On my road trip to Idaho on the motorcycles with Bruno, we spent a night at a motel-RV park with a mini-mart, a bar and gas station. It was during this trip that I was kicking around the idea of ‘the edge’. What is it about? At Middlegate Station, a place to stop for weary travelers, I discovered a community that lives on the edge of the loneliest highway in America, Highway 50 in Nevada. The roadhouse sits on the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 361.
In this age of internet and commercial industry, Middlegate Station is remote. There were stretches of the road when we didn’t encounter another car for hours, except for transport trucks which were infrequent. With smaller gas tanks, we took every opportunity to fill up, not knowing where the next gas station will be open or operable. The map was only second best to word of mouth for reliable information.
We filled up at Gabbs and talked to the attendant who told us that the road is decent and recommended to gas up at Middlegate, because beyond that she didn’t know what’s opened. Gabbs is a small mining town that experienced a downturn when the magnesium mine closed. It was close to 3 pm when we rolled into Middlegate. Inside the bar, there were windows that faced northeast on the L of hwy 50 and hwy 361, and a young man grilled hamburger meat. At his feet was a toddler and further into the dark room, an older man behind the counter talking with two men who watched the TV with the volume at high.
We decided to refresh with some drinks before filling up the tanks. I ordered a dark beer and Bruno had white wine. It tasted good. We looked at the menu. “Freedom Fries”. I told Bruno to keep quiet so as not to give away his French accent. There were $1 dollar bills pinned, stapled and taped on every surface of the place, except for the table tops. The walls and ceiling were stained with tar from tobacco and grease. The little girl started to cry. The young man and older man, both with similar features, looked at each other. They communicated without words. Father and son spoke gently to the young baby, telling her gently that her mom will be back later.
I finished my beer and told Bruno I could have another one it tasted so good, and I wanted to know more about this place, these people. There was something special about them. Go ahead he said. But I wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike if I had another drink. I was exhausted after 2 days on the bike, and I wasn’t trained for these long hauls. Then I thought I knew what the pony express riders felt when they rode from station to station at break neck speeds while trying to avoid getting killed. My situation wasn’t as dire, but like them I was gloriously happy to come upon this haven. We decided to stay, ‘if they have room’ I said. The old man had watched us and listened to our conversation.
I asked if they had a room, and the old man said “Let me check.” I was surprised by his answer, because the place looked deserted except for the local people, and there were only a handful there. He checked his book, then said there is one room left. I wondered if he was kidding me. We took the room. He gave us the key and the direction across the courtyards towards the row of trailers that were subdivided into rooms. We finished our beers and moved the bikes closer to the trailer motel.
The room had a double bed and a single bed, a night table and lamp. The toilet and tub were clean. The space was cramped but the important thing was it was proudly clean and complete. There were towels and grooming paraphernalia. We unloaded the bike, put the gear on the single bed then headed back to the bar for food and more beverages. After that we played horseshoes at the pit. The proprietor, the old man, came to watch and made a friendly passing comment. Bruno beat my pants, though he’s never played the game before. Afterwards, we took a long nap and woke up at twilight.
Upon waking Bruno offered to get me something to drink at the bar. He left me inside the room, and I lounged and listened to the falling twilight. I heard voices and cars outside. Bruno walked in with the beer and he had ice for his white wine. His news was there were some new people that checked in. So they were busy after all. The old man had expected others, so we were lucky to get a room. Bruno urged me to get up to see the sunset. We walked around. The foothills were shadows upon the setting sun on the wild West. It was in the middle of nowhere. They have generators for electricity. What about water? Is there a well or do they have to bring that in?
We joined the others in the bar. Beer and wine flowed, a man played the guitar and sang Western songs. He did both really well too. The locals and the new comers had known each other from before. They had returned to film the 2nd half of the documentary ‘The Last Road House’.
