It was around one year ago that I began my mammoth re-write of Living History that covered over 1500 pages in under two months. Looking back on it now the only thing that seems to be off is the sequence of events. The events themselves make perfect sense and the resulting product: a thirteen episode season comprised of sixty minute episodes flows beautifully from page to page and episode to episode. Were you to tell me now – or then for that matter – that I’d have written a show about a frustrated man running for political office because of a bad break-up I would have thought it impossible. Looking back on the story arcs and especially at the actions of the main character – a historical re-enactor who challenges his girlfriend in a race for public office – it is surprising to me just how accurate everyone’s’ actions are. And speaking as someone who is going through a nasty breakup right now I feel myself mirroring the feelings of my characters as I go through the various stages of the grief cycle myself. It’s a very strange series of events and it only gets weirder the deeper one goes.
Although the series is technically an ensemble comedy, the main character is a down and out high school principal (and part-time historical re-enactor) who decides to take on the persona of the man he plays in re-enactments (George Washington) in order to better position himself politically to win an election that pits him against his ex-girlfriend Maria Lopez. His friends – and fellow teachers – decide to aid him in his effort and adopt the personas of various leaders of the Revolutionary period in America as well. Before you know it a man impersonating George Washington is running for Mayor of Colonial Williamsburg only he’s running for office as George Washington. His team of rivals campaign team is led by Alexander Hamilton – the Little Lion – the young prodigy out of Columbia University. His leading political attaches are Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and a very lukewarm James Madison. Feeling personally betrayed by his ex-girlfriend Maria, George feels as though he has nothing to lose in running a vicious all-out offensive and very personal campaign to win the office of Mayor. Feeling equally betrayed by George’s childish antics Maria decides to run for office on a platform of “modernizing” the colonial city and eliminating the jobs that the revolutionary cohorts previously held in the process. Now running not only out of personal spite but in order to save their jobs the founding fathers re-enactors find themselves in an all-out war that can end only with them achieving total victory or total defeat.
The show’s pilot begins with a very depressed George sitting in a bar drowning his sorrows as any normal self-respecting man would by downing as much alcohol as is physically possible within the smallest window of time. Determined to talk him out of this destructive behavior is Ben Franklin. Eventually all five founders become involved and they decide that the only logical choice of action is to beat Maria at her own game – politics. George and his revolutionary friends decide to take out all their pain and frustration on the woman who they believe is responsible for their present circumstances. Each character has their own individual goal but each of these goals ultimately ties into the groups self-interests. Though George feels depressed and overwhelmed by the break-up he finds strength in his campaign to beat his ex at her own game. I wrote the bulk of the series from 2007-2012 putting together over 2500 pages of material. During two months of revision lasting from late December to late February I took the series from a twenty-four episode season one down to thirteen episodes. It was at the end of February that I stopped working on the series because I had – at least in my view – finished what I had started but also because I met someone who I thought deserved more of my time. My ten-month relationship with her began at the end of February.
What I find interesting now is that I had written all of that without actually going through any of those experiences. Now however after having gone through those experiences I find myself writing season two of the series which involves George and Maria reconciling in order to avoid the incumbent mayor from tossing out the election results and declaring martial law. The part of what I’m doing now that I find so difficult is the reconciliation between George and Maria. Because I view such a scenario as impossible in my own life I find myself having great difficulty building the relationship back up in the series. What is really frustrating for me at this point is that I can no more see George and Maria reconciling than I can see myself reconciling with ex. Our issues ran too deep but it still angers me a great deal that she was unwilling to even try to work at anything and saw the only way out to lie in avoiding me altogether. It is because I cannot view in her anything remotely resembling a positive light that I find it so difficult to reconcile George and Maria. I’ve never had this kind of overlap between my writing and my personal life before and it is incredibly frustrating. In a way I view George’s plight as my own the odd thing about it though is that I had no idea this would ever be an issue for me when I was writing the original show. It is all so incredibly improbable that these events would occur in the order that they did that I cannot fully grasp where the next logical step from here is. When you can’t finish act one of something you used to be able work on with such ease you naturally tense up and get irritated.
Many people have stated how amazed they are at the speed through which I am going through the stages of grief. My response to that is that this grief is just an extension of what I was going through before. The breakdown of the relationship had occurred long before the actual breakup took place and I think that mentally I was not in a place to act normally for some time. Others say that because my writing output has increased that I must be doing something right. There is some truth in that. I work myself ridiculously hard and push myself incredibly hard to achieve my goals. Now it feels like something has been placed in front of me as an obstacle to achieving my goals: her and that just motivates me to work that much harder to overcome that obstacle. It hurts a great deal that I am in many ways still allowing her to hold me back but I see myself in a very similar fashion as my protagonist in Living History. I am a man acting out a reality he does not fully understand for reasons that don’t always make a whole lot of sense. I’m going to get back in my writing rhythm with this series though because I believe it is the most important work of my lifetime. It is so simple in its plot – men pretend to be people they’re not in order to get elected – and yet so deep in its message. I know that it is only a matter of time before I find my groove again with this series. I did such a good job with it the first time around. At the same time it is so painful to struggle at something that you were once able to do so well because one person has gotten in the way and it hurts that much more when you come to the realization that this person, this obstacle, this horror of a calamity put before you was never worth your time to begin with.