I grew up believing that an essentially unnatural act was not only perfectly natural, but necessary. The creation of a live performance is a dare, it’s thrilling for the same reason that ice skating and race car driving are thrilling. One watches because one wants to see just how close you can come to the crash without crashing.

As a child, I spent so much of my time around the preparation and execution of live performance that it just seemed natural to me. I’ve never had any performance anxiety, I’ve never had any stage fright (except for the natural jitters one might get when, for instance, it’s your turn to order at a crowded deli and everyone around you might pass judgement on your two sugars or extra mayo), I’ve always thought that to perform was a natural extension of existence.

But the truth is, performance is, mostly, a dare. Yeah, you sang that song last night, but can you pull it off again tonight? The brass section came in perfectly on cue, but will they again, as I sit here watching? Will you remember all your lines?

We’ve done what we could to make live performance a thing we can have any time we want. We’ve created movies, we’ve created recordings, we’ve got video tapes. And so now the gap between the creation of ideas and the locked down preservation of the performing of those ideas has been eliminated, which leaves live performance only the promise of the thrill of catastrophe.

At a certain point, Glenn Gould had to stop performing, the Beatles had to stop performing. You start to feel like a monkey with a squeeze box when you’re actually expected to be the spokesperson for an artistic ideal, and it just has to stop.

It seems to me that the artistic world, the world of expression, exists on a continuum. On one end are the two dimensional arts like painting and photography, which have, as an aspect of their design, a captured permanence and a portability which make them a very private communication between the artist and the audience. I have friends who have given me pictures that haunt me still when I look at them, and I don’t mean that they are drawings of friends or pictures of my wedding. I can look at a photograph all by myself and glean meaning directly from the artist, even if she or he is long dead.

Moving up the continuum are things like sculpture and landscape or architectural design. These are expressions which are inherently permanent in a way (in as much as anything is permanent), but they aren’t really portable. In order to actually know the power of the Statue of David, or The Empire State Building or Hancher Auditorium glittering off the river, you have to go to the places where these things are. My friend Nina’s working artistic partner, Glen Seator, created pieces like these, but I’ve only seen pictures and read about them online and now they are gone and he is gone and I won’t get to know the real power of his work.

It goes along, each form of expression being either movable or not, permanent or not, private or not. And on the far side, you get the performed arts, the three dimensional arts that include motion, action, sound plus visible and physical elements. Dance comes to mind, as does singing and acting in a play. One step back from these is singing on a recording or acting in a film, both of which are practically back on the two dimensional scale.

I’m sure you all see where I’m going with this.

You can’t read a musical or hear a recording or watch a video tape. It does nothing. Even the big musicals on film work best when they achieve something that can’t be done on stage, like American in Paris or Singing in the Rain. Fred Astaire knew how phony film was, it’s why his greatest routines (especially with Ginger Rogers) are shot wide out and without edits. He wants us to take part in the dare.

So, now we begin the dare. We had a meeting last week with a wonderful director, and if he says no we have a couple of other people in line. We had a wonderful meeting last night with our producer, and we all basically agreed on the re-writes. We actually took off running with re-write ideas.

We’re daring you every step of the way. What can we say and what can we mean? Do we have the guts to make the joke? Do we have the guts to put our characters in harm’s way even more? Do we have the guts to use the words that might make you cringe?

And this is the easy part. The actors, will they have the guts to commit? Will they drop lines and crack on high notes and fall down during dances? They really might. Will the orchestra screw up? Will the lightboard fail on us? And, most terrifying of all, will the story mean anything to you, will you sing the songs in your head later, will you want the characters to learn what they eventually learn *so bad* that it breaks your heart when they misunderstand?

It’s terrifying, for me, for us, for anyone involved. It’s a dare, flat out. What we’re doing is not cool, it isn’t sitting back and talking shit, it isn’t wearing jeans. We’re putting on an orange tux and it isn’t even prom. We’re just hoping someone else thinks orange tuxes are awesome and follows suit.