why do we make theater?
ugh, who's we? dumb question.
why do I make theater? is, i guess, the question i really have any authority to answer. but just as it amazes me to see all of my peers/friends/collaborators fearlessly giving of themselves with the art (theater) they create on a daily basis, so am I, frankly, a bit baffled that it's something I have such a thirst to do.
at my worst moments, I worry that I do it for the praise. but that can't be true, because frankly, for every piece of praise, there's two to three pieces of criticism to follow. the ratio is not 1:1. For every person who is ready to make themselves vulnerable and share something precious with an audience of strangers or semi-strangers, there are four who are ready to jump in at the last second and tell them what they did wrong, or what wasn't as "interesting" or "accessible" or "fun".
If i'm doing this for the praise, frankly, if any of us are doing this for the praise, we were woefully misinformed on how much praise to expect. yes, when praise comes, when genuine praise comes, its amazing. but more likely, it's going to hurt like hell. More likely than praise is a "fearless" (and fuck you, that is not fearlessness) reviewer is going to "tell it like it is" (and really, that's not fearlessness) by offering a dismissive "eh" from the sidelines, all respect for us and how much of ourselves we put into this aside. If I wanted praise, I chose the wrong career. I should have been a... hmmm...not sure, actually. I was always pretty good at math in high school. maybe i could have been a mathlete for praise.
but I don't really do it "for me", either. if i wanted to do things "for me" I would write super bad, self-indulgent poetry in a notebook and never show it to anyone. I would try and draw. it would be bad, but i would keep it to myself and secretly call myself a genius. And there would be no one to contradict that so... art for me.
But i don't do that kind of art. I chose a kind of art that in its very definition involves exchange. sharing. giving. there is no theater without an audience and so, there is no theater without you. the person i made this (play/scene/musical/one act/10 minute) for. you're why i do it. not me. i want to give something to you; in fact, i get high off of giving something to you. off of handing you a strange, hopefully beautiful maybe upsetting, hopefully interesting and provocative and fun and entertaining and maybe painful but hopefully a good or important kind of painful THING.
here again, is a baffling revelation. i do theater in order to give something desperately precious to someone i maybe don't know. with absolutely no idea about what they'll think. on the one hand: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME. WHY WOULD I/WE CHOOSE TO DO THAT. that is SUREFIRE grounds to have these things i made destroyed, criticized, rejected.
but on the other hand... when the risk pays off? it is magic. it is, as i mentioned, a high like i have never before chased. when i give it and you GET it, or are intrigued, thoughtful, curious, interested... when it delights you, or scares you in all the right ways, or makes you think or feel or focus: that is beautiful. that is art. that is the absolute best about what it means to be a human condensed into one perfect moment: connection. that is a second that validates a lifetime of work. that is rightness.
and so, we do it. we share it. we put thousands of hours into projects and then, trembling, hand them out to you, hoping beyond all measure that you take them from us. and knowing, full while, that there will be some who don't. who ignore, reject, dismiss, cooly decide "i didn't like it" without considering what it was about it that you didn't like, and what that means. because we know, if even one of you gets it, feels it, or bothers to think about and explore what confused or upset you, what delighted or intrigued you, well...then. that's good. and right. and art. and fuck, it's worth it.
When it came time to find someone to design the awesome poster for Makeshift, I knew to look no further than my dear, dear friend Sebastian, who also happens to be an exceptional graphic designer. We are in love with the final poster he made for us, but the truth is, he made so many other awesome ones that it felt like a shame to keep them hidden away! With his permission, I wanted to share with you some of his amazing proposals!
come see Makeshift!!
in case i haven't already plastered this website with enough information about my latest theatrical venture (i'msoexcitedi'msoexcitedi'msoexcitedi'msoexcitedi'msoexited!!!!), i wanted to get all the details plastered in ONE more place.
My play Makeshift, developed with Murmuration Theater Company, opens in LESS THAN A MONTH!
Where: Plays and Players Upstairs (1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, PA)
When: November 6 - 8:30
November 7 - 8:30
November 8 - 8:30
November 9 - 2 & 8:30
November 10 - 2
Why: because theater, guys! because self-producing! because we made this thing and we love it and we're proud of it and we want, more than anything, to share it with you! because every tickets that gets sold now helps ease my irrational but ever present fears that no one will come - just a little.
a picture's worth...
Introducing, Murmuration Theater's brand-new logo, designed by the incomparable Sebastian Moya, who is not only a dear friend, but also a hell of a designer. Check out his website for more info on Sebastian's doings!
is it later yet?
there are some stretches of life where you're sort of in a holding pattern, and although plenty is going on, nothing is close enough for my impatient ass!
