Friday, May 24, 2013

"What if he had given up after writing eight or nine plays? The world would never have heard of Arthur Miller or Willy Loman."


Desk Of Roland Tec
Department Of Membership

So Much Heartache So Little Time

By Duane Kelly

The Dramatist-May/June 2013

"First off, I should confess that I succumb to self-doubt regularly, but also only temporarily. An innate characteristic I have, which serves my writing well, is perseverance (some friends would use the word "stubbornness").

I have three tactics I employ: Arthur Miller, Paul Cezanne, and navel-gazing. Arthur Miller because his first professionally successful play was All My Sons, which I think was the tenth or eleventh play he wrote. What if he had given up after writing eight or nine plays? The world would never have heard of Arthur Miller or Willy Loman. Paul Cezanne because he was never confident that he was a good artist or people would appreciate his work, yet he painted virtually every day and today his paintings command higher prices than many works by Van Gogh and Picasso. Navel-gazing because making up stories and putting them in playscript form satisfies me at an intellectual, emotional and spiritual level that nothing else in my life has ever done. I make myself recall that feeling on days when I'm tempted to abandon my writing."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Artists serve a purpose."


Desk Of Roland Tec
Department Of Membership

The Shifting Ground Beneath Our Feet

The Dramatist-November/December 2012

"It's not uncommon these days for us to hear of theatres-particularly those that have championed new work-shutting their doors for good. But another less-talked-about change is in the air and I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

I can think of at least three regional theatres that have, in the past year or so, eliminated the position of Literary Manager. In most cases, the duty of reading scripts, however, has not been entirely shelved (officially, anyway) and usually someone such as the Associate Artistic Director is expected to pick up the slack. And if we are to believe the propaganda surrounding these changes, the elimination of this position is in no way indicative of a shift in attitude toward new work.

Make no mistake. If a theatre needs to trim administrative costs in order to continue producing work-any work, even 400-year-old work-we have something to be grateful for. There is one more theatre surviving these tough economic times. But the elimination of Literary Manager posts around the country also presents us with an opportunity for soul searching. Because, in the end, it begs the question: What were these woebegone Literary Managers ever really able to achieve for us in the first place?

The answer? Not much.

Most Literary Managers I know are swimming against the tide. They love new work. They spend their lives readng it and championing it. And yet, they have little power to determine what gets produced and what does not. This makes sense, of course, if one believes that the best artistic institutions are those run by a strong leader with a strong vsion, i.e. an Artistic Director. Most theatres are not governed as collectives; they are led from the top down.

And truthfully, my heart breaks a little every time I have a conversation with another playwright who wonders how to get anyone to just read her work, let alone consider producing it. Writing for an art form that's in decline is a thankless job; but someone has to do it.

No, really. Someone does.


Artists serve a purpose. It's often murky and difficult to articulate or encapsulate in 140 characters or less, but it's important nonetheless. And theatre is powerful and sometimes dangerous: when it's great. If we allow our theatres to be nothing more than echo chambers for what's on television and online, we are failing not only theatre, but humanity.

The funny thing is, human beings don't often recognize it, but we hunger for change. Sure, change is complicated and unsettling, but we seek it out in our daily lives and in our art again and again. It is only the living writer who can bring an audience to new vistas.

So, if I accept that I have a moral responsibility to drive the art form forward, what am I to do without a Literary Manager waiting patiently for my latest?

The truth is so obvious it sounds trite. Do the work. On our own terms. By our own means. Period. Ultimately, we need only a handful of ingredients: a captive audience, actors to breathe life to text and the time and space in which to make it happen.

When we do this-if even for an audience of ten or twelve-we are transformed. We cease being whining disappointed wells of need and instead we become activists, artists, leaders. As such, we are set free."

"...Sam Beckett does. There's so much that we playwrights can learn from him. Do not write a word that is not necessary. No music. Listen to the sounds, the music your characters make, and put that down precisely, but not an extra note, not an extra word."


