Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Marissa Skudlarek gives us one more look at the Glamorous Life! 

Nearly seven years ago, on Martin Luther King Day of 2010, I attended a staged reading of Euripides’ Cyclops in a crowded bar on the shady side of Nob Hill, and my life was changed.

I was very young then – young enough that life-changing events could still happen to me. I was a late-blooming 22, a virgin who had never gotten drunk to the point of vomiting. Nor had I ever had one of my plays produced in San Francisco, or acted in a show here, or translated a play from French, or been invited to write regularly for a website, or, or, or… I was shy and nervous, masking my insecurity with arrogance and bravado. I think, sometimes, that I must have been completely insufferable.

But Theater Pub welcomed me in, and, indeed, helped me grow up. Within two months of Theater Pub’s founding, I had drunk too many glasses of Spanish red at the Café Royale, and then thrown them up into my bathroom toilet. Within four months, I had lost my virginity. Within eight, I had had a play produced in the inaugural edition of the Pint-Sized Plays – the first time anyone in San Francisco wanted to produce my work. And then came acting, and producing, and translating from French, and meeting the woman who would direct a full-length play of mine, and writing this column for over four years, and, and, and…

I have always thought of myself as kind of a loner, a skeptical soul with an aloofness at her core. I don’t have a group of “besties” with whom I text incessantly; I know what Groucho Marx meant when he said he wouldn’t be part of any club that would have him as a member. But it is inaccurate to think of myself as such a lone wolf – I am not always so isolated. Under the right circumstances, I can be fanatically, doggedly loyal.

And Theater Pub caught me at just the right moment to provoke my lifelong loyalty. When it started, I had been in San Francisco for 18 months, struggling to make connections in the theater scene, and finding it a lonelier and more difficult endeavor than I’d anticipated. I liked Theater Pub’s goals and gestalt, but I also calculated that this organization was my opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something. In those days, it saddened me when Stuart and the other Theater Pub founders would say “Theater Pub was designed to be everybody’s side project and nobody’s band.” I didn’t have any other projects, you see, and I was desperate for a band of my own.

So – partly for lack of anything better to do, partly for careerist ambitions, but, more and more, for love – I started attending virtually every Theater Pub show. I brought innumerable people to the Pub as they passed through my life, failed dates and former co-workers and out-of-town guests. I experimented with my art, in a way that you can only do when you’re making theater in a bar and no one is getting paid more than $20. I sang rock songs, I wore reindeer antlers, I wrote silly poems and fake commercials. Eventually I became one of the “old guard,” sitting at a corner table and looking sidelong at the new wave of bright-eyed early-twentysomethings joining the organization.

So I saw how Theater Pub grew, and changed, and started a blog, and provoked controversy, and went on hiatus, and rebirthed itself. (We in San Francisco know that no startup can be considered successful until it releases Version 2.0, after all.) Alliances and relationships formed and shifted and disbanded. Though, at this time, let me give due credit to Stuart Bousel, at the helm of this for all seven years, and his partner, Cody Rishell, who diligently created promotional art for every Theater Pub show.

And now? I’ve written before that Theater Pub’s end is not to be seen as heartbreak or defeat. In 2017, there will certainly be moments when we think of Theater Pub with fond regret. But none of us are crying tears of remorse, or wailing “If only we’d fought harder, if only we could have saved it!” We’re all ready to let it go – if you were at our show on Monday, you heard the glee with which Stuart announced “Just 17 songs to go, and then I am no longer the Executive Director of this thing!” We’ve got the seven-year itch. All the cells in our body have renewed themselves, and so has the majority of Theater Pub’s artistic leadership. We all do have other projects we’re working on; Theater Pub is not our only band. It became a side project that demands a disproportionate amount of attention and energy.

As I said, that first Theater Pub show was incredibly crowded, standing-room only. I perched on the edge of the Café Royale pool table until the bar staff yelled at me not to. At the time, I envied the founders’ ability to start a new theater company that would draw such a crowd at its first-ever event. Only later have I come to realize that the difficult part is not creating a splash straight out of the gate: it’s keeping the organization going, keeping the crowds coming, for months and years on end.

