A decision

Every single artistic expression has two opposite and equally horrible ends. First, you are met with a blank piece of paper. There’s a blinking icon at the top of an empty file, there are five lines without so much as a clef, there is a giant piece of marble or a stack of bronze or a row of closed paints lying in wait, and though you’ve done this before, though you know those five lines or that blank page will soon be full, there is the horror of that blank page feeling.

(I should say, it isn’t the first blank page, because the first blank page is usually inspired. It’s the blank page for the song you know you have to write, but you don’t know what it is yet. It’s the blank page for the scene that takes the characters from one scene you’ve already written to the other scene you’ve already written, and you don’t know how they get there…)

The other horrible moment is when you’re done with the writing, there are hundreds of pages full of thousands of notes, and you put together the novel or the sonnet or whatever and you realize, you’ve said too much. This is its own kind of hell. Maybe some people are good at it. Maybe the guy who got done with the Venus de Milo said, “Y’know, this is good and all, and I spent more time on her hands than on the whole rest of the statue combined, but these have to go” and he took a mallet and whacked off her arms. But for most people it is hell.

I find myself looking at the play we wrote, and realizing the first act is 50 minutes at break-neck speed, and the second act is 54 minutes. The first act is fine, it’ll play like that and even if it’s a minute longer with applause and laughs and stuff, we can hammer through the whole thing.

The second act needs a cut, probably more than one. Something needs to go, and the time we need to shave off can’t be done with just dialogue or jokes or doing stuff faster. A song needs to be cut.

So, I’m staring back at those empty pages, those empty five line staves that have been coaxed into existence. We always tease Mac by saying “My words! My lovely WORDS!”, and so, in the same way, I have to laugh at myself taking this all so seriously. I’ve already had almost as many songs dropped from the show as were included initially, but now we are down to the kind of cuts that hurt.

I have a song in the second act that is sorta special. The lyrics are really amazing, just amazing, and the song is the most musically challenging song in the show. But this has turned out not to be the right show for this song.

We started in the spirit of contempt, it’s true, but over the months of crafting this show, we’ve fallen in love with the stories and the characters and, even though it’s a big ass broad comedy, we’ve still managed to add a lot of heart and a little bit of the subversive hostility that is our life-blood. (Jordana, although she would never admit it, has as much a sense of wanting to rip the world apart as Mac and me, she’s just terrified of what’ll happen if she gives in to it). All of the characters have wonderful stories, or at least have great jokes.

But we’ve run out of time, and we have to make a decision about who’s story is gonna be told, this time around, and who’s story will have to be told next time.

I heard an interview with Billy Joel from, like, 1981 and he was asked how he felt when he heard his songs on the radio. He said something like “it’s like each one of those songs is a kid. If it comes on after a great song and it just sorta falls flat, I cover my face and don’t admit to anyone that’s mine out there. If it comes on after a stupid song, and it’s one I’m really proud of, then I’m like a parent in the stands at a game…”

I feel the same way. This one song, right from the beginning everyone kept saying, “this kid is special”, but in that, y’know, “special olympics” kinda way. We’ve tried to keep him in school and the teacher has done everything with this kid that she can, but I think it’s time to get him out of this school and put him in a school where he can meet his potential.