Which one writer or play had the most impact on my writing
Edward Albee

The Dramatist-November/December 2012

"I want to tell you about some of the things that Beckett has taught me. He taught me, more than anything else, and first: Do not ever imitate another playwright, especially if it's Sam Beckett you're planning to imitate. He is unique, he cannot be imitated; he cannot even be parodied, which is a true test of the extraordinary power of a writer. I don't understand why so many people think that Sam Beckett is an avant-garde playwright. I don't understand why so many people think that his work is obscure and difficult. Take Happy Days, for example. Completely naturalistic play. Act I, a woman buried up to her waist in a mound of earth. Well, we know that feeling, yes? Act 2, the woman is buried up to her neck-she is older-in a mound of earth. We know that feeling, too. That, by the way, is why it is a two-act play and not a three-act play.

Beckett was capable of mixing metaphor and reality without the metaphor ever getting in the way of the reality. He is the most naturalistic of playwrights. I'm convinced that if Waiting for Godot had first been performed on an outdoor patio, nobody would have been confused. And had Endgame been done in a recreation room, nobody would have said, "This is obscure, this is difficult, this is avant-garde." No writer that I know writes as purely, as clearly, as Sam Beckett does. There's so much that we playwrights can learn from him. Do not write a word that is not necessary. No music. Listen to the sounds, the music your characters make, and put that down precisely, but not an extra note, not an extra word.

There are probably four or five essential playwrights in the twentieth century: Beckett, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett. And perhaps there are four essential novelists in the twentieth century: Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Beckett. Because Beckett did something extraordinary that no other writer has ever done. Not only did he reinvent the play, not only did he reinvent the drama, but he also reinvented the novel. This simple, pure, clear, most naturalisic, and most valuable of playwrights."

"These tattered texts remind me that I'm not merely a craftsman-for-hire; I may even (on my best days) be an artist. When I wrote them, I bled, and so I own them. They are my property."


What does Guild membership mean to you
Doug Wright

The Dramatist-November/December 2012

"I don't have a sprawling home, or even a single cabana abutting my non-existent pool. But I do have one tiny shelf in my office of the plays I've penned. Each word in them is genuinely mine; their collective vision sprang from the demons locked inside my feverish little brain. No one may change a word of text without my permission. Every director, actor and designer hired is subject to my approval. I am the only writer credited on each title page. These scripts exist simultaneously in two worlds: that of the theater, of course, which is highly collaborative, but also the land of literature, which is fiercely individual and idiosyncratic, where authorial voices are as distinct, as singular, as thumbprints or strands of DNA, where writers aren't rewarded for being "team players" but are valued instead for their eccentricities, their singularity, and their stubbornness in resolutely expressing their own hard-won, uncompromised truths. These tattered texts remind me that I'm not merely a craftsman-for-hire; I may even (on my best days) be an artist. When I wrote them, I bled, and so I own them. They are my property.

That is the one, incalculable reward of being a playwright: you are the CEO of your own imagination. The Dramatists Guild was founded to protect this essential principle, one that is (regrettably) always under siege. The Guild exists to protect my talent; not to exploit it. In its vigilant embrace, I can write unfettered with the reassurance that the worlds I create will always belong to me; I will never be forced to "cave." And that beats the hell out of a pool."

"...the only reason I will control what I create is because almost a hundred years ago American playwrights banded together to ensure that that's the way it had to be."


The Last Page
What Guild Membership Means To Me
by John Weidman

The Dramatist-January/February 2013

"The Dramatists Guild means a lot of things to me, but first and foremost it means ownership and control. Absolute ownership and complete control of the work I create when I write for the theatre.

There are certain givens that many playwrights today simply take for granted. That a producer cannot fire them from their own play and replace them with another playwright. That no one can change a word of what they've written without their permission. That a producer cannot add interpretive artists-directors, actors, and designers-to their play without their approval.

The thing that playwrights sometimes forget is that these givens were not always givens. That in fact they were not "given" at all. That these protections were fought for and won by generations of playwrights working collectively through the organization that they created to establish and defend what are now accepted as fundamental working norms.