Theater Pub’s end isn’t really a full-stop end, it’s more of an ellipsis or a line break. The Pint-Sized Plays will continue in the PianoFight bar; PianoFight itself will still be the artistic home for many of us and the place where the bartenders will always lend a sympathetic ear. We’re not leaving town or quitting the business. We will still be making art, using the skills that Theater Pub allowed us to hone.

Next summer, I will turn 30. And I already know that my thirties are going to be very different from my twenties, not just because of who will be in the White House, but because Theater Pub will no longer be an organizing principle in my life. But I will carry the experiences of the past seven years in me. I am less lonely than I used to be, less resentful, more calmly confident. When I was an awkward child and teenager, the wiser adults in my life looked at me and said “High school won’t be the best years of your life; college won’t be, either; you’re the kind of person who will only find her people in her twenties.” Despite all my skepticism and neuroses, I never doubted this. Despite this world, this decade, this life, a bunch of people got together in the most expensive city in the country and made theater in a bar for seven years.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Now that Theater Pub is over, keep up with her viamarissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Theater Around The Bay: PianoFight expands ​Pint Size​d Plays, San Francisco’s only theater-in-a-bar festival, to five new shows in 2017!

A special announcement, just in time for the holidays! 

rob-ready-llama

PianoFight and San Francisco Theater Pub are proud to announce the latter’s marquee production, the venerable Pint Sized Plays, will return in 2017 with five all-new installments running throughout the year. Pint Sized Plays is made up of short plays set in a bar, written by locals. The only rule is that each play can’t run longer than it takes one of its characters to finish a beer. Pint Sized will happen in the PianoFight bar on Mondays at 7:30 PM in March, May, August, October and December, 2017. Tickets range from free to $30 donation, and can be reserved at www.pianofight.com.

As SF Theater Pub closes its doors this December, PianoFight will take over production and expand Pint Sized while keeping a few key ingredients of continuity. Meghan Trowbridge, who is currently the co-Artistic Director of Theater Pub, will continue with the new incarnation of Pint Sized as its Literary Director. “We’re accepting submissions right now and throughout the year,” says Trowbridge, who expects to see many of the voices that shaped Pint Sized return, but is also excited to find new talent. “This is a great opportunity for seasoned writers and brand-new voices. All are welcome and encouraged to submit!”

“Over the years, PianoFight Creative Company members, myself included, have been involved in past Pint Sized productions as actors, writers, directors, and musicians,” says PianoFight Artistic Director, Rob Ready. “On top of that, accessibility is important to us, and free theater in a bar is the single most accessible way you can see a play. SF Theater Pub’s tagline was, ‘Make it Good. Keep it Casual. Have a Beer.’ And we intend to keep that idea alive and flourishing.”

The first annual Pint Sized Plays took place at the Café Royale in August of 2010, and included short plays by numerous well-known folks in the Bay Area theater scene, including Stuart Bousel, Bennett Fisher, Jeremy Cole, Molly Benson, Karen Offereins, Marissa Skudlarek, and Megan Cohen. It also marked the first appearance of the Llama character, created by Elena McKernan and played by Rob Ready, who holds the distinction of being the only cast member to have appeared in all six installments.

Pint Sized’s expanded production schedule represents more opportunities for Bay Area residents to get involved in the arts in a fun, low-stakes environment. “The five installments could need around 40 different writers and directors, and will likely involve over a hundred actors,” says Ready. “We hope to fill these roles with voices who are new to the PianoFight community, and new to the Bay Area theater community.”

In years to come, PianoFight hopes to expand Pint Sized further to have an all new lineup run each month in the bar. “Pint Sized was one of the Theater Pub shows that toured to other bars, and it always did well in different settings,” says Ready, “so in the next few years, ideally, there is a new lineup every month at PianoFight, while different renditions of the show play other bars in the Bay Area.”

