Changing One Mind

I need to write about two of the plays I’ve seen in the last month, both of which deserve attention and neither of which I’ve had a chance to speak about. I’ll do it, even though they will have closed, I will write about them both because it’s bullshit not to. I scribble notes during shows, often in the pitch dark (although my handwriting is about the same regardless) and there are ideas and feelings that have stayed with me long after I’ve left the theater, so I really feel like I owe it to myself to record what I thought of them and then share it with the, um, probably like, eleven people who read this blog.

I can’t do it tonight. I have a flu, and in a sort of fever pitch, I’ve had terrible trouble sleeping the last two nights. It’s isn’t anxiety, and it isn’t the disease. It feels like… I could be wrong, but it feels like something really, really amazing is happening right now, under my nose.

If I have seen eight plays in the last five months, then probably five of them would, at any other time, be the best play I had seen all year. I went stretches of living in New York where I’d go to plays for a year or eighteen months at a stretch, and largely see stuff that maybe was interesting in spite of it’s self-indulgence, or usually saved from awful by one or two actors, or a really cool set. But now? How is everything this good?

I’ve considered a couple of possibilities. I’ve been sick, off and on, for about four months. Now, it turns out that one of the aspects of ALL my illnesses is that I become emotionally… *available*, let’s say. For instance, my mom called and offered to bring me a sandwich the other day and I’m not to proud to admit that I cried for half an hour. So, maybe these shows are just treacley disasters and I’ve been just ripe for the picking.

Another possibility, almost everything I see is produced by people my age, of my generation, and maybe we’ve just gotten good at it. It’s true that I’m not really seeing plays written and produced by good-looking 23 year olds. Nothing against ’em, but there’s no way an undergrad degree from NYU is gonna ‘splain the full how-tos of producing the way ten or twelve years of moving your couch up and down the stairs at the Access Theater will.

(True Story: We almost got arrested, driving around in a cab with a borrowed mailbox sticking out of the trunk. I thought the cab driver was gonna kill himself when we got pulled over, especially when the cops got out of the car and they were straight out of central casting. One puffy Irish guy, probably 22, peach fuzz on his fat cheeks, about six foot seven with his belly just barely losing the fight with his blue shirt, and the driver, a five foot three Italian guy, drenched in Drakar Noir, smoking a cigar that was almost the exact same size as my forearm…)

One great theory, posited by my wife Jordana, that maybe the economy has something to do with it. That, in a world where we are losing our own money with no hope of getting it back, and in which we have less time to devote to this endeavor because of how much more work we’re having to do to get by, it brings a kind of clarity and devotion to the work itself.

There are distractions to producing great theater. Most of these fit pretty neatly into “worrying about stuff that isn’t part of The Conversation”, and the first thing is always money. You just hate how much money you’ve lost, and how few people are willing to give you money for what you think is awesome… so you start trying to figure out what the audience *is* willing to give you money for. And you start reverse engineering. And it quickly becomes crap.

And there are also other distractions. Maybe I’m producing a play, and I really think I’d be awesome in one of the roles. Or maybe I want a very good looking girl to like me, and if I can cast her in a role, she’ll really like me. Or maybe you’ve got a really nice, expensive WWI rifle, and you want to fit it into a play.

Whatever, there’s tons of crap that gets in the way. But when there’s less and less reasons to make plays, when there’s no audience, regardless of what you do, when you get to the age when casting a hot girl isn’t gonna get you anywhere, and when you realized that your own acting career is way less important than making a good play… things become clear.

Maybe that’s what’s happening. Maybe the cream has simply risen to the top, or maybe the seeds in us, those kernels of talent and genius have maybe simply bloomed. The strongest roses fair thrive in neglect and perhaps that’s where we are. Mac wrote a play several years ago in which a playwright was asked if his work could change the world, and, I’m paraphrasing here, but the playwright said, “I don’t think the play can change the world, but I do think it can change one person’s mind, and maybe that person could change the world…”

The conversation is happening right now. And I’m totally ready to be pressured into bringing my A game.