And that organization is the Dramatists Guild of America.

There's a playwright I know who believes that these essential protections are not something he owes to the determined efforts of Eugene O'Neill and Robert Sherwood and Edward Albee, but rather something he owes to the negotiating skills of his agent and his attorney. If that's the case, he should ask his agent and his attorney to negotiate the same protections for him next time he makes a movie deal.

The ever-expanding community the Guild has become, the ever-increasing number of services the Guild is able to provide, these are all part of the exhilarating way in which the meaning of the Guild continues to expand and evolve.

But every time I sit down to write for the theatre, I try to consciously remind myself that the only reason I will control what I create is because almost a hundred years ago American playwrights banded together to ensure that that's the way it had to be.

And in the end that's what the Dramatists Guild means to me."

Monday, May 20, 2013

"...and for the first time in such a terribly long time, fell in love with the theatre again by watching an innocent who let the magic of theatre wash over him with complete joy."

From Desk Of Gary Garrison
Department Of Creative Affairs
The Dramatist-Septemer/October 2012

Title: The Gift of Elijah

"I've been around the theatre a long, long time-well, almost forty years to be exact. Like so many of you, over those forty years I've seen a lot of theatre: high school and college theatre, community theatre, hole-in-the wall theatre, struggling-to-stay-alive theatre, regional theatre, off-off Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Broadway theatre. And during those same years, I immersed myself in the making of theatre as an actor, dancer, director, choreographer and finally, as a writer.

It's easy at any point, I guess, but particularly after 40 years, to be sometimes jaded and a little worn with a healthy dose of been-there/done-that/drank-the-Koolaid/bought the t-shirt which I now use to wash my car. But like everyone else, I still get excited to see a masterful new play (like Clybourne Park or Venus in Fur), am more than curious when a Latin superstar is attached to a Broadway revival and enthusiastically anticipate the arrival of a new original musical with a fresh idea (Doug Wright and Amanda Green's Hands on a Hard Body). But nothing before or after will ever match my reaction to a recent experience I had in the theatre.

A very special person in my life introduced me to a very special person in his life, and she in turn, chatted about the really special people in her life. One of those people was her son-a high school sophomore that LOVES the theatre (you could hear the word in all caps when she spoke about it). As a playwright, actor, aspiring producer and film director, Elijah LOVES all things theatre. He's a walking encyclopedia for names of artists, producers and productions. He draws his own show posters for the prouctions he's seen and those he wants to see. He writes his own plays, acts in his own plays, and by necessity I'm sure, produces his own plays. As I listened to his mother describe him, I was hit in the gut by something immediate: she could have been describing me when I was fifteen. As she was describing Elijah, I think I flashed back for a nano-second to my own youth, but quickly let the conversation race me back to the present. I mean, after all, that was 40 years ago and I'm such a different person, right?

As the Tony season was ending, and I was counting the days to the beginning of summer, I had one more show to see before I could cast my Tony ballot, Newsies. I went through the Rolodex of my brain, searching for a friend who might enjoy seeing the show. For a whole lot of reasons (some friends don't like musicals, some friends don't like Disney, some friends didn't like the movie, some friends don't like matinees, some friends don't like me, blah blah blah) I couldn't think of anyone. And then I thought to ask Elijah because I knew he'd enjoy it. I didn't know his taste, but the characters are around his age, most kids loved the movie, and I was betting he was an Alan Menken fan. So I made the invitation.

The day of the matinee I was feeling like-uhm, hmmmm, let's just say: not good,; my nose was a faucet, I was running a slight fever, I was starting a cold and I felt like I'd been backed over by a taxi a hundred times. Regardless, I drug myself to the theatre because I had to see the show, and I wasn't about to disappoint Elijah (who I understood was thrilled about seeing the show). As I rounded the corner to the theatre, my feet dragging towards the theatre marquee, I spotted Elijah standing beside his mother. Smiling ear to ear, a beacon lighthouse in each eye and an energy that radiated excitement and a little nervousness from every pore. There was no mistaking him: this was the kid that LOVED theatre. I said, "You must be Elijah." His energetic respond was, "Yes!" I said, "Are you excited to see the show?" His response was: "I'm  sooooo excited to see the show!" I believed him. I know unapologetic truth when I hear it and I saw, in an instance, his love for all things theatre. Something told me right then, right there, this was not going to be my typical day in the theatre.

