The True Test

Every single play one does has that one day, one rehearsal, sometimes one *week*, where you realize that the play is simply not going to happen. There is not enough time, you are missing some key element, you will never make that costume change… something that convinces you that the play simply *will not work*.

This is less so with a lot of the downtown straight theater one does, mostly because any kind of technical problem is featured instead of hidden. I can’t remember the last piece I did on this level that had the audacity to put in a costume change, let alone technical stuff that could go wrong. “Dity Juanita” covered a span of about a year or so, and we wore the same pants and shirt for every single scene. When you’re doing a show on a bare stage with eight lighting instruments and wearing your own clothes, you’re not gonna have too many technical problems.

But you still have that one day where you know it isn’t gonna work. And the feeling isn’t gone the next day, you’re just a little gun-shy, but you keep rehearsing. Then a few days after that, you still have this horrible feeling, but somehow it’s come together in a way you weren’t expecting. Then, opening night, the show happens, regardless of the fact that you were *positive* it couldn’t.

I’ve mentioned here before that we are writing a show, and yesterday was the first of what I am sure will be one hundred days where I feel like the show has no chance of going up. We got our application in to the Fringe Festival on Monday with a completed act one, including all 12 songs, and a deeply descriptive synopsis of act two, including three more songs. The script is tight, the music alone is a hundred pages. But then I woke up Tuesday and realized that we have to have a “production ready” script in 23 days, and there are three songs that I have never even *heard* in my head.

Mac talked me off the cliff by pointing out that the production ready script on March 11 will not have to be the same script that goes up September 15, so my panic went from a blind rolling boil to a manic simmer. Jordana came home and listened to some of my ideas for songs and, as is her want, began singing tunes to me complete with lyrics for some song ideas, and the simmer went back to a sweat. “Okay,” I thought. “With the three of us working on this the way we have for the last eight months, we’ll be fine.”

Then I got a call from one of our producer friends, who is really excited about the project.

I aint gonna name names, but this producer is actually, in my mind, just a guy I’ve known for the last 13 years, since we were both hanging out in, but not going to school at, UNC. His kindness and sense of humor are matched only by his enthusiasm for theater and his ability to make shit happen. So when he gets excited about something you’re doing, you better goddam listen to every idea.

We talked for a while, and it was a blast. We talked about a lot of names of other producers and money people, we talked about actors, we talked about festivals and we talked about content. His concern, inspired apparently by my brother, is that this is a play with gay themes written by three straight people. But really, there’s nothing we can do about that. We can include as many gay people as possible in the design and development stages, as well as employing gay actors, but we can’t really fold in another writer.

(As an aside, I firmly believe that *the* great debate we are entering now is the right to privacy, included in that is the right for us to do what we want with our bodies. There is no political situation right now that I care more passionately about than the right for homosexuality to exist, the right for us to do anything we want in the privacy of our homes, and to speak openly about the things we enjoy in the public forum without any fear of reciprocation. Abortions should be like nose jobs, blow jobs should be like blow jobs, no matter who is delivering or receiving, and everyone should be able to talk about their lives without fear of government intervention.)

Despite the fact that our show is a celebration of the gay lifestyle, as well as an honest look at homophobia and self hatred that permeates our society, and despite the fact that the punk in me wants to tell anyone who thinks that what I do with my dick affects how I tell a story to fuck off, Mac and Jordana have been aware of the problem from the beginning, and we have been very clear about how the story will unfold. Anyone who finds the situation distasteful isn’t gonna like our plays anyway, we can’t write for people we don’t respect.

But that was just the beginning. My producer friend says we have to cut the cast down to nine actors. Right now, it’s thirteen. And that’s thirteen without a chorus. I’ve been seeing this show as 42nd Street, it looks like producers now are looking for “Side by Side By Sondheim”. The fact is, if this show needs thirteen actors, it won’t be produced unless it’s the greatest musical ever written.

And it won’t be. That distinction belongs to “Oh Calcutta”

So, now I’m firmly convinced that, even if we get all of this done, which I won’t, it will either not be accepted at any of the festivals for its cast size or, it will be accepted, it will get in and cost us everything to produce, but no-one will pick it up because of its cast size, or, it will get in, it will get moved and it will get widely panned as being a homophobic diatribe because none of the writers are gay.

And I’m sure that I have all of these worries simply because I’m having trouble coming up with tunes for two of the songs in the second act. Of course, Jordana helped me come up with one of them last night. And Mac has made sure that, if we are criticized for homophobia, it will be a dumb criticism.

And you know what? At this point, if we were panned as homophobes, at least people would be paying attention. We produced a great play last year that people really loved, and we weren’t able to make more out of it than we should. If everyone’s paying attention, at least we can talk to a better class of publicist and booking agent. Everyone hated Guy Ritchie’s last movie, but it’s still on HBO all the time.

So, I don’t know. This is the day, I guess, and tomorrow it will be a little better, and two weeks from now it will be a memory. I just hate feeling like this.