Higher Education: What’s In A Name

Barbara Jwanouskos is back and better than before.

I am now back in the Bay Area and I am now done with school. So, this blog needs a new name. Over the past year, I’ve tried to describe my experiences as a theater artist in school and what some of the challenges that come up have sparked moments of learning and understanding.

I have mixed feelings about school. On the one hand, I love learning in a formalized classroom with peers and with the mentorship of an instructor. And on the other hand, I feel like some of the lessons that have been most imprinted upon me have been from experiences of navigating through the real world. Maybe the name for this blog series, then, should reflect the ways in which learning is a process that never ends.

As a writer, I know that a well-written title lends weight to a piece and helps to suggest what an audience member might experience. But man, coming up with titles for things is hard…

Some people have a knack for it, like Madeline George’s “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence”. Not only is this an intriguing title for a play, but it also just looks cool with those parentheses. Plus, “curious” and “intelligence” are fun sounding words that imply mystery, secrets, and power structures. Then there are titles where you sort of scratch your head and say, “why the hell is it called that?”

Perhaps a good title should be a stand-in metaphor for what the thing is going to be about. I’m totally jealous of Marissa Skudlarek’s blog title, “Hi-Ho: The Glamorous Life” because it’s clever and implies what Marissa likes to write about as well as her personality – and it has an allusion to Sondheim. I’m hoping for a smidge of that in something of my own.

I also sort of subscribe to what Blake Snyder (author of the Save the Cat! screenwriting books) has to say about titles, which is that it’s the one piece of marketing for your play that *potentially* may not change. You really have an opportunity to draw people in with an engaging title.

Ahhh! The pressure!

Well, in the meantime, I’ll be making a never ending list of possible titles and hopefully I’ll be able to come up with a brilliant one by the next time this blog series rolls around.

Til then…

Feel free to add your suggestions too! The more, the merrier.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Intersection at a Crossroads

Marissa Skudlarek voices what many of us are thinking.

The news about the massive cut-backs at Intersection for the Arts came out last Thursday. I had tickets to see the latest show at their resident theater company Campo Santo, Chasing Mehserle by Chinaka Hodge, for Friday night.

Before the news came out, I had been looking forward to the show with uncomplicated enthusiasm — I loved Hodge’s Mirrors in Every Corner, which Intersection produced four years ago, and Chasing Mehserle revisits the characters of Mirrors. After the news came out, my emotions became more tangled. Gratitude that I’d get to see one more show at Intersection before the organization changed forever. (Per press reports, Campo Santo will continue to exist, but will become an independent nonprofit organization.) Guilt that I hadn’t taken more advantage of Intersection’s programming — I hadn’t seen a play there since Halloween 2010, hadn’t visited their space since they moved from the Mission District to the Chronicle building downtown. The recognition that my feelings of guilt were slightly overblown — even if I’d patronized Intersection more, that wouldn’t have saved it.

There were sellout crowds on Friday night for Chasing Mehserle, and the audience was one of the youngest and most diverse I’ve ever seen in the Bay Area. It was all I could do not to buttonhole each one of these people and shout “How did you hear about this show? What brought you to the theater tonight? How could I get you to come see the theater that I make?”

After all, sometimes I can become cynical, and believe the doomsayers who tell you that young people don’t go to the theater anymore, it’s hopeless, we should just give up, we should become more like opera, we should realize that our core audience is old white rich folks. The audience that night proved me wrong — and proved right the counter-narrative that young people will go to the theater if it reflects their lives and their communities, presenting compelling stories that mainstream film and television don’t provide. (Chasing Mehserle is an artistic response to Johannes Mehserle’s shooting of Oscar Grant in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009. It’s deeply grounded in the Bay Area, and deeply aware that it’s a piece of theater rather than a movie or TV show.)

The diverse audience I saw at Chasing Mehserle should therefore have given me hope for the future of the theater — except that, having read the news the day before, I was left with a feeling of increased hopelessness. This enthusiasm, this diversity, these people who want to see stories that reflect them, this community interested in Chinaka Hodge’s growth and development as a playwright… it wasn’t enough to make a difference. It wasn’t enough to create a viable, fiscally healthy organization. So what will ever be enough?