From the moment we stepped towards the lobby door of the theatre, I could almost feel Elijah's pulse race and his heart beat faster-it was that palpable. His eyes widened: it seemed like he couldn't see enough. Was it my imagination or was he counting down the seconds until he could get a program in his hand, study the stage, study the audience, watch the house lights fade and listen to the overture begin? Whatever it was, I was under a spell. I forgot my own junk that I'd carried to the theatre (tired, sick), and for the first time in such a terribly long time, fell in love with the theatre again by watching an innocent who let the magic of theatre wash over him with complete joy.

Elijah didn't watch the show from his seat so much as he saw the show perched forward on the first third of his seat-that's how close to it all he wanted to be. He greeted song after song with enthusiastic (and very genuine) applause; his face was a mirror for the stage: happy when the story was happy, sad when the story took a darker turn. I didn't have to know one detail of the story to know that Elijah understood it all. He heard every word of the text, every note of music; he saw the detail in the choreography and marveled at the architecture of the set. He was, in a word, a believer.

At the intermission when he, along with other audience members, cheered the cast off for their break, I knew something profound had just happened for me: I was witness to how theatre can transform lives, be it for an hour or for a lifetime. Something caught in my throat (my heart, if you must know) and I knew I couldn't speak, so I mumbled something to Elijah about hitting the restroom. As I rose out of my seat, he looked at me with a face exploding with happiness and said, "I'm going to get some souvenirs. Do you want anything?" I almost lost it right there. Souvenirs: remembrances that you witnessed something special, something worth remembering, something possibly profound to you. How could I tell this kid that the look on his face was all the souvenir I'd ever need because I'd never forget it?

As I walked away from Elijah I was at war with myself: the intense desire to be a theatre kid again in battle with this old self-aware intellect I've drug around, often like a dead weigh, for years. Surely there has to be a way to live in that joy again, I kept thinking; surely there has to be a way to reconnect with all the magic that theatre affords you. Can any theatre artist forget the headache and heartache of being an artist in a over-complicated world to rediscover the simple pleasure of life lessons learned through make-believe?

When I returned to my seat after intermission, Elijah was in his seat proudly sporting a newspaper boy's cap (bought at the concession stand). Already weak in the heart and soul, I had to turn away and choke back a few more tears. "Got the hat, huh?" is all I could manage. "Yeah, and look at this: poster, the c.d., the souvenir newspaper..." displaying what a teen-ager's savings could afford. Thank God the lights fell for Act Two so I didn't have to respond because, well, I couldn't have; I had nothing cogent to say.

When the show ended, and the audience spontaneously rose to its feet to show their appreciation for the gorgeous story-telling we'd all witnessed, I stood next to Elijah, happy to be standing, applauding the effort of so many who had made such an impression on this young man and so many others in the audience. This was a well-deserved standing ovation, and not your obligatory "let's cheer the television stars for remembering their lines" ovation. More importantly, when I looked at Elijah I saw the thanks he was extending to the cast in his posture, his sincerity, his enthusiasm and that familiar ear-to-ear smile. "Yes," I thought, "this is why you stand. This is when you stand; when applause alone isn't enough."

When the cast left the stage, and the audience began to leave, Elijah scooped up his show souvenirs, locked eyes with me, and said, "Thank you. Thank you so much. I'll never forget this." I manage to mumble, "Neither will I," and  I knew the truth of what each of us were saying.

