Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Dear Tennessee-..."

“Dear Tennessee-
I’m the guy who prays to you from time to time. Maybe you’re long gone and it’s a ridiculous thing to occasionally take out a photo of you and ask you for some strength and inspiration when I’m really struggling with the writing in those deadly quiet, lonely 5 a.m. hours of the night-but whenever I do it, I feel like you hear me, I feel like you smile warmly and nod knowingly, and then somehow, someway, I get from you a quiet assurance, and sometimes even a not-so-quiet kind of flaming fireball to the gut that says; “Yes dear, it is hard, it is lonely, and you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, so do it, and do it fully, and faithfully, and courageously, and gratefully, and outrageously-and for the love of God do it with absolutely as much of your heart as you can possibly spare. The door is open. Listen deeper and write down what you hear.”
And maybe you’d never say anything remotely like that in real life, but that’s what I hear from you when I’m willing to dig out an old photo of you in the middle of the night and search your kind eyes and tell you I’m miserable and scared to death and I hate this whole writing thing and I’m stuck, stuck, stuck. You are a mother and a father to me, Tennessee. And I’m grateful that in your work, and in your resolute devotion to the sweat and the art of creation, that you have set a bar that can only be aspired to but can never be surpassed.
I could share maybe close to a hundred specific instances where your work has touched me in ways that no one else’s ever has. Maybe you’d enjoy reading in print that I think your work totally kicks Arthur Miller’s ass. Or that your elucidation of humanity is the most sublimely blah blah blah of any blah blah blah since blah blah blah. I’ll leave those sentiments to the better educated.
But I can tell you that I was once a mixed-up teenager in a back brace from a recent surgery, and that I limped into a high school drama class taught by a wonderful man named John McDonald, and we would read plays aloud, and I was kind of bored by the class until we started reading you, and when we read six of your plays back to back, I couldn’t believe how they made me cry and think and feel. And later that year, I was on a stage performing Tom in THE GLASS MENAGERIE, and I probably sucked, but it made me want to be an actor and a person in the theatre more than anything in this world. And then years later, when I began to write, I went back to your plays and fell in love and in awe of them all over again, and I have aspired ever since to the idea that if I’m going to write plays, I should hope to write something that might make somebody feel something like how I felt when we first read CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF back in high school. So thank you.”
-Stephen Adly Guirgus
What Williams Means To Mean
4 Contemporary Playwrights Weigh In On The Writer’s Legacy
American Theatre/September 2011

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"What I recognized in that image, face, incident or three-inch newspaper story that stopped me, is that it held out the possibility of looking at something in myself,"

"It comes after a lunatic year in which I directed five productions of my play SORROWS AND REJOICINGS on three continents-an exercise that lived up to the title of the play in every sense of the word. It left me physically and emotionally drained and made it very easy for me at the end of it to decide that my days as a director were over, in much the same way that I decided a few years ago that I would not do any more acting. Those two roles had been forced on me in my early years of making theatre in South Africa when I discovered that no one wanted to touch the plays that I wanted to write. I had no choice really but to get up there and have a go at it myself.

There are a few other resolutions as well and, taken together, they have given me a sense of adventure as I face up to whatever time is left to me, but now without any clutter to my essential identity as a writer. I've reinforced that sense of adventure by replacing the rickety old table I've been working on up to now with a beautiful, solid slab of mahogany on four legs-my new "home"-the safest place in my universe.

That year of rehearsal rooms and nerve-wrecking and depressing openings (I never did learn how to cope with them!) gave me no chance to write. All I could do, in the succession of hotel rooms I lived in, was a few vacuous entries in this notebook and a lot of yearning for the time when I would be free once again to explore that ultimate terra incognita, that most outer of all outer spaces-the blank page...

Why is it that certain stories, faces or incidents from the thousands that crowd my daily life will separate themselves from the others and take on an imperative quality that demands that I deal with them and, in my case, that obviously means writing about them?

That, of course, is what a writer is always looking for-a strong story with an unhappy ending. In my case, however, I know that there is also something else at work, something less easy to define. It involves one of my more important insticts as a writer, because it has chosen the stories I decided to tell. What I recognized in that image, face, incident or three-inch newspaper story that stopped me, is that it held out the possibility of looking at something in myself, even though in most cases I was not aware of this at the time. Only afterward did I realize that these stories, these images, were a shield I had held up so that I could slay a private Medusa...

I switched off my neurotic obsession with time and sat down on the sand with no other intention than to watch the setting sun. The last time I did that was in the Karoo, in Nieu Bethesda, on my walks around the village when I would choose a convenient sun-warmed rock and sit down and let time pass, just "be" (to the extent that my restless nature is capable of that meditative state)."

by Athol Fugard
Appointment with Despair: Pages from a Writer's Notebook
American Theatre/November 2012

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

The philosopher Socrates went willingly to his death...

"The philosopher Socrates went willingly to his death because he believed he had an obligation to respect the laws of his city even when those same laws condemned him to death (see "Living Well"). (He died by poisoning. He was forced to drink a cup of hemlock and was dead within half an hour.) His friends tried to convince him to escape. He himself thought he was condemned unjustly. but his respect for the laws and for his own sense of honor were so strong that he decided that the most important thing for him to do would be to show his belief in his own principles by dying for them."

From THE BIG QUESTIONS A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins.

Friday, February 22, 2013

, a refusal to get totally caught up in the details of life and simply go along with the crowd. Philosophy and wisdom define our place in the universe and give our lives meaning.