The full story of how Intersection got into such dire financial straits has not yet been revealed, but it looks like it might fit in with the “tech money is ruining everything” narrative that’s becoming prominent in this city. It would be oddly fitting, too: a major theme of Chasing Mehserle is the gentrification of Oakland, and Chinaka Hodge just published an essay about gentrification in San Francisco magazine (a magazine whose web address is ModernLuxury.com. The ironies, they pile up).

At the end of Chasing Mehserle, the actors come forward and declare their real-life identities: “My name is… I was born on… And I’m still here.” Hodge is well aware of the difficulties faced by African-Americans in our society, and the cast members saying “I’m still here” is a powerful statement of survival in the face of forces like gentrification and racism. Survival itself is a form of heroism, Hodge seems to imply. Perhaps we should celebrate the fact that an arts organization like Intersection survived for nearly 50 years (an amazing record for any institution) rather than mourning its passing. But it’s hard not to be sad about its loss, and feel guilty that we have not done more to create the kind of culture we want. It’s hard not to wonder “How much longer will I still be here?”

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer who plans to live in this city for as long as it’s physically possible. Find her online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Cowan Palace: Casting Makes Me Itchy

…and scratching it makes it worse.

Ashley Cowan brings you this blog.

Ashley Cowan brings you this blog.

Casting is the worst. Yes, I know I have tendency to say a lot of stuff is the worst but sometimes, putting a cast together can be tricky. If you’ve been in the Bay Area theater scene for more than a minute, I’m sure you have a story of some casting nightmare. Either as an actor, director, writer, producer, WHATEVER, we’ve all been there at some point.

Yet even as I sit down to put this blog together, my heart starts to race and I get itchy. (I have a bad habit of breaking out into hives when I’m uncomfortable or nervous. Sexy, right?) Because I don’t want to go publicly airing all my theatrical horror stories out and about! This is a small community and I want to be able to work again!

It never seems like the right time to be honest with these types of experiences. They’re better saved for tipsy parties and whispered secrets in the back. Or passive aggressive blog entries and tears in dream journals. But when we can’t openly talk about these things as they’re unfolding, how do they have any chance to improve?

I’m sorry, guys. I think we can do better! This can be a brutal business and I think there’s some room for improvement. In my experience, too often across a range of theatre companies, I’ve found an unfortunate lack of communication throughout a production’s development. Maybe it’s just one too many callbacks because the “right” people weren’t there during an earlier audition or perhaps it’s hearing that the producer loves you but the director wanted to go for someone with a different look. Sometimes casting can really put the “itch” in bitch (am I right?!). And even once your group is set and you high five those involved, the production process and run can be a whole different beast.

Okay. Calm down, Ashley. No one wants to work with a Debbie Downer (waaaaahh waaaahhh). You have to understand that I come from a place of love. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be. I love being involved in as many capacities as possible. I’ve been fortunate enough to wear a few different hats during my time in this community. And I love hats. But each one certainly comes with its own set of challenges.

I’ve directed pieces and made strong casting choices that the writer did not envision. I’ve written work and seen it played by characters I didn’t expect. As an actor, I’ve watched writers undermine a director’s creative power by interjecting themselves deep into the rehearsal process. I’ve observed directors ignore a playwright’s opinion in lieu of their own. And I’ve struggled to honor the true intent of the play without the right guidance. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

One thing about San Francisco these days is that there’s lots of new stuff being done. Which means, often, the writer is very much a part of the production process. And while I haven’t had a ton of plays produced here, I still tend to have a hard time letting the grasp around my words go and allowing someone else to come in and direct them. Often, when I’m writing, I’m envisioning very specific details that don’t always come across in my stage directions or character descriptions. So when a director and I don’t see eye to eye on who should play a role, it opens up an interesting discussion. Who should get the final say? At what point does a writer have to step back and allow their story to come to life through the collaboration of others? Who ultimately takes ownership for the words once they’ve been sent out into the world?

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Like anything else, I suppose it’s a delicate balance. We all (hopefully) want what’s best for the show. Our communication could be stronger. We need to be able to talk about these weaknesses and struggles for the sake of the art. Roles need to be defined and agreed upon. Writers need to trust their words and their directors, actors need to be confident to take risks and strong enough to stick to the text, and producers need to encourage these types of instincts and conversations.

