I’m sending this message out to every writer I know, and by sending it to you, hopefully I’ll hear it myself.
I’ve been around the theatre a long, long time – well, almost forty years to be exact. Like so many of you, over those forty years I’ve seen a lot of theatre: high school and college theatre, community theatre, hole-in- the-wall theatre, struggling-to- stay-alive theatre, regional theatre, off-off Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Broadway theatre. And during those same years, I immersed myself in the making of theatre as an actor, dancer, director, choreographer and finally, as a writer.
While I was in Houston this past weekend meeting local DG playwrights and attending a fascinating festival of short plays by the really talented members of Houston/Scriptwriters, something smacked me in the face – hard – and it wasn’t the legendary humidity (though I have to say, that knocked the wind out of me more than once). I’ll play the scenario for you. It’s 5:00 a.m and I’m checking out of the hotel I’ve stayed in. A sleepy desk manager presents a bill to me. I scan it, look closer, review it one more time to make sure I’m reading it right, then look up to the hapless, sleepless desk manager and bark – and I do mean, bark – “This has got to be a joke, right?”
I know, I know. Not too often you can say that. But within an issue that celebrates the gorgeous tapestry of theatres throughout the country – large and small – that produce new, original work, size doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have produced dramatists in the past and they continue to produce dramatists well into the future. I’m sure you realize that in an unsteady economic climate, that’s a tall order for anybody.
It took me until the tenth grade in high school to find the one class that I could excel in, a class that I actually proudly sat in the front row for, did all the homework assigned, asked for extra-credit work outside of class (unheard of!) and sat with rapt attention from the moment the bell rang signaling its beginning through to its end.
Because of a long list of childhood “dents” in the psyche (being the runt of the litter, not being remotely attached to anything that resembled an organized sport, being “creative” in a way that made people whisper and point and suffering through checker-board acne, poorly formed teeth and equally malformed hair), I spent the better part of my early adult life trying to putty over those dents by being a people pleaser. I learned early on that by salving other people’s injuries, I somehow dulled the ache in me. That’s a really dangerous lesson to learn early on.
Recently, I was in the middle of nowhere (well, somewhere deep in the woods of New
Hampshire) at a theatre conference, sitting at a faux-wood table clustered together with
three other faux-wood tables that made one of five pods of tables in a room designed to
resemble an old, weathered ski lodge (or, faux-lodge).