*** Makeshift, which is moving along quite swimmingly all the way down there in philly. can i just say, it freaking SUCKS to have an incredible group of people you're collaborating with who all happen to live in a different state, and for that practical reason have to do all sorts of fun stuff - rehearsal, production meetings - without you? I was able to make it down to PA a few times in August for some fucking AWESOME production meetings and rehearsals, but the whole, you know, having a day job thing means that as we arrived at September, Murmuration pretty much had to keep going without my constant (annoying) presence. I knew this was going to happen - and yet... it feels like a double sad face scenario :( :(
Obviously I am easily accessible by email, and as the playwright I am not essential to rehearsal, but dang, I miss them!
*** That picasso play I mentioned! Productions seem to really be happening - maybe early summer 2014?
*** A podplay! (What's a podplay, you ask?) stay tuuuuned!
*** that next piece that i'm now really set on writing for Murmuration. So far it's only living in my head, but it sure looks good there. i have daily daydream/fantasies about how much Nell, Isa and Brian are going to kick ass at it.
*** here's a fun one: I'm writing an ebook! it started out as a joke ("fifty shades of fucking GREY made a billion dollars and that is the worst crap i've ever read!!! i could do that!"), but then i started writing something for fun, and then it started getting REALLY fun, and now I'm kind of thinking: this is fun! finish it! put it in the internet! charge almost nothing! see if anyone wants to read it! but here's the thing: writing books? kind of takes a while...)
Anyway, to continue the cooking metaphor -- it's all in the oven (well, some of it is still in get-the-mise-en-place-set phase), but nothing's ready to eat yet! (wow, bad, bad BAD metaphor, jessie...)
which leads me to the following important question:
IS IT LATER YET?!
surrounding yourself with talent
i can't emphasize this enough: to stave off the inevitable feelings of despair, anxiety, and self-consciousness that accompany creating art, surround yourself with brilliant collaborators. when you doubt yourself, their talent is often enough to buoy you through just about anything. plus, they make you look better. good work begets better work, amirite?
november's production of Makeshift will feature the directing talents of a fabulous young Philly-based director, M. Craig Getting. i didn't know Craig very well (at all) before Isa brought him in on this project, but god knows i trust isa on all matters theatrical, so if he was her top pick, he was mine. i'm still getting to know craig, and honestly, given that I'm here in NYC and the rest of murmuration is down in Philly, probably won't get to "collaborate" with him as intensely as I generally like to on a theatrical project. For that reason alone, this "get" was an act of trust. So imagine my delight when Craig shared this article that he wrote for HowlRound on working with new plays and new playwrights - from his perspective.
there's something immeasurably special about realizing you're in the same spiritual (because let's face it - working on a show is a spiritual measure) boat with someone. it's rarer than you'd think in the theatrical world, so to find it is truly a treasure.
The warm fuzzies
today has been one of those days.
the good kind.
first, i got the delightfully amazing news that the murmuration kickstarter has reached it's fundraising goal. As of this press time (i.e. 4:15 on Thursday as I type this), 71 backers have given us a total of $3,017.
I don't know which of those numbers I'm more jazzed about: the $3,017 or the 71. Honestly, it might be the 71. The fact that SEVENTY ONE people believe enough in my work, and Brian's work, and Nell's work, and Isa's work, to make a financial commitment to its success is humbling and thrilling. It makes me excited about art, and giving, and the future, and society, and filled with all sorts of warm fuzzies.
As I watch the number inch up, I get more and more excited about what we're going to be able to do. Another $10 means another hour of rehearsal time. Another $50 means one the brilliant designers or technicians we're going to work with gets slightly more than the pittance we originally promised them in compensation. They've agreed to help us for next to nothing, but now we get to give them next-to-next-to nothing?! Badass, y'all.
and of course, the second reason this has been a fantastic day: MINUTES after getting the news that Makeshift is going to be a reality, I was struck, all of a sudden, with my next play. Like the best of my ideas, it hit me out of nowhere, seemingly precipitated by nothing (except the knowledge, perhaps, that its predecessor is happening). My hope is that it will feature the 3 actors pictured below. And it'll be in "3s", if you will. 3 acts. 3 Rooms. ...
...but I'm getting ahead of myself. First things, proving 71 people right by mounting a fabulous production in November. Doing my damdest to get that production to NYC in 2014. And being full of love and gratitude.
Ever wanted to be a hero?
Now's your chance!
Murmuration Theater needs your help!!
We are trying to raise funds to support November's production of Makeshift. We would be honored if you would support this project. We happen to think that crowdfunding is one of the greatest inventions of the internet.
The truth is, there's just not that much support for the Arts in America these days -- except from individuals! Even a small donation on your part can make a huge difference in getting this show on our feet.
For the past three YEARS, we have been working on this show, and we're just months away from being able to put it on its feet! If you're interested, please check out our video, and consider kicking a few bucks our way. There's some sweet perks, too! (Including tickets to the show in the fall!)
Even if you can't give right now, please help spread the word! Let your friends know about your show, direct them to our kickstarter.
Peace and love!