When I’m not being Debbie Downer, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by words gaining new input and vision. I’ve witnessed the positive effects of a strong collaboration matched by earnest communication. And I like being a part of something with purpose. While casting and putting a show on its feet may never be the easiest thing in the world, we can each strive to be more aware of our place and how we can best move forward together. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some Calamine lotion.

Working Title: The Forging Power of Witch Trial

This week Will looks back and marvels at the The Crucible.

A curious thing happens when you see a new production of a show you once worked on. An uncanny fusing of auditory time travel and welcome familiarity stacks upon the material. In the most recent case, I took in The Custom Made Theatre’s production of The Crucible directed by Stuart Bousel. This Arthur Miller masterpiece happens to be the first play in which I had the pleasure to act. I played the small part of Frances Nurse. I had 18 lines. I know because I counted them. Boy, was I proud of those 18 lines. I was also proud to have found a home amongst the odd, hodge-podge, theatre kids in my high school. Anyone within the theatre community can tell you their origin play and when they felt the bite of the theatre bug. What is nice, all these years later, is when I see a production that reminds me what good theatre feels like and possibly why I got into this creative madhouse in the first place.

The San Francisco theatre scene is very proud of it’s new works. More new plays are premiered here than anywhere else in the country, or so I’ve heard. So why do The Crucible? Why now? We have a 1996 film version with Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen. It’s hard to get better leads than those two. Often when discussing film and theatre, I can favor the best of the film offerings when placed against the average production here in the bay area. That may be an unfair fight, but we all have our biases. But this case is different. Why do The Crucible? Why now? Well, it’s never a bad time to put up a great play with outstanding actors and a clear vision of direction. More directly, there is a potency built within this play that unfolds more powerfully when performed in a close space. The 3/4 thrust staging of this current production refuses to allow the audience an emotional escape. We are locked in the closed courtrooms and cloying country houses as the world falls around these characters. In the best theatrical experiences, you, as an onlooking audience member, become a part of something. You are not separate. You are more than a mere watcher. You are entwined. Your experience wraps in the actions of the actors on stage and the fellow audience around. All become one, living the drama before us.

The cast is large and I’ll admit, in the past, I might have thought it possibly too large for the performance space. But this is not the case. Due to the precise direction, I never felt that the cast was overwhelming the space or the audience. It just fits. In the film, the realism afforded in the setting also allows the dark clothes and the dark hair and the plentiful drab town-people to blend together. It’s easy to mix up one Goody from another Goody or one old grey haired judge from another grey haired judge. There are many admirable things about Nicholas Hytner’s film but the realistic breadth of the town may be a detriment that distracts from the emotional core of the story. The play does not suffer from this problem.

One would think that the long scenes written into the structure of the play could create a pacing issue. With a less apt cast this might be true but the play clips by with speed and intensity. Film, in general, has the ability the solve pacing issues through editing tools or the ability to cut to new locations and new scenes without pause. However, this trick also can carry along an audience whether they are invested or not. In this case, The Crucible film races over increased stakes and plot developments as Abigail cries witch, more towns folk are hanged and our dear Goody Proctor is accused. The way Arthur Miller writes the lengthy scenes of his play, the revelations have time to breathe and then impact the audience fully. The film covers all the same notes yet undercuts the emotional impact with truncated script choices. Arthur Miller, who wrote both the original and the adapted 1996 screenplay, would probably dislike my saying so of his screenplay. But the play simply works in a way the film does not.

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The film gives a fuller sense of the rampant chaos when Salem is turning with the witching upheaval yet it is from a more distant point of view. When John Proctor gets the news of towns disruptions from Mary Warren, it’s more personal news. As if a friend is dolling out town gossip to the audience personally. We overhear this news as if it were local gossip. The intimate space rounds out much atmospheric emotion.

The production aspects that excel throughout are the costumes, acting and sound design. While the film matches the quality acting and costumes, the sound doesn’t achieve the disconcerting heights of the production’s original music and sound design by Liz Ryder. The soundscape is both haunting and moving. It folds the audience in the maddening world of Miller’s Salem, echoing the longing desire and futile separation inherent in every character.

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The silver screen can offer a personal journey that rings a unique bell in our being. I love the art of film and will always return there. But there is something individual about those journeys. Less communal. It’s personal. Great theatre is both personal and communal. Instead of “I see”, it’s “we experience”. We must not underestimate the power of sitting in a small space together screaming at witchcraft birds and the tragedy of prideful poppet pins. This production is a reminder of that power.

