On Self-Producing

We’ve all heard about the miracle of childbirth.  And no — not the miracle of human emerging from human: the miracle that causes the memory of  its agony to diminish almost immediately after it happens.  Well, it’s been almost six months since The Laughing Cow, the play I wrote and co-produced, opened.  As I contemplate embarking on the process again, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a stroll down the memory lane of angst, neurosis and borderline alcoholism that accompanied the birthing process to see if that same miracle applies.

It’s one thing to produce a play; it’s another to produce your own play; another thing entirely to produce your own play that involves fifteen actors, multiple scene changes, a six-week rehearsal schedule and a shoestring budget.  But that’s beside the point; any playwright-slash-producer in this position can understand the uniqueness of the role and just how freaking lonely it is.

That’s right.  Six months later, as magical, life-affirming and miraculous as it was, what resonates the most glaringly is the lonely feeling I experienced a good amount of the time.  For one thing, whoever said that no one cares about your play as much as you do was dead right.  As great a production team as I had,  there was just that much more at stake for me.  Many a day did I (silently) freak out over someone’s not responding to an email or completing a task they were assigned.  Who cares that they had a job or a husband — the highly hormonal pregnant woman in me was screeching (silently).  This is my baby!  Crowning!  Stop what you’re doing and help me!

Then, production and, to continue with the metaphor, the cord has been cut.  And yet despite the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, dentist, therapist, hair stylist and acupuncturist alike, why didn’t I enjoy it more as I watched my amazing actors speak my words and get laughs?  Why did I sit in abject terror night after night, to the point where a car alarm down the street heard (by me) during the show would send me (silently) into righteous indignation?  My own unique neuroses aside, I can only offer this: my work was done.  As everyone else manned the light booth or acted, I was there watching.  Judging.  Worrying.  And that, my friends, can be very lonely.

After most shows, we’d celebrate at our local watering hole-slash-cool gastropub.  The actors, those lucky sons of bitches, had their catharsis on stage.  My terror was still with me, only mitigated by a shot or three.  They’d chat, watch sports.  I would feel a great sense of accomplishment but still, a part of me was still back there.  Why didn’t we fill the house?  Why didn’t the audience laugh at the funniest line I’ve ever written in my life?

I don’t mean to sound bleak.  Would I do it again?  I would and will, even if nature didn’t do enough of her part to dull the memory of some of the aches and pains.  The magic, the communal effort, the gift of working with so many awesome talents to create something we  will always share — that made it all worth it.

And who knows — next time I may have to do it au naturel, that is to say, without the alcohol.

One thought on “On Self-Producing

  1. Boy, do I feel your labor pains. I went through a similar process to self-produce a play of mine w/ my actors group a few years ago.

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