Occasionally it's difficult to mark my artistic growth.
What makes it difficult?
Well writing plays culminates in productions. Seeing the piece on its feet with the design in front of an audience is THE way I know if the thing works how I intend for it to work. If the play doesn't get to that point, it remains in a kind of limbo. (I realize I'm being dramatic, but making drama CALLS for a bit of drama, ya dig?) A production isn't an accessory or decoration--it's a pillar. I've been fortunate enough to have a few productions--be them full fledge or workshops. And I feel myself get "better" each time. I feel the play grow, breathe, LIVE. I have a better understanding of what I try to accomplish with the work--thematically as well as artistically. And that understanding allows me to articulate it to my audience and my collaborators.
Unfortunately, productions aren't easy to come by. There are more plays than slots--good & great plays will probably never make the cut. And the slots I'm referring to are very particular--regional theaters, off-broadway, broadway. I know there are several opportunities within various communities. But, for better or worse, the holy grail consists of a handful of theaters--that's what makes 'em holy, right?
Do I strive for the holy grail? Well I strive to see the work produced in a fabulous way. I strive for the work to reach the audience. I want the words to be heard. The images to be seen. The play's integrity to remain intact. (Getting paid for it is essential, but that's another conversation). If those goals are met, the details of venue don't matter so much.
"How to Feel Miserable as an Artist" has been floating around the internet for awhile, but the lessons remain fresh and true. I love it, because it manages to affirm the elements required to be a HAPPY artist. Those affirmations can be universal as well as personal.
We just finished the third week of rehearsals and I'm teetering on the edge of a cautious thrill. I'm still tweaking, pondering, adjusting. This story is a bit of a puzzle that will (hopefully) read like a solid, seamless structure come opening night. My director is great. The cast is brilliant. Everyone is committed to the process and the project. I'm very fortunate.
Creating art is such a peculiar practice. The brain is split into several pieces and assigned specific tasks. One piece is in charge of stifling the ego. Another section has to remain as unaware as an audience member who watches the play with no idea what to expect or the context. There's a brain piece that keeps the insecurities quiet. There's a section that asks, "Is this what I mean to say? Can it be clearer, better, stronger, weirder, sillier, raunchier...." The heart remains in the center of everything to ensure the brain holds on to the passion and the joy and the mystery of it all.
I work on this piece in the shadow of Steve Jobs' passing as well as the much-too-soon passing of a college friend of mine. Both of these fellas lived the life they chose to live and did so to the complete fullest. Both of them sought to make a difference in significant ways. Both of them left a profound impact.
I'm working on this piece in the shadow of these two men.
MAN in LOVE is one of several plays that I will write. The current production is one of many (knock on wood) that I will be apart of. However the goals remain the same: tell a good story, use the apparatus of live theater, love Black folk, generate conversation and thought, put in the work, and have fun.
In the shadow I now add: no fear, live a full life, maintain an open heart.
I feel way more at peace. Don't get me wrong: the typical playwright anxiety is in full effect, but my core is sturdier and more resilient. That's a good place to be.