In 2011, Ryan and Lisette Cheresson and their friends from New York were headed off to Burning Man. The convoy stopped at Middlegate Station for some rest and to refresh their supplies before they got back on the road. The couple were impressed by the people in this nowhere place which embodied strength and soul. It was a community that lived off the grid, and in 2013 they found out that the owners Freda and Russ Stevenson were struggling to maintain their livelihood. Their small community of people living in RVs and trailers relied on energy powered by a diesel generator. With this documentary their intention is to draw attention to the need of this community to have access to a clean source of energy. As the price of diesel had risen dramatically high, they want to help the community try to get funding for solar energy.
This was the edge living in the outback without any of the infrastructure that we take for granted. Yes, there was water for my showers at Middlegate, but at what cost? There was cold beer and hot food, but at what cost? I read someone’s critique about the hamburger served at Middlegate, and wondered if the person even considered the energy that brought that food on his plate in the middle of nowhere.
I experienced that edge during that 18 hour period. It was in the fierce grit of people who were hanging on to the remains of a lifestyle choice.
‘The state of Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for solar energy capacity. There are currently 84 companies in operation in Nevada that provide solar energy, but Fredda said the $750,000 start-up cost is way out of her price range. Fredda has applied for several grants to install a solar array at Middlegate, all of which have been denied. If you’re not on the grid and can’t put energy back into it, you don’t qualify. This puts people like Fredda in an impossible situation. “If you’re not on the grid,” she says, “you’re a second-class citizen.”’
The edge was in the gracious hospitality of the inhabitants to strangers in an inhospitable environment. The edge was the bond between father and son soothing the baby in her need and cry for her mother. The edge was the man singing with his one of a kind acoustic Gibson guitar. The edge was his deep gratitude and joy that Ryan remembered to bring him the proper tool to fix his guitar, because there wasn’t a luthier or Guitar Center nearby in any direction.
A conversation with the 22 year old, Maggie Urban-Weale, a journalism major and volunteer for the crew was a reminder of believing in something good and not expecting rewards. Later that evening, as we all walked to our respective rooms, we hung out under the moonlight and finished our drinks. We invited her in to play guitar, and she sang ‘Closing Time’. Speaking with the youngest of the crew members, I was reminded of hope and beauty. The young people of today want a better tomorrow, and they’re striving for it with this project.
“There are an estimated 200,000 people in America living off-grid. Many of these people, who lack access to municipal utilities like power or water, are the ranchers, miners, and truckers who keep America moving. Middlegate keeps those ranchers and truckers moving, and is one of the region’s only social hubs. Places like Middlegate are important not only for their historical value, but because of their significance in rural communities.”
“Artistically, we are interested in the juxtaposition of the old and the new—how new technology (such as solar) can help save historic places (like Middlegate). We’re also interested in the interplay between the rugged individualism that categorizes much of the rural West and their need for governmental assistance. As one academic told us, for the people of Middlegate to reach out and ask for help means that their situation is dire.” – http://www.lastroadhouse.com/
To book a room at Middlegate Station go to their website. http://middlegatestation.net/Home_Page.html
“Revival” is featuring at the Acting Artist’s Theatre in West Hollywood and it opened last Sunday, January 18th. Carla Neuss and I had a conversation on the weekend before it opened. She arrived from Friday’s rehearsal, and seemed focused and relaxed. It was the first rehearsal without any glitch. She produced and directed the play for its premiere in Los Angeles. The play was featured in Oxford in 2010, and was the winner of the 2010 Oxford New Writing Festival.
The inspiration of the play was the revival of cocktail lounge culture that emerged in the 1990’s. She started writing the play around 2009, at a time when she was looking to work on a lighter piece apart from her thesis. From her experience of working in a bar and dating a bartender in Oxford, she taught the actor who plays Crispin how to properly mix drinks. There are specific order and techniques in making a cocktail. The magic potion is a combination of three things. Similar to the creation of a new perfume that has its base notes, middle notes and high notes – a cocktail has the base spirit that is the main flavor of the drink, the modifier/mixer that blends with the base without overpowering it, and a flavoring that rounds out the whole packaging.