For now, Pint Sized Plays will return in 2017 with all-new installments happening in the bar at PianoFight, 144 Taylor St in San Francisco, every Monday at 7:30 PM in March, May, August, October and December. Tickets are free to $30 and can be reserved at www.pianofight.com. Bay Area writers wishing to submit a script to Pint Sized should refer to the full guidelines on PianoFight’s site.

Announcing The Very Last Theater Pub Show!

theater-pub-finale

Theater Pub’s final show is a way to give back to the community that’s supported us through the years.

Though we normally do a musical sing along, this year we’ve decided to open up the show for anyone who wants to perform a song and lead the audience in one more night of theater and revelry. This year’s line up includes Martin Bell, Andrew Chung, Cory Clar, Clare Eullend, Edward Garcia, Charlie Gray, Sara Judge, Dan Kurtz, Carl Lucania, Juliana Lustenader, Tonya Narvaez, Katie Nix, Rob Ready, Casey Robbins, Marissa Skudlarek, Leah Shesky, Gabbi Traub, Meg Trowbridge, Red Velvet, McPuzo and Trotsky, and Fat Chance Belly Dance! 

The People Sing ONE NIGHT ONLY at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, December 19 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $10 donation suggested at the door. All funds raised will be donated to the ACLU.

No reservations required, but we get there early to get a good seat and enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and delicious dinner menu. Remember to show your appreciation to our hosts

See you at the Pub!

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: If Only Angels Could Prevail

Marissa Skudlarek, prevailing. 

This is my last scheduled post as a regular columnist for the Theater Pub blog.

Really great timing, huh?

When Stuart and I were discussing our plan to wind down the blog, and I realized that my final post was scheduled to run two days after the election, I said, “If Trump wins, I might not be able to get you that post on time, FYI.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Stuart, “he’s not gonna win.”

But, while I may have been prescient enough to have at least considered the possibility of a Trump victory, I was not prescient enough to know what my own response would be. Yes, I am sad and numb and hollowed out. Yes, I have chills and I’ve lost my appetite, the way I always do when blindsided by bad news.

But I woke up this morning, the day after the election, and put on a black dress and pulled my hair back and drew on eyeliner and walked outside with my head high. The first battle of the new American era was simply getting out of bed and facing the day with dignity. And I am ready to fight. And if I were to simply wallow in my grief tonight and not write anything, I would feel even worse.

I spent Election Night at PianoFight, the venue where Theater Pub performs, which was hosting a party with a free edition of Killing My Lobster’s election-themed sketch-comedy show. I had thought, “No matter what happens, this is where I want to be, these are the people I want to be among.” But it was loud and crowded and, as the disappointing election returns started to come in, increasingly anxious and panicked. There were lots of hugs and mutual support. There was cautious optimism, defiant singing, political rationalizations. And always, always, there was that damned CNN map on a big screen in the corner. (When I closed my eyes in bed last night, visions of a red and blue patchwork danced before me.) I became so anxious that I started to get lightheaded, and I didn’t much feel like laughing.

So, along with Theater Pub’s Artistic Director Tonya Narvaez, I sneaked into a tech rehearsal in PianoFight’s smaller theater. A group of SF State students were there, practicing a revue of Stephen Sondheim songs. It was cool and quiet, art was being made, and we could check the election results on our phones but not be glued to the TV screen. And, if the world was ending, why not spend it listening to live performances of Sondheim?

I didn’t cry when Prince or Bowie died, but I sure as hell am going to cry when Sondheim dies. And as this shitty year winds down its last shitty weeks, the thought “At least Sondheim is still alive… please God let him hang on till 2017” has popped into my head a few times.

Sondheim has written some dark material, and the students’ selection focused on the more political side of his oeuvre. Several pieces from Assassins and Sweeney Todd. “Pretty Lady” from Pacific Overtures, a deceptively beautiful song about sexual predation. A woman with long red hair sang “Every Day A Little Death” and I couldn’t help thinking of Melania Trump—another trophy wife in a relationship with a blustering man who “talks softly of his wars / and his horses and his whores.”

