Wednesday, November 11, 2009


As a borderline-articulate individual who adores the sound of my own adenoidal baritone, I’ve often been asked why I don’t have a blog. It’s like being handed a free megaphone, after all, and since I’m (whether I like it or not) a creature of the stage – and one that never seems to want for an extra word or eight – a blog would seem to perfectly suit my need to EXPRESS.

Well, it’s true that I have this blog, but there are several ancillary reasons I haven’t yet made more it, most of which can be boiled down to lack of time. But in my mind these pale before one unavoidable fact: I am a small, petty individual. I am jealous and peevish and begrudging. After nearly 12 years of creating and producing shows with Piper McKenzie, I have a knee-jerk tendency to view the theater world and the work of my peers through the lens of my own thwarted genius. “That should have been my opportunity.” “Why wasn’t our show called out for that kind of praise?” Et cetera, ad nauseum, ad somnium.

On the surface I’m a nice guy, and deep down I really do wish the best for my friends and colleagues, but on that middling animalistic level boiling between the hard, brittle shell of social manners and the enduring flame of human compassion, I’m an asshole. Or worse – a whiner, a glass-half-emptier, an imaginary slightee, both a bore and a boor. I’ve tried to set a rule for myself that I can’t write any Facebook status updates that are merely complaints about the surface frustrations of my really quite fortunate day-to-day existence. My Facebook friends will note that I often go many, many days without updating my status.

So this is why, to date, I haven’t made a serious go at blogging. To complain about my friends’ successes, to snipe at what I’m too dense or distracted to admit I don’t fully understand about their productions, to embark upon litany after litany bemoaning the indignities of my own creative process – who the hell wants to look at THAT? Heretofore, the world has been lucky enough not to know what it’s been missing.

As of today, the world’s tenuous good luck has been shaken. Anti-manifesto, aside, here’s what’s inspired me to blather like this: our superesteemed colleague Mr. Trav S.D. has posted an entry on his blog Travalanche that sums up much of how I felt regarding the critical reaction to our Fringe production of Willy Nilly – and he’s done it in a way that, while not giving short shrift to the disappointment engendered by such a response, manages to be dignified and idiosyncratic and funny and, in its own perverse way, optimistic. Take a minute to read it, if you haven’t already.

Trav brings up so much good stuff that I hardly know where to begin. The problems he addresses are the problems that any of us face who create theater in a city that doesn’t particularly seem to have much use for it. In particular he rails against the critics. To wit:

• You get reviewed for your marketing rather than what you put on stage.
• Critics (and often audiences) tend to treat you as guilty until proven innocent – or rather, stupid until proven smart.
• Experiments with humor are viewed as inept, failed attempts at same.
• If your work can’t be put in a recognizable bucket, it’s either disregarded or maligned.

Are these gross, unnuanced simplifications of exactly the type I’m railing against? Of course! Did the Willy Nilly critics have a point at times? Most likely! Is this the same lament that has been wailed from the rooftops by artists of every generation since there were rooftops to wail from? Almost definitely!

Despite this, the fact that we all persist in making theater despite an overcrowded and underfunded market – performing largely for fellow artists who have taken a break from bailing out our collective leaky rowboat to cheer on the deft bucketwork of their neighbors – is something that fills me with breathless awe when I’m not too busy feeling depressed about the holes I’ve volunteered to plug up myself. It’s a pain in the ass to do something for the love of it, and anyone who pretends it’s not has probably known neither love nor ass-pain. But here we are all together, and here’s Trav writing a heartfelt missive addressing these frustrations on the eve of an incredible-sounding new project, and, well, it inspired me. Can exposing my own dissatisfactions with the peculiar challenges facing pragmatic dreamers of our ilk make for interesting reading, provide value to any peers undergoing similar self-imposed trials, and – most importantly – make me feel better?

I hope the answer is yes, because this is a pretty high word count for maybe. In this age of social media (when people really shouldn’t be writing at this length and expecting people to get to the end), I don’t need to confine these thoughts to intensive conversations with Hope while she’s trying to get to sleep – I can fold them up into little paper boats and loose them upon the raging currents of the Internet!

I’ll try to write up some more screeds like this as we work on our current projects – Lady Cryptozoologist and Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury, both of which are desperately dear to my heart despite their relative lack of easy explanation. Perhaps folks who come to check them out – or be in them, or hate them from afar or whatever – will read this and say, “Oh. Okay.” And maybe – just maybe – I’ll actually find something positive to say in the process!

Meanwhile, best of luck to Trav and the cast and crew of Kitsch, which opens tomorrow night at Theater for the New City!

1 comment:

  1. Here, here!
    Excelsior, excelsior!
    Thank you, thank you!