One of the lines in my play Ore, or Or is about how in a way one's artistic influences are reincarnated through one's work. Things that make impressions on an artist are often reinterpreted into new work. I thought I'd mention here some of my influences for this piece.
First off is the novel The Golden Nineties, by Lisa Mason. I'm a big science fiction buff, and am a sucker for time-travel stories. Mason's first novel in this series, Summer of Love, combined time-travel with hippies, and is one of my favorite books of all time. The sequel, The Golden Nineties, set in 1895, is quite unlike most other time-travel books I've read- the story keeps flipping, Schrödinger's Cat-like, between two possible pasts - it begins subtly, but soon no one on the project is sure what's happening. Zhu, the woman manipulated into becoming a time-traveler, must discover which is the "real" reality (and in a sense, they're both real- one is just more focused on the cruelties of the age, while the other is focused on the beauty of it). It's been reincarnated a bit in my own play- not in plot or specifics, but the image construct of different types of gold and the theme of duality are certainly echoed in my play (I also first found out here a certain fact about Fortune Cookies which ended up in the play).
The late Harry Kondoleon is one of my favorite playwrights. His elegiac posthumously published novel Diary of a Lost Boy really spoke to one of my main concerns as a playwright, which is homo-hetero relations and how wonderful and odd relationships between differently-aligned men can be. A lot of the relationship between Calvin and Sean in my play came obliquely through Bill and Hector of Kondoleon's book. Also, the concern with philosophy and things not of this earth from Diary of a Lost Boy made its way into Ore, or Or.
I have always wanted to read Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, but never actually have. Still, the title was evocative enough to have stuck in my mind for years, and, after doing my own research, uncovering the "true" stories of history became a huge part of my play. Maybe I can find and read the book now myself.
The play was originally inspired by Clubbed Thumb's first biennial commission, a playwriting contest, where one submits 10 pages on their theme. The theme the first year was "Yamashita's Gold", so I Googled it and I found the story so intriguing I wrote and submitted 12 pages instead of 10. I didn't win (and it's probably a good thing, since Clubbed Thumb requires their plays to be 90 minutes, and Ore, or Or's complexity required a good 2 hours), but I was still intrigued and kept coming back to the play, even though I didn't know where it might eventually be produced. I submitted 2 years ago, and wasn't accepted then either, but the play I began for that has a first act waiting for a second, and I plan to submit this year as well.
I read Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold, by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, for some information on Yamashita.
In doing research on the play, I found the wonderful book Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei by David Mura (I also read his Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity), about a Japanese-American man going to Japan for the first time, in which I found these evocative lines:
...which was a lot about what I was writing about. Calvin's father in my play is named Matsuo in homage to the book.
As I was writing the play, I was also working on a (now aborted) project of a Star Trek sitcom- "Leave it to Sulu": my idea was to have Sulu take a sabattical from Starfleet and open up a bar in San Francisco. It would be like "Cheers", 300 years in the future. As I say, the project never went anywhere (though I did get accepted into The New York Television Festival's pilot-pitching contest.), but some of the research I did included reading To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, The Captain's Daughter (a Star Trek novel by Peter David, about Sulu's daughter Demora), and the indispensable Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future by Michael and Denise Okuda.
Lots of that geekery found its way into Ore, or Or, as well.
I think that's all for now. One certainly doesn't need to read all these books to enjoy Ore, or Or, but I hope this was enlightening.