The Crucible runs the next few weeks at Custom Made Theatre Co. You can get more info and tickets at http://www.custommade.org.

Photo Credits:

Yamada, Jay. Proctor’s Final Embrace. 2014. Photograph. Www.custommade.org, San Francisco. Web. 27 May 2014.

Theater Around The Bay: Untitled For Your Protection

I only just met Phil Huang in April while facilitating a panel on “Offensive Theatre” for TBA. Phil is a trip- super smart, super concerned about the world, super unconcerned with your opinion of him- which is as refreshing as you’d expected it to be. He first published these thoughts on his particular brand of performance art back in January of 2011, but in that way that Facebook has of occasionally spitting up the bones of the past, it recently resurfaced and instigated some more interesting conversation on Facebook. I asked Phil if we could republish it here for our readers and he consented, despite being semi-retired and fairly certain he wouldn’t write this list as is today (note he did update it, however, to include a reference to me). Still, I think he raises some amazing points here. Let us know what you think!

Recently, a number of people have talked to me about the offensive nature of my work. What’s the point of shocking people? What good does it do? It’s just juvenile. It’s not art. Art is supposed to have substance. Art is supposed to heal and bring us together and stimulate thought. You’re no better than Rush Limbaugh. You’re just hurting people. If you’re not careful, you won’t have a career in the arts.

This got me thinking about my work specifically, queer art in general, and obscene/offensive art in total. Here are my thoughts:

* My queer ancestor, Leigh Bowery, said he only asks himself one question when he makes work: Where’s the poison?

* Queer artists are here to end the world as we know it. We’re here to be the monsters they say we are. And they should be scared.

* There’s a difference between offending people and hurting people. I’m out to shock and offend you, but I’m not out to hurt you. You have not been victimized by my work. You do not need to be protected from my work. As Keith Hennessy says, “Safe space…continues to frame us all as victims or potential victims in need of protection. And victims are always justified in excluding others, or Others. Safe space is the ideology that supports the prison industrial complex.”

* The bible is an object. Objects do not have fixed meanings. I am defiling what the bible means to me, not what it means to you.

* I don’t give a shit if I have a career in the arts. Bust my ass and play nice so I can beg for a $2,000 grant and do some shitty 3mo residency for $500? No thanks.

* I don’t need to be more sensitive or careful about what I do. Your feelings are your responsibility.

* Lydia Lunch said she used to scream obscenities at her audience until half of it left, separating those merely seeking entertainment from those who will fucking die without her work.

* If your only intent as an artist is to bring healing, your work probably sucks. Conversely, to paraphrase Stuart Bousel, if your only intent is to shock and offend, your work probably also sucks. But you’d be more fun to make out with.

* If you’re a curator, have faith in the intelligence of the audience. You don’t have to pre-chew their food for them.

* Offensive art starts conversations. The avoidance of offensive art does not. Once the worst thing has been said or depicted, the rest is easy.

* To paraphrase Kirk Read, the true evil in the world is fearful, well-meaning people.

* Art never needs to explain or defend itself. Art does not need a reason to exist. Art has no obligation to heal.

* I never said what I do is art.

Is what Phil does art? Find out more at http://hickeysushi.blogspot.com.

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: The Shows I Didn’t Walk Out On — But Should Have (Part III)

Dave Sikula brings us home…

So we’re finally at “The Lily’s Revenge,” are we?

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve been putting it off for two reasons. The first is that I just don’t know how much I’ll have to say about it, beyond “It was unimaginably bad.” (Imagine the worst play you can think of. Double it. Double that. You still won’t be in even the same time zone.) The second is that, unlike the other productions (“The Three Sisters” and “Lear”), it happened in the recent past, and I still kind of know some of the people involved.

Oh, if only it had been this good.

Oh, if only it had been this good.

But, dammit, it was, like five hours I’ll never get back, so what the hell.

Before I begin, a digression.

At the show the other night, one of my fellow cast members mentioned a particularly bad production of “The Tempest” he’d seen, and it brought up the whole issue of bad Shakespeare.

Bill's none too pleased. Nor am I.

Bill’s none too pleased. Nor am I.