A mixologist is a craftsman like an artisan of food, pottery or glassmaking. He considers the environment and its inhabitants when creating the concoction. The play begins with Tyler, a regular patron of the unnamed bar, and he tells a story about being a knight errant. An angel offers him a chalice brimful of potion to regain his strength. He asks Crispin “make me that drink.” There are four rules that patrons of the bar must abide by. Rule #4 is drink requests are not permitted. “Only stories or inclinations should be presented to the bartender for him to utilize or ignore at his discretion.”
One of the challenges of producing this play was finding the right actor to play Crispin. The play is 90 minutes long without any intermission, and Crispin is onstage at all times while patrons arrive and leave. With each entrance and departure they spin a web of their realities, dreams, aspirations and woes. Crispin works to enhance their stories with his custom made drinks. Carla told me that she had to reach out to Ben Moroski with whom she collaborated with on another project last year. When casting the role she sought someone who had a strong presence without the showmanship. The role of Crispin needs an actor who can be the eye of the storm while the other characters whirl in the vortex around him with their pretenses and their stumbling truths.
I asked Carla how she chose to collaborate on projects. She said she’s only been back in California for a year, having spent the previous 4 years in Oxford. She’s building her network from word of mouth. I heard about the play from James Svatko, the actor who plays Fred in “Revival”. James was the producer and director of “The Last Train” a play written by Natacha Astuto. I told James it was delightful to see him another role wearing a jacket instead of his prison cell overalls (from ‘The Last Train’). After the opening performance last Sunday, James and I had a brief moment to greet each other at Harlowe’s, the bar next door to the theatre.
I asked Carla if there was any particular group that she hoped to attract with this play. The context of the question is that most theater goers I’ve seen at Ahmanson, Geffen and Pasadena Playhouse are in the mature age range. We agreed that theater competes with other genres of entertainment. As an art form a play asks of its audience to invest intellectually, and draw upon their experiences and imagination to understand what it is about. The audience can be moved by a scene, but understanding what the play is all about is challenging. Perhaps the topic of mixology can attract some of the younger crowd, especially the cocktail lounge culture. On opening night, the play’s program can be used to get a ten percent discount on a customized cocktail at Harlowe’s. (I don’t know if this applies throughout the run of the play.)
A mysterious liqueur in the play has its own revival in history. Crispin, in his quest to help the world transcend beyond the ordinary life had found Crème Yvette on e-Bay. The liqueur had not been produced since 1969. The setting of the play does not refer to a specific period, but it probably occurs before the 2009 when the production of the liqueur was revived by the Cooper Spirits Company. The arrival of the box that holds the precious nectar made from raspberries, wild strawberries, blackberries, and cassis from the famed Aquitaine region and blended with dried violet petals is a ceremony. Crispin puts on ethereal music, (Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”) on the turntable, then lays out a lace mantle. He pours the violet-garnet hued Crème Yvette into a crystal glass and takes his first sip.
Crispin’s bar is this place of transformation. What is a story without the heat between a man and woman? Enter Jo, a beautiful young woman played by Adrienne Whitney. She supports her studies in literature as an escort. She uses the bar as a regular spot for her rendez-vous, but she’s also attracted to Crispin. She becomes a catalyst to change the homeostasis of the bar. Victor Gurevech plays Tyler, the young dreamer who voraciously upholds the rules of the bar. Tyler looks to Crispin for relief from the mundane world. Joseph Martone plays two supporting roles, both as escorts of Jo. He did marvelously in maintaining his composure when his moustache slipped from his upper lip to cover his mouth just as he was to start a story. Then there is the pastor, Fred, (played by James Svatko). Fred is simply a man who needs a break from his job description ‘to love all people’.
Crispin listens to their stories and mixes their drinks. The customers’ wear their lives on their jackets, ties, costumes and breathes it out through their skin. Their realities mix with the sanctity of Crispin’s bar. The revival is opening the eyes to our humanity while striving for perfection.
