in the conference room with all this stuff laid out on the table. She was wearing white art handling gloves and making notes.

“What’s that?” I asked.

She explained that it was a Jack Smithscript for the exhibition, one of a bunch of scripts that would be on display for a work Smith eventually titled “Lucky Landlordism of Lotusland,” Modern Adaptation of R.B. Sheridan’s “The Critic.” (Yes, that whole long thing is the title.)

“What are you doing, exactly?” I asked.

“I’m doing a condition report,” she said.

“A what?”

Darcey is ICA’s Assistant Registrar, and part of her job is to look at every single object that arrives at the museum from a lender and write down exactly what condition it’s in when it gets here. That way we know if we damage the thing while it’s here, and—importantly—we can prove that we didn’t if we didn’t. With the opening of Queer Voice just around the corner, objects were arriving daily. Darcey seemed happy. “It’s like Christmas,” she said.

This script is from 1973, and it looks it. Darcey said they were calling it the Frankenstein Script, because it’s pieced out of bits of pages taped together. (This is how I used to edit, too, as late as the 80s, with scissors and tape—everyone did.) These bits of tape are browned now, and the paper is yellowed and dog-eared. The type is faded typewriter type. It’s a lovely, poignant object, one of eight scripts exhibited on a long narrow table I saw half-built down in the gallery during installation. Talk about something looking patched together like Frankenstein. In the photo here it’s been painted, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

The way we’re exhibiting the scripts shows how Smith worked on them. First he hand-wrote, then he typed up what he had written, then he edited that copy and retyped, and so on. The exhibition features four pages from each of the eight versions of the script—pp. 1-4 of the handwritten version, pp. 5-8 of the first typed version, pp. 9-12 of the first edited version, and so on, so you can read it in an orderly way but in increasingly finished drafts.

My question is: what kind of person saves all their drafts? A packrat or an egotist? How do you know, or intuit, that someday someone will want to exhibit them?

Or maybe just an exhibitionist? Is there a connection between being the sort of person who would make Flaming Creatures (which was banned as pornographic and denounced on the Senate floor by Strom Thurmond—always good publicity for an artist) and being the kind of guy who would save all your drafts?

I bet Jack Smith would have liked to see his scripts on exhibition. Sadly, he died in 1989 of AIDS-related pneumonia.

You can see the script for “Lucky Landlordism of Lotusland,” Modern Adaptation of R.B. Sheridan’s “The Critic,” and many other cool things, in Queer Voice, which is open at ICA through August 1.