We’ve all seen bad Shakespeare; hell, it’s hard to see good Shakespeare. (The only things worse than bad Shakespeare are bad Chekhov and bad O’Neill.) By “good,” I mean a well-spoken, well-thought-out production that illuminates the text and the characters and shows us the universality of the work, usually by highlighting the particulars of one aspect. I’m certainly no purist. Some of the best and most memorable productions I’ve seen have played havoc with the text, but made it work because there were ideas behind it. The best Shakespeare – the best single production of anything – I’ve ever seen was Ariane Mnouchkine’s “Richard II.” Her Théâtre du Soleil performed them at the Olympics Arts Festival in 1984. The productions were an Elizabethan/Asian mashup – in French! – that was visually stunning, intelligent, and illuminating. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since – other than her productions of “Twelfth Night” and “Henry IV, Part I,” which were on the same bill, playing in rep.

Georges Bigot as Richard.

Georges Bigot as Richard.

On the other hand, last December, I saw the Globe Theatre’s productions of “Richard III” and “Twelfth Night,” with Mark Rylance as Richard and Olivia. They were produced to be as authentic to a 17th-century production as possible, and were absolutely traditional, but still gripping, funny, and tragic.

The Globe's "Twelfth Night"

The Globe’s “Twelfth Night”

Give me a consistent and logical framework for your Shakespeare, and I’ll go for the ride. Fuck with me, though – give me Lear on Mars because no one has ever done it that way before, or Macbeth on a cruise ship, and if there’s not a reason, I’ll cut you.

For example, when my castmate was describing his own “Tempest” horror story, I was suddenly reminded of the production I saw in the mid-80s (what was it about the mid-80s and bad theatre in Los Angeles?) that was bad enough on its own – very poorly-acted and directed by someone who really didn’t have viewpoint as to what the play was about – I could have forgiven that; the company was earnest and fighting the odds as best they could. What bothered me was that the director chose to have the actors cast as Trinculo and Stefano – ostensibly the play’s comic relief – not only play their roles as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (in a production that in no other way referenced the 50s), but to ad lib their dialogue. Martin and Lewis have gone down in history as probably the greatest nightclub act in history (their appearances in other media run the gamut), due to their prowess in ad libbing. These actors were not so fortunate. It was an attempt at garbage, but by performers ill-qualified to do it. Their stuff just laid there. (Had I been the director, I might have been tempted to have tumbleweeds roll past their scenes; but then, had I been the director, I wouldn’t have put those actors in a no-win situation.) As a director friend of mine put it (in so many words), “If you’re not going to do the original text and ad lib, you’d better be sure it’s funny.” Or at least, funnier than what Shakespeare wrote. (Personally, I find most of Shakespeare’s clowns tiresome. There are fewer less-funny characters than Touchstone or Feste. A lot of the material just doesn’t hold up, and actors usually overplay in an attempt to make it work. Douglas Campbell really missed his chance.)

 Well, at least it wasn't "Macbeth."

Well, at least it wasn’t “Macbeth.”

The guys in this “Tempest” made Shakespeare look like, well, Shakespeare, though. It was the most painful aspect to an already-painful production.

But, finally, The Lily.

I started college in the early 70s. By the time I started, most of “the 60s” were over, though there were still some hold-outs and left-overs. One of the professors at Cal State Fullerton (my alma mater) had created a national scandal for his insistence at staging Michael McClure’s “The Beard,” the climax (pun intended) of which features Jean Harlow giving Billy the Kid a blowjob. (It was the 60s …). The show was raided every night (it was the 60s …), but the professor persisted.

A proud tradition.

A proud tradition.

So, suffice it to say, there was a lot of experimentation there. Some of it was interesting (a production of a Moliere play that featured one actor sitting on an upright cucumber and suddenly realizing how much he enjoyed it); some of it not – endless lunchtime productions that were little more than allowing directors and actors to masturbate artistically at the audience’s expense.

As I said about Shakespeare, I’ll go along with your flights of fancy if I sense an intelligence and a plan behind them. I’d heard about Taylor Mac, whose reputation as a major part of New York’s avant garde should have been a warning, but the advance word on “The Lily’s Revenge,” his magnum opus that had gotten a great review in the Times (alright, it was Isherwood, but still …), was good, and my experience with long-form theatre (Peter Brook’s nine-hour “Mahabharata” and Mnouchkine’s Shakespeares, among others) in the past had been good, so I figured “what the hell.”

And “hell” is what it was.