“There’s a feeling you can get sometimes… something triggers it and you suddenly feel all your fingers and toes and you loop up and the people around you are smiling and you are talking about something big and important and beautiful and the world feels like not a such a bad place to live after all – it feels like it was meant to be good…” – Crispin (from “Revival”).
Revival is playing on weekends from January 18 at 8pm and will continue on Saturdays, January 24, 31, and February 7 at 3pm and 8pm.Tweet
#4 Paying for it (Part 2) – You’re on Your Own (Read Part 1 Here)
by Guest Blogger Anna Nicholas
When I lost the theatre company as a potential financial partner, it fell to me to raise the money for my play. And as I faced that daunting prospect, I again turned to people who’d self-produced before me. Some had trust funds or wealthy spouses—I didn’t; some were ex TV writers with big bank accounts—ditto; an actuary friend financed his show by calculating life expectancies—who knew? Most, however, used some combination of their own money, loans and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, etc.).
Eight to ten months from opening, my plan was to sell my house and use some of the profit to pay for the show while also creating a kickass Kickstarter campaign in the hope that all my friends would give me $20-50 and I’d raise $15,000. After all, I reasoned, whenever I get hit up, I give at least that. But as things turned out, by the time I parted ways with the company, it was too late to put together (what I thought would be) a quality campaign, considering all the producing and rewriting I was doing.
For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on crowdfunding: You can be successful but it’s no longer a new idea and may have even lost some of its appeal. If you’re going to do it, you need to develop your campaign so it attracts investors you don’t know as well as those you do. Running a crowdfunding campaign is like having another project instead of being an easy means to an end. It takes a lot of time. You need to have compelling pictures, text that “grabs the reader”, video and enticing giveaways for donors. Then you need to publicize the crap out of it, while continually adding updates. You need to get people excited about being part of your project enough to donate and ask them to forward the links so others can, all with the hope of going large with fundraising.
There are now hundreds of crowdfunding sites so start by sifting through them to see if there’s a perfect fit for your project. I won’t list all the possibilities; just Google “great crowdfunding sites” and you’ll get there. Regardless of how many options there are, however, most people end up on Kickstarter, Indie-Go-Go or Hatchfund. There are differences so read the fine print. For example, Hatchfund likes to say the artist keeps the entire donation but what they do is add a fee to the donor. To me this feels like a trick. It’s not cool if your friend intended his total give to be $20 and now he has to do some math in order to keep it there. Kickstarter and Hatchfund need you to make your entire stated amount before they release funds while Indie-Go-Go lets you keep what’s been donated even if you don’t make your nut (though they’ll take a larger fee for your right to do so). Depending on how much money you need, it might be better to go to a few individuals and say, “Hey, I’m trying to raise some money for my show. Would you possibly give me $100 and I’ll give you 4 tickets to opening night?”
In my case I just didn’t have any hours left to flog the crowdfunding endeavor, particularly since I was so late in starting. In retrospect I should not have counted on things working out with the theatre company and developed the campaign. But when that fell through about 9 weeks before opening, I had to scramble and there just wasn’t time. Had I found a volunteer to take over the task, I might have proceeded as well.
So in the end, it was the house sale that came through. Of course I would have preferred to use other peoples’ money. When something is not likely to make its money back, one should always risk somebody else’s money. But I didn’t have that privilege and I’d grown tired of waiting for my mystery benefactor or that angel artistic director to appear. And seriously, at my age (55) and a woman? The chances of that happening were about as likely as being offered the casting couch. There aren’t many “emerging” playwrights my age, unless you want to define “emerging” as people nobody knows finally popping their heads out of the sand. So, like the lioness Theresa Rebeck and many others before me, I needed to be my biggest fan and self-produce my own work. Put your money where your mouth is, right?