So Tonya and I, two unmarried Millennials, strong women descended from strong women, with surnames (Spanish and Slavic) that still sound foreign to many ears, escaped into the tech rehearsal in the back room. We held hands, we hugged, we shed a few tears when we realized how things were going. We realized the irony of treating PianoFight’s small theater as a refuge, because the set for Every 28 Hours is still up—posters of the people of color who have been slain by police in recent years, reminding us that even in Obama’s America, it was not safe to be brown or black. We heard the lyric “If only angels could prevail” and thought yes, if only.

I know I live in a liberal, artistic bubble. In the day since the bad news has sunk in, I have seen many people express thoughts about the role of artists under a Trump administration, responses that take one of two forms. Some people say “At least some great art will come out of this, great art always emerges from adversity,” which seems like a pathetic attempt to find a silver lining in the situation. All things considered, most artists would prefer to work under conditions of peace and prosperity, not conditions of adversity. It is difficult to make art if you live in a society that refuses to see you as fully human—perhaps one reason that art by white men dominates the Western canon.

Other people are framing this slightly differently, saying, “This is the time for artists to get to work. We need your stories and your voices now more than ever.” I have mixed feelings about this. While I appreciate being reminded that my voice matters and that art has a larger purpose, I am skeptical of the idea that art is what will get us out of this mess. I’m also not sure that I agree with the implication that the only art we should be making in this troubled time is overtly political, agenda-driven art.

But still, there is a reason I went to the Sondheim show last night, and a reason that I have continued to think about art and literature today. I mentioned that, when faced with a bleak and distressing situation, I lose my physical appetite. I also lose my metaphorical appetite: my compulsion, usually so strong, to immerse myself in works of art. Instead, for a time, I feel like there is no joy in the world and no art that is possibly worth experiencing. I wake up in the morning and think “What can I read on the way to work today? What can I possibly read?”

And then, unbidden, the craving for some work of art will hit me, and it is the first moment I feel like myself again, the first moment I see a path out of despair. Today, someone on Twitter posted the Tolkien quote about how the only people who hate escapism are jailers. I’m not much of a one for Tolkien, but the quote reminded me of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in which the title characters create a comic-book superhero called The Escapist. “I will start rereading Kavalier and Clay when I get home,” I thought, and, for the first time, I felt a little better. It’s a story about a Czech Jewish refugee and his queer Brooklyn cousin fighting fascism with art—the kind of America, and American values, that I want to believe in.

If we wanted, we could darkly joke that Theater Pub was a product of the Obama era and so it is appropriate that it’s ending in December 2016. Just one more casualty of this year, every day a little death. But that might produce the impression that Trump’s victory caused us to quit in defeat, when that isn’t true at all. As I said in an earlier piece about Theater Pub’s impending end, the organization and the blog are going away, but we aren’t going away. I’ve already started to think about other outlets for my writing.

I don’t know what the future holds. It may well be scary and dark. But I know that I want to be prepared to confront it, with all my wits about me. If Hillary Clinton had won the electoral vote, this final column would have been sentimental and nostalgic and maybe even a bit complacent, looking back at the last six years rather than looking ahead at the future. But because Trump has won, I cannot spend time on nostalgia. The last six, or eight, years have shaped me. Theater Pub has shaped me. Art of all kinds has shaped me and made me stronger. Now it is time to test my mettle.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Find her on Twitter @MarissaSkud or at marissabidilla.blogspot.com.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Pet Peeves in Arts Journalism

Marissa Skudlarek pens her penultimate column.

We’re winding down Theater Pub and winding down the blog, so as the longest-serving blog contributor, I thought I would use my next-to-last column to complain about my biggest arts-journalism pet peeves.

(This is not meant as an indictment of anyone who has written for this blog, just of general trends and irksome phrases that bother me.)