"Philosophy, religion, and science have always been closely related. The emphasis shifts, but the point of these endeavors is the same: the importance of ideas and understanding, of making sense out of our world and seeing our lives in some larger even cosmic, perspective. Ideas define our place in the universe and our relations with other people: ideas determine what is important and what is not important, what is fair and what is not fair, what is worth believing and what is not worth believing. Ideas give life meaning. Our minds need ideas the way our bodies need food. We are starved for visions, hunger for understanding. We are caught up in the routines of life, distracted occasionally by those activities we call "recreation" and "entertainment." What we as a nation have lost is the joy of thinking, the challenge of understanding, the inspirations as well as the consolations of philosophy.

This is odd, however; for America, more than any other nation on earth, was founded on ideas, was built upon philosophical principles. Yet, how many educated Americans can even name a living American philosopher? Or, for that matter, how many of us know anything about the philosophical history that, toward th end of the eighteenth century, gave birth to this nation? We recite ideas that are two hundred, in some cases two thousand, years old without any attempt to understand them, without any awareness that many men and women have lived and died for them, without even trying to be critical about them, or to work them into our vision of the world. But these ideas are philosophy. Philosophy is simply thinking hard about life, about what we have leaned, about our pace in the world. Philosophy is, literally, the love of wisdom. It is the search for the larger picture, and this involves the demand for knowledge--the kind of knowledge that allows us to understand our lives and the world around us. It is, accordingly, the insistence on the importance of values, a refusal to get totally caught up in the details of life and simply go along with the crowd. Philosophy and wisdom define our place in the universe and give our lives meaning."

From the Preface of THE BIG QUESTIONS A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Name Is Asher Lev

I saw MY NAME IS ASHER LEV last night, and it is wonderful. I highly recommend it; it's an example of what true play making should be. My kind of stuff.



Monday, February 11, 2013

Shoveling Snow



Kristy and Michael shoveling snow at home in NY on Feb. 09, 2013

...a job at the post office has been a ticket to the middle class and has provided a pension and medical care to retirees.

From How the Post Office Made America:

"Other critics warn that ceasing Saturday service will be the first step down an irreversible “death spiral.”...

For millions of workers, including veterans and African-Americans, a job at the post office has been a ticket to the middle class and has provided a pension and medical care to retirees. The Postal Service is the country’s second largest civilian employer, after Walmart."

How the Post Office Made America

Thursday, February 7, 2013

...driving us further away from each other...

If you see somebody on the news that looks like me getting arrested for angrily throwing other people's phones on the ground out of complete frustration, smile. Because I'm trying to save humanity from destruction. In my opinion, these technological devices are not advancing human beings. They are driving us further away from each other, and they're getting in the way of truly living. They will be our down fall.

...hang a sign on me from now on that reads Human Being At Work

I was sitting at Starbucks, before the stupid girl kept spilling her drink all over herself, drinking a cup of coffee, thinking, and observing, and the person behind the counter walked over to me and asked with complete and sincere concern, "Are you okay?" And I hesitantly replied, "I'm fine. Why do you ask?" And she expressed, "You seem like something's bothering you." And I said, "No. I'm fine. I'm just sitting here." The conversation progressed, and she wasn't use to seeing somebody just sit without a phone or piece of technology glued to their face.

I guess I have to hang a sign on me from now on that reads Human Being At Work...

...reading from her phone to the other girl a synopsis of the entire play.





I went to see the current production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF on Broadway. CAT is a three act play, and they had a short intermission between each act (two ten minute intermissions). During the first intermission (after the first act), I heard the the two girls behind me talking, and after a couple of minutes, the one girl started reading from her phone to the other girl a synopsis of the entire play. Now, I know what happens in the story. I knew what was coming. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of the experience?

...instead of paying attention to what needed to be done.

This morning, the girl sitting next to me at Starbucks dumped her very expensive drink all over herself because she had an ipad in one hand and a smartphone in the other hand and was more focused on those two items than the drink placed somewhere between all of that. And then when she was slowly attempting to clean the mess, she spilled what was left of the drink on herself again because she got distracted and had to stop and look at and study the motherf$%^#$% phone again instead of paying attention to what needed to be done. After both, somebody finally came over to help her clean everything up because it was so bad, and that person kind of gave me a why aren't you helping her look. And I just glanced over with a kind of I'm not the stupid one kind of look.

...foretell that the technology we fathered will rise up against us, rendering us obsolete or even extinct

From Raging (Again) Against the Robots:

"There is something almost Freudian in these robot takeover terrors, which foretell that the technology we fathered will rise up against us, rendering us obsolete or even extinct...

“Every invention ever made caused some people to lose jobs,” says Mr. Mokyr. “In a good society, when this happens, they put you out to pasture and give you a golf club and a condo in Florida. In a bad society, they put you on the dole, so you have just enough not to starve, but that’s about it.”...

Any job that can be reduced to an algorithm will be, leading to the displacement of workers in industries as diverse as retail and radiology."


...working until I'm 100,

From In Hard Economy for All Ages, Older Isn't Better...It's Brutal:

"A recent study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

“If I break my wrist, I lose my house,” said Susan Zimmerman, 62, a freelance writer in Cleveland, of the distress that a medical emergency would wreak upon her finances and her quality of life. None of the three part-time jobs she has cobbled together pay benefits, and she says she is counting the days until she becomes eligible for Medicare.

In the meantime, Ms. Zimmerman has fashioned her own regimen of home remedies — including eating blue cheese instead of taking penicillin and consuming plenty of orange juice, red wine, coffee and whatever else the latest longevity studies recommend — to maintain her health, which she must do if she wants to continue paying the bills.

“I will probably be working until I’m 100,” she said."