Next up: The Budget and Trying Not to Break itTweet
I like kids’ movies a lot. Sue me. Please don’t actually sue me as that’s a dumb reason to sue someone and I’m too poor for legal fees. What was my point? Oh right, I like kids’ movies. I think that children’s films present a lot of simple truths in easy to swallow, not quite as grandiose ways. The Lego Movie teaches us that everything is better when you’re part of a team and that by believing you’re “the Special” you can become “the Special.” Side note: If you haven’t seen the Lego Movie you’re wrong. Just wrong. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is wrong for not nominating them (I have a lot of Feelings about it).
The first movie I remember seeing in theaters was Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear asserts that he’s not flying, he’s “falling with style.” That moment is great because you realize that Buzz knows he’s never going to fly and he’s ok with that because damn, can he fall with style.
Lately I’ve been wondering if that’s all success is – Falling with Style. I have trouble watching other people fly, not because I want them to fall but because I am ashamed of my own clumsy falling. But perhaps it’s just an issue of style. If anyone can show me how to keep falling, but how to do it with style and aplomb, please let me know in the comment section. Until then, I’m going to watch Tangled for the 1000th time.Tweet
Welcome to 2015 LAFPI! The start of a new year is when a lot of us take stock of where we are at and where we want to be, re-evaluate our habits and try to kick things into a higher gear because gosh-darnit if we aren’t all full of untapped potential, right? haha. The key to these resolutions, I think, is not letting yourself get swept up in the hype of self-improvement and burn out too fast amidst impossible expectations (there’s that word again). At the same time, it’s a great time to verbalize those way-big dreams and create solid, realistic, chewable bite-sized steps that you can do each day to make them happen. We’re all works in progress, all the time- and in case you weren’t aware- we always will be. The scaffolding never goes down completely, just like in New York City, it simply pops up on another building down the block.
I am extremely fortunate in that I got a super exciting, head-start boost before my New Years reflections started. A new job! No longer confined to my cubical prison from 8-5 collecting money, I am instead working part time for a financial planning and investments firm as their client relations manager. I make virtually the same amount of money working less hours, doing a much a more enjoyable job with really great people. This has been HUGE for me. As evidenced by my last year of blogs on here, things had been kinda… down for me. I wasn’t able to create as much as my artsty soul requires to feel alive and kicking. I am incredibly grateful.
When I started thinking about my New Years resolutions this year, I really took the time to consider where I am at, what I want and what I can do to get there. I am not someone who has a high a success rate at keeping promises I make to myself- I may banish all chips from my diet one day, only to have them as the main course the next. I may promise myself to complete 7 screenplays & plays by January 2014, and by January 2014 have completed none. So, it’s all good and well to say to yourself on December 31st, “Self, tomorrow is a whole new day in a whole new year and I am going to be a whole new me,” but the truth is, you won’t be. You’ll still be you. With the same hang-ups and quirks and anxieties that caused you to do those things that kept you from getting closer to achieving your goals last year. So a better thing to say to yourself on December 31st, or any day is, “What haven’t I tried yet?”
I decided to only look one month ahead this year, picking two goals and specific deadlines for them throughout the month. This month my goal is to write 50,000 words in my novel (1613/day) and to do a cardio workout 5x a week with yoga 3x a week. I made mini-deadlines every week throughout the month and if I don’t hit those then there are consequences like cleaning my mom’s car or cooking a meal of her choice for her. I talked to my mom about these goals and asked her to help keep me accountable. She also has set goals for this month and if at the end of the month we have achieved our goals, we are treating ourselves to a spa day.
My plan is to do this every month this year. I’ve made up a list of exciting rewards and not-so-fun consequences. For me, it’s important to have both these negative and positive reinforcements, as well as the accountability and encouragement of a support-buddy (I’m trying to rope my friends into joining us as well!) So far it’s really working and I feel so much more at peace with my “work in progress” self because I’m not letting my potential go to waste; I’m working it like clay between my hands every single day. This also means that I am more in touch with where I am at in my process, more attuned to my short-comings, more able to see the glints of my progress and less stuck in between the fantasy of where I expect myself to be, the memories of where I’ve once been, and the exaggerated depression of how it feels when reality hits.