“The Bard” — This nickname is just so corny, promotes a false idea of Shakespeare as some kind of Merrie England wandering minstrel, and contributes to the problematic belief that Shakespeare is the greatest genius who ever lived and we mere mortals are unworthy of him. (There’s a reason that overzealous admiration of Shakespeare is called “Bardolatry.”) And yet I feel like the use of this phrase is only becoming more common because “The Bard” is 8 characters while “Shakespeare” is 11. (Thanks, Twitter!) Can’t we just agree to call him “Shax”?

“Penned” — This is a pretentious, cutesy word to use as a synonym for “wrote.” When I hear the word “wrote,” with its grinding r and hard t, I picture someone laboring over a messy notebook with a sputtering pen, forcing the words out. When I hear “penned,” I picture a lady in a negligee, sitting at a dainty writing table with a quill pen poised in her hand. Authoresses pen. Writers write.

“The play’s the thing” — I have seen countless theater-related articles headlined “The Play’s the Thing” and if this was ever clever or funny, it no longer is. As a child, my parents once convinced me to use “The Play’s the Thing” as the title for some book report or essay that I wrote about theater. I am still ashamed of having done that.

“Unbelievable” — In slang, “unbelievable” is a compliment and a synonym for “amazing,” but I always find it ludicrous when it is used in theater reviews as a compliment. The goal of mainstream, realist theater is believability, so when a critic writes something like “John Doe was unbelievable in the role of Willy Loman!” and means it as praise, the critic just ends up sounding like an idiot.

“Kinetic,” “melodic” — Writing about theater really means writing about many different art forms that combine to create a show. A critic reviewing a new musical may find herself evaluating the story, the dialogue, the music, the lyrics, the singing, the acting, the dancing, the direction, the sets, the costumes, and the lighting. It’s hard to write about abstract art forms like dance and music, though, and many theater critics have no special training in those disciplines. (In his book, Sondheim complains that music critics never review Broadway scores and theater critics often know nothing about music.) So in order to say something and sound knowledgeable, critics often fall back on phrases like “kinetic choreography” or “melodic songs.” But do those phrases really tell you anything?

“Stoppard/Sondheim has a heart after all” — This has been a staple of theater criticism since the 1980s. Both of these writers (whom I admire immensely, if it wasn’t obvious) came to prominence in the ’60s with works of clever, glittering wit; then, in the ’80s, critics started to perceive a new emotional depth in their work. You can quibble with this reductive description of their careers, but, more to the point, it’s no longer news to point out that the men who wrote Arcadia or “Not A Day Goes By” are perfectly capable of breaking your heart.

Lack of knowledge of the past — Over the past year, I’ve read articles claiming that “the Schuyler Sisters are the best female musical-theater characters ever” and “Rey from Star Wars is the best movie heroine ever.” I like the Schuyler Sisters and Rey just fine, I am pleased at the increased attention paid to female representation in art, but to claim that these are the “best characters ever” is appallingly shortsighted. Yeah, yeah, the Internet demands hyperbole and most people could afford to be more wide-ranging in the art that they consume, but wanting to write about how much you love a recent work of art is no reason to put down all the art that came before it.

Too much knowledge of the past — At the same time, it really annoys me when older critics spend the bulk of their theater reviews reminiscing about how the original production did it. I feel like this reinforces the belief that theater is for old, rich people who’d rather look to past glories than attempt to push the art form forward. I was fortunate enough to see The Producers in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, but when it’s revived in 2036 starring Lin-Manuel Miranda and Justin Bieber, I hope I can take their performances on their own merits.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. If she has ever committed any of these sins in her own writing, please feel free to point it out in the comments.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Comma Comments

Marissa Skudlarek responds unpunctually to Anthony’s words about her punctuation.

After I read the post where Anthony complimented me by saying “she’s insightful, thoughtful and has great grammar,” I told him that it had made me laugh out loud.

“Is it because my compliment of your grammar lacked an Oxford comma?” Anthony responded.

No, I told him, it was more that I found it amusing that the structure of his sentence implied that my grammar is the best thing about my writing. Whereas I feel like I’m much less obsessed with grammar than everyone assumes I am; honestly, I take the Vampire Weekend approach to the Oxford comma.

