Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Two Horsemen of The Apocalypse...

Compromise and collaboration have never exactly been my strong suits. I'm embarrassed to admit the number of bridges I've burned over my career refusing to do either. A couple of times that has come back to haunt me. But it's who I am and what I believe and to do otherwise would make me dishonest, to say the least, about my work.

Another character flaw is a life-long inability to keep my mouth shut.

As a playwright, I'm in a unique and rather enjoyable position right now. Praying Small just finished principal auditions and is soon to go into pre-production. And an actual, honest-to-god, tried and true feature film director is patiently waiting for my screenplay treatment of it. A real, flesh and blood, "name" actor has the stage play and also is waiting for the screenplay. Not at liberty to say who that is at this point.

From the East to The West, after having been summarily dismissed by one theatre is being paraded down main street with a marching band at another. It's also about to go on the season with another prestigious theatre in Chicago. A fine director by the name of Bjorn Johnson has taken the helm (google him). And the astonishing actor, John Schuck, is chomping at the bit to play the lead role.

Bachelor's Graveyard is in rehearsal even as we speak with five really talented, blazing young actors. That will only be a preliminary reading but my friend Karesa McElheny, as director, is all over it.

I'm especially pleased (in a sly way, I blush to confess) that it appears Praying Small and From the East to the West will very likely play at the same time in Los Angeles thus competing for what passes for theatre awards out here. Not that awards have ever meant much to me, but I think EAST/WEST will get some vindication, in that regard.

But back to this compromise thing.

I really don't know how to do it. Last night at callbacks I think I chewed a hole in my tongue. I so, so much wanted to put my two cents in. But I made a promise to the director, the very shrewd Victor Warren, that I would not. So I didn't. But, Jesus Wept, it was hard. All night I was fighting the nearly explosive urge to just stand up and say, "Hey! Give me the script! This is how to do it!" A few years ago I might have even done that. But I'm getting older and, God help me, a little more wise I hope, so I didn't. Angie is teaching me the art of patience. And it is an art. If it were me directing I would have stood up a week ago and said, "Okay, I want you, you and you. That's the cast." But Victor is far more calculating than I am and he's following instincts I'm not aware of. I trust him. Bottom line. So I've kept my mouth shut (mostly, anyway).

As for collaborating, good God I'm bad at it. I see everything in my head as it ought to be. There is no reason to collaborate. But that's in a perfect world and the world is not perfect. So again, I keep my mouth shut and try to trust.

Theatre, like anything else, is a microcosm of the real world in which we live. Compromise and collaboration are simply what we have. They are the cards we're dealt. Play them accordingly.

I'm reminded of my favorite line in Scorcese's The Departed when Nicholson asks the bar patron, "How's your mother?" The guy says, "She's dying." Nicholson says, "We all are. Act accordingly."

I honestly don't know how Victor is going to cast this play that is so personal to me. I have added my two cents on the subject in private discussion. He knows where I stand and what I want. He may or may not take that into consideration. I really don't know. And furthermore, I don't know if I'm right. I always think I am, of course, but I also know I'm inclined to be stubborn about this kind of stuff.

Whatever happens, on June 11 I'll be onstage saying my words to a packed house. Playing a role so autobiographical and personal that I have no doubt it will be a watershed moment in my career. That's the hat I'm wearing In a meeting yesterday, Victor kept saying, "Okay, I'm speaking to you now as an actor." Or, "Okay, I'm speaking to you now as the playwright." It eventually became a bit schizophrenic and silly. Should make for an interesting rehearsal process.

Compromise and collaboration. The two horsemen of the apocalypse. Two words I have feared and hated for thirty years. And now they are squarely upon my shoulders. Well, then, so be it. Make it so, Number One. Let loose the dogs of war and cry havoc. Or, more to the point, if I don't have something good to say, I'm not gonna say anything at all. Because in the end, what's the point? Why burn a bridge when I may have to turn around and drive over it very soon?

So, to paraphrase Angie, I'm shutting up and smiling. Acceptance is the key. Page 449. There are no accidents. Whether I understand it or not, things are exactly as they should be. That's a philosophy so simple and perfect as to be lunatic. But whatcha gonna do, huh?

See you tomorrow.