14 April 2009
A Myth Gone Public
Last night I attended the public The Public reading of Christina Gorman's play, American Myth. You may recall I attended a reading of her "work-in-progress" back in November, and this was that. I feel more at ease to address the play by name, in spite of it still bearing the WiP nomenclature, because this was a seriously serious reading, my friends. The Emerging Writers Group advertised, and filled the center section of the Anspacher Theatre (dear God, what a wonderful space!), and I don't want to name-drop here. I really don't. But suffice it to say that there were some very respectable names attached to the acting and directing of the thing. So, Christina, I'm outing you, whatever other work remains to be done on your script.
American Myth deals with a fictional set of characters, but ones plucked out of the headlines like a Law & Order episode (only more insightful, of course). It deals in questions, which is probably my favorite thing about Christina's writing. All plays tend toward argument; conflict, after all, is drama, and vice versa. But there's nothing like a play that encourages one to ask questions rather than deliver a personal judgment, and American Myth does this for me. It asks what history is, both personal and national, and what we want or need it to be. It questions the motivations of the supposedly moral, and the supposedly immoral. Maybe it's simply the Unitarian Universalist in me, but I love pondering these questions because I can never be absolute in my judgments of others in my daily life. A play that impartially (hyper-partially, perhaps?) explores all the angles of a moral conflict resonates very personally with me. Plus, the script has all of Christina's usual wit and incisive display of human behavior that I've come to expect from her work.
Actually attending the reading was a sort of strange experience for me. I went by myself, with which I'm normally fine but this time, somehow, felt conspicuous about. Christina was wonderfully and specifically grateful for my attendance, and that went a long way to comforting me; in fact, for the brief moments I was in her presence I felt totally at ease. Yet apart from that, even as I was simply sitting and reading, waiting for the performance to start, I was uneasy and downright riled up. It's taken me a while to put together what could be the source of this, but this morning I realized that it was being so close to so much of what I want . . . and not having it. Of course I couldn't figure that out last night -- I was fully invested in the play and its development. This morning however, as I packed my chattel for today's workshop in Philadelphia, I put it together.
As much as I parlayed my feelings of rejection regarding the AFAWK changes into moral outrage and philosophical questioning, the fact is that I had allowed myself to become too dependent on the whole effort for the wrong reasons. I very genuinely cared about the story we were trying to tell, of course, and felt committed to our work and intentions. All that was not compromised. However, I had in a way come to rely on the show as a ticket to somewhere, and I have to admit to myself that part of my response (or lack thereof) to the casting changes was petulant and careerist. We had a reading at The Public scheduled, and then I felt it yanked out from under me. Yes, I care about that show; yes, I put good, hard work into its creation; yes, it is deserving of a life beyond our Fringe Festival performances and sacrifices ought to be made to ensure that. But I also want very badly to be valued more than I yet have as an actor, and that very visceral urge pushed on me hard when all of that went down. I had another opportunity to rejoin the process shortly thereafter, which I ignored. Maybe it was because of all the reasons I said, to distance myself from the story we created before, etc. But also, I was hurt by my own sense of slighted ambition.
Believe it or not, I do not want to dwell on that episode, apart from coming clean a bit on the whole thing. As Far As We Know continues in its development, and I'm very happy to hear that it lives on. It is wholly deserving of whatever success and attention it can create, as are its current creators. In fact, Friend Nat is one of those "creactors," which I find oddly comforting -- he's like a God-father for me. I mention it not just to come clean, but also because what allowed me to realize the source of my anxiety last night was that it felt just like an emotion I used to have in high school and college all the time.
I would sit down in the auditorium, or little theatre, and wait for the lights to dim. I was usually by myself, for whatever reason. (Often, that reason was because it was my third time seeing the show and I had run out of folks who wanted to see it.) I would sit and sit, a mounting sense of anticipation and dread occupying my heart and head. Then the show would begin, and I would get wrapped up in its machinations, but one part of me would always be on the outside of that. That part would feel wrapped up tight, strong, full of urge and impulse. And it would only feel more so after the bows were had, and the applause faded from memory. That urge sits there in every performance and whispers to me,
"I want to do that.
"I want to do that . . ."