12 May 2009
When I graduated from college, I topped the whole experience off with one, final, profoundly disturbing regret. At the theatre department's ceremony, I presented my favorite acting teacher with a gift -- my complete collection of dramatic writings, which at the time totaled something like two full-length plays and a couple of ten-minute ones. All nice and neat in a three-ring binder. I think I saw it as sharing a personal connection with him that hadn't been permitted before, and perhaps I even hoped to spark a dialogue or future collaboration. He is a great director, after all. I even have a photo of us posing with the tome, taken by my ever-encouraging (to a fault, I daresay) parents.
Oh God, how I wish I had a time machine and a flame-thrower.
So when I say that the culmination of NYU's undergraduate play-writing class on Monday was an impressive display, I say so with the wisdom attained only by retrospective utter failure. Monday night, in the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, I participated in a staged reading of excerpts from an approximate dozen dramatic works by some of NYU's finest. Many were funny, some were heart-breaking, and all were very carefully crafted and re-crafted over the course of a year's study. I had the pleasure of performing in five of the pieces, alternating between an every-man, a lothario, a yuppie, an historian and (naturally) that classic foil: the best friend. The performances were oddly cathartic. I had the sense that they were very, very important to the audience, which was made up mostly of the playwrights and their friends and families. I suppose I'm more accustomed to feeling that the performance is most important to the actors, which undoubtedly says something about me and the theatre I've had experience creating. Bear in mind, too, that my instincts suck.
It was an interesting day, and by "interesting," I in fact mean "largely boring." We began at 11:00, and ran through every excerpt a couple of times for tech purposes. This meant a lot of waiting and, when time came to actually occupy the stage and a character, only as much acting exploration as didn't get in the way of logistics. We had a lot to get done in seven hours, and we did, and it's all a credit to everyone's professionalism and commitment. But that doesn't mean I wasn't kicking myself for not committing to buying a new laptop already. I kvetch about not being able to make time and space to write, and when it's handed to me on a tin platter (this sort of gig doesn't exactly pay large sums) I am unprepared. Boo me, say I.
No, I don't give up writing because I'm so embarrassed by my younger efforts. Somehow the memory of my previous works and their naiveté doesn't occur to me when I'm excited to write something new. It's not quite selective memory, because it's not quite intentional -- more like a non-gag reflex. I think it's a reflex akin to the little tricks everyone's memory plays on them to get them to ride roller-coasters, or fall in love. One doesn't think of the terror, the loss of control, the vomiting; one only thinks to oneself, "WANT!" It's a dangerous urge, which seems to me the only kind of urge worth having.