I’ve been meaning to write a post for a while now, but things have gotten in the way, mostly my Dad ending up in the ER in Pennsylvania and having to have his gallbladder removed and me having to drive there and back to Columbus a couple of times. I’m still exhausted!
I wanted to write about the awkward/odd feeling I had at the opening of my play, A World Without Allergies; A Talk by Dr. Michael Kramer (feel free to read it) , at MadLab Theatre’s Theatre Roulette. I had never been to a MadLab show; my theatergoing experiences in Columbus have been very limited due to finances and having a job in retail with a fluctuating schedule. And now, there’s a little boy to worry about!
It felt very, very, very strange to be sitting in those chairs, in that space, at that time. The seats were a lovely hodgepodge of seats from other theaters. Some looked like they came from old movie theaters. My wife and I chose some nice, comfy ones near the center. My stomach was a mess. I was very ecstatic to be a part of Theatre Roulette. I remember listening to the voicemail left by Andy Batt that they wanted to produce my play; I had let the phone go to voicemail because I didn't recognize the number and I hate surprises. There are always telemarketers calling from different energy companies or home improvement companies and I think it's best just to ignore them. Anyway, I listened to the voicemail and when I heard that he wanted to produce one of my short plays, I was dumbstruck. It's not that I didn't think the play was good (I do), but I've been so used to rejection by form e-mails, form letters, and silence that I'd forgotten what “yes" sounded like.
Sitting in the theater, I wondered why I had such an intense nervous feeling. It was almost to the point of anxiety attack. Maybe not that far, but it was a very familiar anxious feeling that I haven't felt in a long, long time. And as I was puzzling through reasons for my discomfort, I realized that it's been six years since I've heard my work in front of and alongside an audience. That long? Yes, that long? Really? Yes, I told myself.
I couldn't handle the implications of that realization. What was I doing with my playwriting career if I didn't have anything to show for it? With no recent productions, not even reading, how could I call myself a playwright? In those moments I tried to put myself back together. I closed my eyes a few times, trying to find some way to relax, to not feel as though I was going to be judged by the entire audience, that my entire worth as a playwright was riding on this 5 to 7 minute play that was going to take place towards the end of the evening of short plays. But then, Andy Batt came on stage and said that there would be a change in the order of the plays and that my play would go first. So, I really didn't have time to let the anxiety fester anymore. It would be over with, and then I was able to concentrate on the other pieces. I also couldn’t stop laughing during The Incentive Program by John Busser and one of my other favorites was by Jeremy Sony: Cuckold Walks into a Bar. You can read the play at his website. I think it's awesome that he has those plans available to read. He's part of the reason why my short plays are all available for you to read on my scripts page. If he could be so brave, then maybe I could, too.
It isn't that part of it? Bravery? Being brave enough to call myself a playwright. Even through the dry spell of the past few years without a production or reading, I can still call myself a playwright. A playwright writes plays, and I write plays, so, by definition I am a playwright. But it’s hard when I see other playwrights I know get many productions and readings and all I seem to have is my day job and my day to day. I’m very proud of my fellow playwrights and get excited for them when I see them succeed. I don’t think that playwriting is a competition measured by the length of a resume or bio. It’s a community. I just want to be part of it.
I’m amazingly grateful to MadLab and the audiences that support MadLab for letting one of my pieces be a part of their community. I’m grateful and excited by the fellowship I received through CATCO and the readings I’m going to have of my play coming up in June. Rehearsals for that start this Tuesday. I’m nervous as hell for those readings, for the audience to hear my work. But I'm comforted by knowing that I’ll be surrounded by a community of supporters. As I tell my wife when she doubts herself, “They’re all rooting for you. No one wants to see you fail. They want to see you succeed.” I hope that I listen to my own advice and just enjoy these new opportunities I have and look forward to the next ones. I just hope I won’t have to wait another 6 years.
Good luck with all the opportunities you have, my fellow theatre-makers. Let's celebrate our communities of collaborators and audiences. Be excellent to each other.