• John Haman

Waiting on a Goat, or How I Wrote a Moon Play


This is Reba the dairy goat. She is the reason I wrote BLOOD MOON. I move goats to a kidding pen in my little barn when they are close to kidding so they'll stay out of spots where I can't reach them to offer help.

My tiny farm features a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats that I've seen through two kidding seasons. This spring, I became impatient with one of them. Reba, my brown chamoisee and favorite milker, seemed past her due date. I had work to do at the real job. People were depending on me. And yet, the babies remained stubbornly inside the goat.


So I cancelled the meetings and camped out in the barn. I had an adorable antique doctor bag full of supplies, a bunch of towels, a homemade kid-warmer to keep the babies cozy, and a couple of prior births under my belt.


Reba would moan and change positions, walk around a bit and lie back down. The cycle would repeat roughly every 10-15 minutes. All. Day. Long. Meanwhile, I provided comforting words, and entertained myself by outlining a new play idea.


I wanted to write something about the moon that felt magical and poetic, exploring ancient legends from cultures around the world. Amid the legends, I hoped to create my own modern moon story.


Instead, that day, I launched an alternative-reality feminist science-fiction mystery thriller called BLOOD MOON. And if that sounds intriguing, I have good news: I'll be directing a staged public reading of BLOOD MOON at the Arkansas Repertory Theater on Dec. 1, 2018, as part of The Rep's new Plays in Progress series. Come help me launch this rocket by being an audience member.


KEEP READING BELOW


The unshaven farmer/writer in his sci-fi inspiration chamber, er, barn.

My internet searches for moon stories landed on something strange called Project Horizon, a 1959 military plan to build a manned U.S. base on the moon before the Soviets could beat us to the punch. The secret plan was only declassified in 2014, so few people remember it. I read every article I could find about Horizon, and discovered links to the original government proposals, complete with drawings of the spacecraft, shoulder-launched nuclear weapons, and the insulated metal tanks they would live in, under ground. The engineering behind the project was there, along with the theory of how international law applies to outer space. Horizon's proposals were written with fierce Cold War urgency. If we don't get to the moon first, the planners argued, the Soviets will, and then there'll be hell to pay.


Of course, Project Horizon was killed before it could send a single craft to the moon, mainly because it was terribly expensive, and nearly all the USA's wasted money at the time was being devoted to the Vietnam War. But the final nail in the coffin for Horizon, and any plan like it, was the 1967 international treaty prohibiting countries from militarizing space.

I was attracted to this story for several reasons. Horizon was one of the most significant human operations ever planned that didn't come to pass. It would have changed human history in profound ways and gone down as one of man's boldest and silliest moves. It also seemed a great backdrop for a mystery/thriller spy story, but for Horizon to reach the moon with nuclear weapons and become a cautionary tale, history would have to be broken in strategic ways. So I asked myself what in our nation's past would have to change for a moon base to become inevitable, and crafted an alternate reality.


To work on a discriminating audience, this play had to be more than a quirky plot. I needed it to be the story of someone's struggle -- a play with heart, longing, laughs and suffering. So I created June, a former actress and wife to one of the aeronauts, whose life loses purpose as she slips into the shadow of her husband. To become relevant again, and to feel alive, June creates her own bizarre alternate identity, where she explores elements of herself she can't experience as a housewife. Along the way, she falls into a den of Soviet spies, who are intent on winning the moon race.

The sun was setting as I typed out a "beat board" for the play, and the mood in the kidding pen began to change. I heard more urgent moaning and discomfort from Reba the goat, and her "doe eyes" locked on to me. I pulled my little drink cooler into the kidding pen so I had a place to sit, put on my OB gloves, grabbed some towels and filled a bucket with molasses water. Within 15 minutes, the kids began arriving. All of them were brown and looked like their mother. The birthing mojo of the barn was palpable: three kids and a really strange play. Not a bad night.

###

Members of New Play Exchange can read the latest draft of BLOOD MOON at https://newplayexchange.org/plays/217468/blood-moon


Reba's babies.