I hope this post is of encouragement and inspiration to you as you start off the new year. I think it is also important to remember, as you look inside and outside of yourself for things you want to improve, that you are exactly, perfectly acceptable just the way you are right at this very minute. Stomach rolls, incomplete drafts, messy house, unwashed hair, etc. You are a beautiful, unique, pre-war historic home with the capacity to provide for other humans. You stand on a gorgeous plot of land, planted on our incredible earth for a finite amount of time. You get to experience and witness millions of tiny and monumental things. You will love and are loved. You are enough. But… if would like to, if you feel so inclined and compelled, you may refurbish the floors, recondition the walls, renovate the exterior. These acts may ad value to your home monetarily, may ad a sense of accomplishment you can carry in your step, may help you become more aware of your own strength and capabilities- all good things!- but always remember, today, tomorrow, next January, you are who you are, where you are, and as you are- and that is perfectly enough.
#4 Paying for it (Part 1) – The Company Connection
by Guest Blogger Anna Nicholas
Where does a self-producer get the money to put on a show? Do you bankrupt yourself like Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman? Maybe. (Spoiler alert: It worked out for him.)
Once my play was chosen, there came the question of paying for the production. Of course I had an idea of where I’d get the funds. However, once I’d made the commitment to go forward, reality struck when I had to start writing checks.
My first choice was to ally myself with a theatre company because doing so would help carry the load—from providing the physical space to assisting with lights, costumes, casting etc. Companies will do a co-production because they need shows to fill their theatres and plays in which their members (who usually pay dues and contribute a certain number of hours per week keeping the company going) can perform. But there’s usually a trade off: You may need to cast the company’s members (or a certain percentage) in your show, which may not be in your play’s best interest. You may have to pay for half the set.
If offered such a deal, explore it because doing all the production work yourself requires not only money, but time and lots of effort, some of which in retrospect, I’d like to have back. If you go this route, make sure before you get going that both you and the company are clear about what elements you and they will be responsible for. And write it down! This is a contract and best not left to a verbal understanding. If you either don’t have, or prefer not to work with, a company then you’ll need to come up with the money on your own–from finding an outside financial backer like a rich uncle or through donations and crowd funding.
In the early going with Villa Thrilla, I had a theatre company interested in a co-production. We spent months going down the road on the details: How many company members would I need to cast? Who will be responsible for what portions of the budget? Who would direct? Sadly, we couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds on much of anything and we parted company. I didn’t want to hand off a lot of (what I thought were important) decisions to someone else whose opinions, though valid, were so divergent from my own. Unfortunately, this decision came late in the going, leaving me with a rented theatre space and not a lot of time to put it all together. I recount my experience here to point up what to look out for, not to scare you. Plenty of other playwrights have nothing but good things to say about the arrangements they made with companies. But the rift had me scared and questioning whether I’d made the right decision. I almost bailed on the project out of fear I couldn’t pull it off on my own. Ultimately, I decided to forge ahead, somewhat blindly.
Next up: Crowd funding and where I got the money for Villa Thrilla.Tweet
by Robin Byrd
There was a tornado in California mid December – a strange occurrence this side of the Rockies. Out of the ordinary; it made me think of home and growing up in the midwest in tornado country; it made me think of the sirens going off and the treks to the basement to wait them out. I was suddenly in remembrance of “the house that built me.” All the experiences my midwestern background has bestowed upon me that inform my world. We are who we are because of our experiences.
I may have southern nuances that pepper my work but I am a midwestern writer with a midwestern sound – a sound I inherited from the region that grew my sentiments. I understand the tornado and its winds and thunder and lightening. I know there is safety in the eye of the storm. I know that the quiet in the midst of a storm builds hope and expectation… I know the sun comes out after and we behold brighter days.