In the great prescriptivist-versus-descriptivist wars of usage and grammar, I feel like my fellow playwrights and I are combatants on the descriptivist side. We write dialogue that reflects how people actually talk, not the “proper” way to talk. We write sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and other infelicities galore. We punctuate intuitively and creatively. If we want an actor to speak flatly, we may end a question with a period instead of a question mark. If we want to convey that a line should be spoken swiftly, all in one breath, we may leave out the commas that custom would say we should leave in. We recognize that punctuation marks and the English language itself are tools to be wielded as we see fit—not according to a possibly antiquated and stuffy set of rules.

So, no, I’m not one of those people who gets worked up when I read a sentence that doesn’t use the Oxford comma. Yes, I’ve seen those memes that show how lack of an Oxford comma can lead to hilariously misleading sentences (“I admire my parents, Angelina Jolie and Pope Francis”) but I also recognize that most sentences aren’t like that. I do tend to use the Oxford comma in my own writing, but if someone else writes “eggs, milk and bread,” or “insightful, thoughtful and has great grammar,” I hardly notice the lack of the second comma there.

Therefore, I think of myself as a happy-go-lucky, carefree descriptivist, not a stuffy and hidebound prescriptivist. But is my self-perception really accurate? After all, I write posts about what it’s like to be a copy-editor and say that when I spot an error in The New Yorker, I fear the apocalypse is near.

Furthermore, I’m a descriptivist when it comes to how I punctuate the dialogue of my plays, but I am a strict prescriptivist when it comes to expecting actors to respect that punctuation. Lately, at every first table-read of one of my plays, I’ve started giving a little explanation about what I see as the difference between an em-dash and an ellipsis. (An em-dash is an abrupt cutting off; an ellipsis is a trailing off.) It helps avoid confusion later on, and also makes clear to the actors that yes, I do pay close attention to whether they notice the punctuation as well as the words.

Punctuation often represents an absence of sound: think of the different kinds of pauses implied by the period, the comma, the semicolon, the dash, the ellipsis. But in the absence of the playwright, the presence of the punctuation will help convey the meaning of her text.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. See the staged reading of her one-act Macaria, or The Good Life at the San Francisco Olympians Festival on Friday October 14! 

The Five: Take This Dream and Shove It

Anthony R. Miller checks in for the second-to-last time.

Hey you guys, with the shutting down of Theater Pub, I have feels. But we’re gonna save those for next time, which will be the final appearance of “The Five.” Today however, I want to talk about something we all know. Something we have contemplated and redefined, and made sacrifices for: “The Dream.” For whatever reason, there has been a lot of talk about “The Dream” as of late; giving up “The Dream,” getting a new dream, or questioning if it was ever their dream in the first place. In case you haven’t guessed, I have some thoughts on it. Even more obvious, there are five.

Eat Shit, Wells Fargo
A few weeks ago, Wells Fargo Bank rolled out its new ad campaign with photos of young people doing smart-kid things with the caption “A ballerina yesterday, an engineer today.” Or “An actor yesterday, a botanist today.” And because the internet is a calm, rational place, outrage ensued. Some viewed it as Wells Fargo devaluing the dream of working in the arts. Some felt the ads inferred that at some point we all give up our grand dreams of being a famous actor or ballerina, because that’s what grownups do. Now, I gotta say, as annoying or insensitive the ads may be, I’m a lot more worried about the millions of fake bank accounts Wells Fargo created. But I can see how the ads are a little dickish. It should be noted that sometimes the dream changes, at a certain point priorities change, but did we really need an ad campaign to point it out? Is “People giving up on a career in the arts” a hot demographic right now?