I've often heard that to see the world through a child's eyes is profound, and I was blessed with an incredible gift to see my art through a kid's heart and soul. So in our regional theatre issue, where theatre is everywhere, I challenge you to see our artistry through the eyes of a child. If you let it, it can alter your world in ways you never thought possible, or maybe had just forgotten."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Richard Foreman, his work, and Old Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance)

Here's a great article/interview with Richard Foreman about his work, career, and new play, Old Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance).

Check out the entire article/interview with great pictures from the production.

When It Goes Wrong, When It Goes Right by Gary Garrison

From The Dramatist-March/April 2012:

from the desk of Gary Garrison
Department of Creative Affairs

When It Goes Wrong,
When It Goes Right

"I learned very early on that I'm not the kind of writer you want regularly in the rehearsal room. Why? I'm too nervous and impatient. I want what I want when I want it, and that translates in my scenario to actors making acting choices that are identical to what I see in my imagination. I want actors to go from Point A to Point Z in an instant and show me the brilliance (?) of what I've written. That, of course, would rob them of any creative process and frankly, isn't realistic.

I truly love actors and what they bring to the process of making theatre. I'm awed by their insights, talent, daring, courage and unbridled creativity. And if I'm really honest, I know so much of my work could have never been realized without their significant contribution. So as I've aged in my career, I've thankfully discovered how the process goes wrong, when it feels right and my part as the dramatist in each of those events.

Actors are not computers; they're human beings. So I shouldn't expect an actor (as much as I'd like to) to replicate the exact, same performance night after night after night. And if I do have that expectation, I'm sure to be disappointed. Part of an actor's skill is to be consistent within a certain boundary, but even in that consistency there's going to be some small variations. And that's what makes theatre-theatre. It's the danger and thrill of the unexpected and unknown for the actors and the audience.

Despite what happens in rehearsal, an actor continues to explore in performance. That means, at least to me, that new insights are going to filter into the actor's awarness. If the actor is living in the world of the play, new-hopefully appropriate-choices will be made. If I'm connected to the world of my play, I'll see th actor's discovery as insight into my characters, and not carelessness.

When an actor makes a text or character suggestion, my obligation is to listen to the suggestion and not dismiss it because I'm the writer and they're " just the actor." I can trace really good lines of dialogue in my plays back to some actors because I listened, I thought it through, I didn't make a decision in the moment and I thought, ultimately, the suggestion was helpful. I did not see the suggestion as an uninvited intrusion into my art.

Though I'm often tempted, because I'm a control freak, it is never my responsibility (or authority) to make a direct suggestion to an actor that's not filtered through the director. Though I love my work, I have to equally love the collaborative process and the hierarchy of authority.

Because an actor doesn't get a laugh or gasp on the same line one night over another, it does not necessarily mean that the actor is off his/her game; it could be that the audience had too many enchiladas before walking through the front door of the theatre.

Actors transform themselves. A 40 year old man can become a seven year old British school girl, if he finds the honesty and essence of such. My responsibility as the writer is not to be so rigid in my own imagination.

I see an actor as my equal, not simply as my mouthpiece. When that happens, we're both off to a good start.

I recognize that some actors audition really well, but ultimately reveal that they are not right for the role in rehearsal and I have to say something to the director. When I do that, I've taken a step towards empowering not only my voice, but strengthening the integrity of the production. While it's painful to dismiss anyone from the process, it's more painful to watch my play in performance with an actor who just isn't up for the challenge of the character I've created.

When I see an actor stray away from the logic of what I've written (in rehearsal or performance), I have to say something to the director (or stage manager, if that's who's been left in charge of the performances). If the actor continues to stray, I can't give up, give in or resign myself to it. I keep talking until someone listens to me. I owe it to myself as a playwright, and I owe it to my other collaborators to educate them about a dramatist's rights.

When an actor consistenly paraphrases my dialogue, I say something. And I keep saying it until someone listens to me. That's particularly hard for me because I'm someone who wants/needs to be seen as a team player. But c'mon-the integrity of my work is at stake.

Actors create a shared ownership of my characters. It's natural (though not necessarily comfortable) to hear an actor say, "Oh, John would never behave that way. He would never say that. He would..." and I'm appreciative (not challenged) that the actor is so invested in the character.