I enjoy traveling home to rejuvenate myself and though, nothing remains the same, it is good to remember where one comes from in order to stay the course of where one wants to go and to continue on regardless of the tornados…
by Robin Byrd
Having gone through an entire year striving for harmony, I find myself in these last few days 1) very excited about the coming year and what it will bring, and 2) nearly undone by the journey thus far – nearly but not completely… It has been hard getting out of my old skin and becoming…more…but it has also been enlightening.
Harmony is a coming together, a joining together, unification, agreement, accord, synchronization…
Harmony enhances the melody. All I need to do is keep my strings tuned and know when to play second fiddle even though I can play first.
2014 has been a year of going deep, of following the rabbit down that rabbit hole and experiencing the entirety of wonderland. Forcing myself to go with the flow has taken me to new levels in my writing. I have finally shed the last of my inhibitions; usually less inhibited when writing poetry, I have seen my recent pieces come to the page in more exacting ways since I have decided to “write it like poetry”. Scary and exciting and liberating…
2015 hints at being a very good year…
May your 2015 bring you harmony and growth and prosperity…Tweet
Speaking of unexpected sources of inspiration or, if you will, gifts that don’t fit into (figurative) boxes, it occurred to me, how swell and gift-like an extraordinary play is – the kind with the capacity to shed light, to transform, to expand our world, along with our individual and collective understanding of it. The kind that reminds one she isn’t alone in said world. A play that acts as a soul companion of sorts for one who’s experienced it, for subsequent days and years to come. I think of “thank you” notes I might have written over the course of a lifetime to Carol Bolt for ONE NIGHT STAND, Wallace Shawn for A THOUGHT IN THREE PARTS (and, really, everything else), Gertrude Stein for WHAT HAPPENED, Rochelle Owens for FUTZ, Harold Pinter for OLD TIMES.
It’s quite a rosy way of looking at what we do, I’d say, writing as an act of giving—if only to one person, a single “willing and prepared hearer,” to borrow from Robert Louis Stevenson. And it isn’t so naïve. After all, it’s often been said there’s an audience for everything, for every creative offering. As we look and click around, glimpsing comments on various YouTube videos, there is often the suggestion that this postulate is true.
I do wonder what sorts of gifts we’ve all been working on this holiday season, who will be their most affected recipients. And how to best go about finding those recipients. Another post, I suppose.Tweet
I met a playwright at a party, she was half-dead. She wasn’t drinking. But she was having trouble keeping the lines on her face in order. “Are you okay,” I said. I didn’t ask, even nodded my head. She was neck-to-toe in grey, and I was at the top of a staircase, so I figured we might have an understanding.
She explained that she couldn’t get a grip on her personal statement – which sounds much like one doesn’t know who she is, doesn’t it? No, in her applications to the litany of must-get-ins, into which she presumably never got, it’s that she never felt she knew what they wanted. They. Narrow or broad. Long or short. Casual or formal. Specific or general.
She was in between what we un-ironically call submission deadlines and had come to the soiree to escape the uncertainty, but it was not working. Amid all of the faces, smirking, wowing, grimacing, scanning as they encountered other faces, foods and beverages, she was again and constantly faced with “what do they want?” Really want. Tremendous, the secrets these expressions hold. On the face, and on the paper. Describe your role . . .
What do they want? Same question. Similarly unknown people. The sort found in theatre companies, non-profits, corporations, audiences, cities, parties. People.
It was driving her crazy. I asked her, more flippantly than planned, what it was like to care that much. And at 40+, at which point it’s all, I’m told by numerous magazines, water insouciantly dripping from a duck? It was meant to empower her.
She was unamused. “You wouldn’t be here, if you didn’t have the same problem.” Quietly, I considered the nature of my work and almost conceded but then wondered where “here” was. The staircase? The party? The conversation? California? And what, in fact, was the problem? I didn’t decide. I sat next to her, and we said nothing further. Our eyes in tandem, we peered out into the sea of secret wants as the flock of corresponding faces dwindled to fewer and fewer still, maybe mystified.
Then we went home, at least I did, and wrote a play, along with an accompanying statement, about nothing. Except the things I wanted to know more intimately.Tweet