What Did You Think Was Gonna Happen?
Another hot little internet frenzy comes from an article at Medium.com. Titled “Exit, Stage Left, What Happens when You Get Sick of Your Dream,” the guy makes solid points. It’s the story of a guy who after twenty years of running a theatre company with his wife, decides to walk away. Of course he’s sad about it, and the article is him trying to sort out those feelings. But seriously dude, cheer up. You got to “Live the Dream” of creating the theatre you believed in with the love of your life for 20 years. I mean, that’s the dream, right? That’s why we do this. The personal fulfillment of creating something you are passionate about. So, if one day, you’re not passionate about it anymore, that’s OK. But when I got to the part of the article where he spoke of bad reviews, small audiences, corralling actors, you know, theatre problems, that’s where I take issue. He got sick of the grind, no shame there. But make no mistake, that’s the grind, the hard, unglamorous part of doing theatre. Maybe I disagree with him because I don’t do this for trophies or critical praise. To me, this guy accomplished all we can reasonably ask for in a life in the arts. Everything else is gravy.

The Undeniable Privilege
I make no bones about the fact that Marissa Skudlarek is and always will be my favorite TPub writer, she’s insightful, thoughtful and has great grammar. One of my favorite articles of hers is when she states that doing this, doing theatre, producing theatre, is a privilege. Sure, it takes money, hard work, unimaginable hubris and perhaps talent to produce theatre. But the fact is the very notion that on more than one occasion, I have been able to write a play, find the money, and produce it. Regardless of its “success,” the fact I did it at all is kinda crazy. So be happy about it, appreciate it. To me, this is the win. Money would be nice, and lemme tell ya, every time I pay a bill with money I made in the theatre world, I feel pretty great. Sure, in my younger days, I practiced an imaginary awards speech or two. But I try to not overlook the fact that doing this at all is something lots of people don’t. Every time I put on a show, despite how good or successful it might be, I feel lucky. Some people don’t get this far.

Narrowing Down the List
A wise man once said, “When we are young, we are many things. Getting older is just a process of narrowing down the list.” I interpret this as when I was younger, I was gonna be everything. I was going to be a writer, producer, director, designer, poet, composer, rock star, and a media mogul. In case you didn’t guess, most of these didn’t work out, and that is OK. These days the list reads Writer, Producer, and Educator, all true, all legit. Not to mention I am a sometimes director, an always Dad, an always boyfriend, and Ticket Sales professional (sexy title, I know). There are only so many hours in the day, and I find that when I focus on a few things as opposed to lots, I get better results. Not to mention, at a certain point you gotta look up and see the world outside of our immediate goals. There are a crapload of things in the world that make me happy besides doing theatre. That’s not a reason to stop doing theatre, but it is a reason to stop and smell the effing roses sometimes. When theatre is no longer your “hobby” you gotta make sure you still have a hobby.

“Dream” Is an Interesting Word
My dream of being an actor died at 19. I’ll spare you the story, but the fact was, when it came to the things that great actors do, I didn’t want to do the work. That ambition and determination was there in other facets of theatre. So as fun as getting onstage can be, I realized this wasn’t my path, so I largely gave it up, because it wasn’t my dream. That said, I’m not entirely sure what my “dream” is. Sure, making a living doing theatre is the goal, I would love to be a “blue collar” theatre worker, taking the less glamorous jobs, not famous, stable-ish. Maybe that’ll happen for me, and maybe it won’t. It depends on your definition. But at a certain point, dreams and wishes need to become plans and goals. One of the first things my high school drama teacher told us in Drama 1 is “most of you will never act again in 4 years.” Now call it harsh, call it the truth, but when I look up my old theatre friends, it’s true, most of them, even the ones voted most talented, the ones who everyone thought would be a star, haven’t walked on a stage in a long time. I don’t feel bad for them because they all have good jobs, savings accounts, and stability. Here I am, with a day job selling theatre tickets, falling in love with teaching, writing and producing as much as I can. I’m still here, still doing it, and one day I might not. I wouldn’t call this my “dream,” it’s more of an obsession, a compulsive thing I do. I’ll keep doing this as long as it makes me happy, as long as it’s reasonable to do it, and sure, I probably will not become an icon of American theatre, but that stopped being “The Dream” a long time ago. “The Dream” is just being here at all.

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and Educator. His show, TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT opens Oct 14, learn more and get tickets at www.awesometheatre.org.