I'm often seen as the outsider in the process. and I'm not threatened that actors don't really understand why I'm there or are nervous that I'm there. It feels good or "right" when I can help them understand-through my good actions-why I'm there and what I can contribute to the process of making theatre.

If I'm smart, I'm generous with my praise and thanks. Actors want to know I approve of what they're doing. They need my support (and gratitude), and frankly, they deserve it.

Because of their own anxiety or stress, some actors will aggressively challenge/confront me as the writer and I have to understand that. When an actor has a question about why her character says something or takes a specifc action, I should have a cogent answer for her. Or, I should say, "Maybe it's not clear...let me think about it," and then I do and report back. 

A therapist of mine once said, "Good mental health is in direct proportion to how well you sit with grey; meaning, how at ease are you when something's not black or white?" Sometimes in the theatre, things just don't work. All the rehearsal, time, effort, passion, commitment, financial resources just can't make the difference. Is it your work? Is it the director's work? Is the actors' work? Sometimes you won't ever know, and that's the truth of it. All you can do is the very best work you're capable of.

Theatre is about drama, on AND off the stage. Let's face it, a lot of theatre artists wear their emotions on their sleeve. Tempers erupt, gossip is spread, fear is bouncing around the walls of the theatre and some people need attention, power and assurance. My job as the dramatist is to focus my energy on the drama on the stage and not indulge the drama off stage. It's a lose-lose situation.

I was an actor for years (too many to count) before I started writing. So I've been whacked with both ends of the stick. The education I gained as an actor has proven to be invaluable to me as a writer. If what I've written above feels foreign or unknown to you, take an acting class. Challenge yourself. Learn by doing, then do by learning."

Friday, May 3, 2013

And I let these crooks keep my money?


JPMorgan Caught in Swirl of Regulatory Woes

"Government investigators have found that JPMorgan Chase devised “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” and that one of its most senior executives gave “false and misleading statements” under oath.

The findings appear in a confidential government document, reviewed by The New York Times, that was sent to the bank in March, warning of a potential crackdown by the regulator of the nation’s energy markets.

The possible action comes amid showdowns with other agencies. One of the bank’s chief regulators, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is weighing new enforcement actions against JPMorgan over the way the bank collected credit card debt and its possible failure to alert authorities to suspicions about Bernard L. Madoff, according to people who were not authorized to discuss the cases publicly."

Check out the entire article

A sign that they're not taking care of their own.


Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.

"Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000...

The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said...

Dr. Arias noted that the higher suicide rates might be due to a series of life and financial circumstances that are unique to the baby boomer generation. Men and women in that age group are often coping with the stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children...

Preliminary research at Rutgers suggests that the risk for suicide is unlikely to abate for future generations. Changes in marriage, social isolation and family roles mean many of the pressures faced by baby boomers will continue in the next generation, Dr. Phillips said.
“The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it hasn’t panned out that way,” she said. “All these conditions the boomers are facing, future cohorts are going to be facing many of these conditions as well.”"

Check out the entire article.

"...of the opinion that there is no direct correlation between an artist's shyness and the quality of his or her work."

From The Dramatist-Jan/Feb 2012:

from the desk of Roland Tec/Department of Membership

on shyness

"One of my many obsessions is shyness. I suffer from it terribly, though you wouldn't necessarily know it if you've attended any event where I'm the moderator. With a specific job to do, I am somewhat able to let the task and all the focus it demands eclipse my own fears and awkwardness. But plunk me down into a cocktail party with no agenda other than to "mix and mingle" and I suddenly turn into the eight-year-old boy who ate lunch by himself every day of summer camp for fear of being rejected. At most social gatherings, I hover by the food or the exit or both and I calculate how long I have to endure this torture before my departure can be made without raising eyebrows.

If you doubt me on this, just ask Marsha Norman how long I'd been working at the Guild before I got up the nerve to even say "hello" to her, much less engage her in conversation.

