well, 2014 is almost in the books.
I can't say i'm devastated.
on a personal level, it wasn't exactly the best year i've ever had.
so much so that it's been easy to overlook some of the greater things that happened this year. on a professional level, it's actually been pretty exciting.
my newest theater company, This Is Not A Theatre Company, premiered two new works - Pool Play and A Serious Banquet. We recorded a pod play, Ferry Play, which is in development for release in 2015. And we are currently workshopping our next piece, Readymade Cabaret. Not bad for a single year.
In the meantime, my Philly-based theater company, Murmuration Theater, is in development for our next piece, Breakdown. We're alls et to premiere a short play at the 2015 Nice N Fresh series.
so....while on a certain level it is with great joy that I kiss 2014 goodbye, I'm deeply grateful for the professional activities that have proved such a welcome distraction from personal challenges.
wishing you and yours a happy and HEALTHY 2015.
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.
Just finished an amazing week of workshopping A Serious Banquet, the play I am working on with Erin Mee (have you liked our Facebook Page yet?! You should. You'll hear all the latest on what we're up to) This piece has been the result of Erin's limitless imagination and capacity to see theater in everything. And what a job she's done.
What is A Serious Banquet? in 1908, a 26-year old Pablo Picasso bought a painting at a garage sale. It was being sold for the cost of the canvas, with the idea that it was so worthless, the buyer could at least paint over it to reuse the canvas. But Picasso liked it. So much that he tracked down the painter, Henri Rousseau (at the time, a 64-year old retired Toll Collector), and designed a dinner party in his honor. This party grew into legend. Who was there? Gertrude Stein, of course, and her lover Alice B Toklas. Picasso girlfriend and oft-muse Fernande Olivier, the poet Andre Salmon, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, a very, very drunk Marie Laurencin, Picasso's best buddy George Braque... pretty much some of history's most brilliant artists, gathered in a room, celebrating being young ('cept Rousseau...) and drunk and poor and loving every minute of it.
A Serious Banquet is a love letter to that party, it's a restaging but not a reenactment - part immersive theater, part dinner party, part the experience of being dropped into a piece of cubist art. I like to think that I co-authored this script with Pablo, George, Andre, and Gertrude. Well, and the rest of the team, of course.
And what a team we had. So many amazing actors, one hell of a directorial consultant and the baddest ass sound designer who created this cubist party. It was a total blast, and I couldn't be prouder of the Serious Banquet we created. Up next for this show: a full staging, probably in June! Please join us then!
It was an intense week, but we culminated with a very successful showing at New York Theatre Workshop tonight! Tomorrow, day off, then Wednesday we start the Pool Play!
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?!