It was every bad cliché of the 60s brought roaringly to the stage (I almost said “to life,” but it was all so deadly) in front of me: the nudity, the simulated sex, the psychedelia, the inane “profundity,” the self-importance (again, this perspective comes from a guy who did 800 words on haircuts), the utter and complete BULLSHIT of it all. I’d say every act was worse than the one before, but after it hit its nadir, it somehow lost its mojo and laid there. It could have been a “is it just me?” situation, but it wasn’t.

I was begged to leave, but my stubbornness is such that I wasn’t going to let them win. “Bring it on!” might as well have been my motto that night.

Who won? I have no idea. I outlasted them and have gained a new standard for awfulness, but on the other hand, I was the one who watched the whole thing when I didn’t have to.

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: And Now a Note without a Suicide

Claire Rice on the Year of the Rat.

Madam life’s a piece in bloom
Death goes dogging everywhere:
She’s the tenant of the room,
He’s the ruffian on the stair.

– William Ernest Henley

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I’ve spent the last year of my life contemplating incomplete suicides and other deaths. I’ve killed a great number of people on stage in a variety of ways. Sometimes I’ve written their deaths and sometimes I’ve directed them. Once or twice I’ve acted them. It often surprises me how flippant in the moment I can be about death, but after all the actor will get up and walk off stage in the dark only moments later. Crudely, it is often just one tool in the great storytelling tool box. Character B must die to show that Character A has lost all humanity. Meanwhile, Director A and Playwright B have spent hours going back and forth on the best method to bring about Character B’s demise. Should we slit the throat? Hang from rafter? Drown in a well? Poison? How fun it is to play at such violent fictions.

But this year has been the year of the Rat. Kristin Hersh’s Rat Girl, that is. In particular, I’ve spent the last year contemplating the climax of act one where she attempts to end her own life. I spent hours contemplating her method of death. Her door out. In the end I choose a violent and painful end. She picks up a discarded and used box cutter from the clutter that surrounds her. The tool yields itself up out of her world as if she’s bidden it to come. The box cutters appear during a discussion of the death of god, perception and responsibility, art and creation.

But it isn’t easy. The idea is there. The tool is there. The will is there. The need is there. Everything except the action.

In literal time it takes about ten minutes to get there.

In stage action time it takes two full songs and a monologue to get there.

In play time it takes a sleepless night, the purgatory of a hallucination, the stalemate between the fractured self and the sane self, and a calm acceptance of deeper desires.

And then she is reborn. At the top of act II she’s faced her own death at her own hands and now has to move forward and deal with consequences of that battle: the pain on the faces of her loved ones who feel betrayed and scared, the condescension of professionals who’ve seen it all before and the dismissal of those who expect nothing less of an artist. She’s died, but she hasn’t yet decided to live. As the evidence of the value and worth of her life piles up around her, she still cannot be sure. How can she be? How can we demand of her to hurry up and start living when she knows just how close death is and how easily it can be willed closer? At any moment the door out can be manifested before us and we can choose to walk through it or stand before it still.

When she finally chooses life she does so with her own voice.

How long does it take for her to find that voice?

In literal time it takes two hours and thirty minutes including a fifteen minute intermission.

In stage action time it takes about 38 short scenes split between two acts, several songs, a few monologues and two car scenes.

In play time it takes a crisis of identity, a swim in the ocean, a loss of a friend, a terrible accident, multiple discussions about art, the value of art (and thus the value of the self), a lonely suicide, a fractured survival, a move, a pregnancy, a validation, disillusionment, an escape and a return (all in all about a year and change).

Maybe in future productions it won’t take that much literal time, or that many songs or that many car scenes. Maybe in future productions it will take longer. But it will never be easy and it will never be separated from the discussion of art. How could it be? How could the life of an artist, who lives to created, not be filled with discussions on the value of that creation? The perceived value of that creation? The act of creation? Its place in the world? Its place among other art? The difference between art and product?

Of all the deaths on stage, it is this near death that has been the most difficult for me and the most rewarding to contemplate and put out into the world. It isn’t mine. It’s so many other people’s before it is mine, but it is so close to me.

I refuse to allow this death to be easy, or the life that follows it. I refuse to make it simple or direct, because it isn’t.

I’ve taken death on stage for granted, but I refuse to take the choice to live on stage for granted any more. And I’m not going to let you take it for granted either.