As Director of Membership at the Guild, my own shyness has influenced the ways I've approached most of the programming initiatives I've undertaken. For example, I choose to conduct all of our various Exchanges a bit like an extended talk show, beginning with mini interviews of every person in the room before the entire group rather than simply relying on everyone to adequately introduce themselves. I do this quite consciously with the shy folks in mind.

Why go to all this trouble, you ask? Well, call me crazy, but I am of the opinion that there is no direct correlation between an artist's shyness and the quality of his or her work.

In my own work outside the Guild, as a film director, I have occasionally caught myself hiring the more quiet, reserved candidate for a position, the one whose interview may have been less fun, a bit more labored. I have noticed myself doing this on more than one occasion. Depending on the job I was filling, there may have been other more important qualities than charming one's way through a 25-min. cappuccino. Maybe I was seeking an eye and a sensitivity to the detail of character in a cinematographer or an intuitive feel for the nuances of narrative in an editor. Of course some jobs require natural people skills. Directing comes to mind. And producing. But writing? I don't think so.

Time and again, however, I am reminded of just how much depends on our not being shy in this business. There simply are too many people writing scripts of all varieties. So much so that without a little push, a little moxie, chances are pretty good that even the most glorious writing talent will go unnoticed.

So what's a shy person to do?

On a recent trip to Cleveland, after a half day of workshops, a young man rather sheepishly approached me to ask if I had any theatre plans for the evening. His name was Tom. The woman he was with, Liz, scolded him for being pushy. But I was curious to hear more despite the fact that my own fatigue was nudging me ever closer to a night in front of the hotel DVR.

"Well, there's this evening of monologues being done in another part of town and the writers and actors are all really pretty good."

I smiled. But my smile was hardly convincing.

Liz handed me her card and offered-quite generously, I thought-to pick me up at thehotel and give me a lift to and from the show if I decided I'd like to go.

"I have a hunch you might like it," she added.

"Do you both have work in the show," I asked, 90% certain of the answer.

"No, we don't. But a couple of the writers are friends."

In retrospect I have to admit that's probably what made the difference for me and I'm ashamed to admit that. These two were not simply pushing their own show onto me, and as such, instead of begging a favor, they were inviting me to an opportunity.

Odd psychology, eh? When something is being offered to us by the author, we are naturally more suspect. Doesn't seem fair, really. Does it?

But I digress. To my delight and surprise, the work was compelling and for the most part pretty sharply performed. I laughed my ass off, as did the other 40-odd folks gathered in the unmarked storefront gallery in a part of town I could not name.

So, unless and until we all make friends with the likes of generous souls Tom and Liz, what are we to do? How can we hope to sell ourselves to the world without coming across as pushy, self-promoting or just plain obnoxious?

My friend, the actress Judith Barcroft, is fond of saying that to be shy is essentially to be selfish because as such, the "shy" person is only really thinking of him or herself. Put another way, "If somebody doesn't make the first move, nobody would ever dance. We'd have a world full of wallflowers."

I'm quite taken with this view of things but I must admit I still have a long wy to go before I actually believe, with all my heart, that when I enter a crowded room it really is filled with people eager and hungry for whatever I may have to offer.

I don't know if I'll ever fully feel that. But I'm certainly willing to try.

Shall we dance?"

Something Sam Shepard said in relation to BURIED CHILD

From American Theatre/April 2013/Between The Lines:

September 1996
BURIED CHILD by Sam Shepard
Interviewed by Stephanie Coen

"The problem of identity has always interested me. Who in fact are we? Nobody will say we don't know who we are, because that seems like an adolescent question-we've passed beyond existentialism, let's talk about really important things, like the fucking budget! Give me a break! There are things at stage here-things of the soul and of the heart-and we talk about the budget!" -Sam Shepard

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Richard Foreman is still going with Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance)

Saw Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance) by Richard Foreman at The Public Theater last night, and loved it!


Here's an interesting Times article about Foreman:

Check out what Richard Foreman does on Sundays.