Making theater

On the train on my way to yoga class, I started reading Randy Anderson’s new book, On Making Off: Misadventures Off Off Broadway. I read the first three chapters mouth agape, often laughing out loud, for his stories about coming to New York to pursue a career in theater are as wild as they are endearing. And it got me thinking – about making theater, about the my own early years in NYC and how I has spent my time. I was in grad school the first two, so all my theater-making revolved around the campus. And then the focus was paying bills, finding work, keeping a new relationship alive and healthy. All worthy pursuits that have paid off. But what of theater? The calling? The drive to create?

I have often thought that perhaps I am to practically minded to make theater, at least seriously, as a career. I mean, I am rather Type A. I like all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed. I like my bills paid not just on time but a month in advance if not two (which is a challenge given meager not-for-profit salaries!). I don’t deal well with the unknown, with the unpredictable. Yet when I checked the balance on my savings account yesterday and took in the full effect of having placed a deposit down on a theater space, all I could feel was pure, unadulterated excitement. What a lovely surprise! No tears. No anxiety (well, maybe a little). Only joy.

Joy. Randy talks about this elusive state in his first chapter. Making theater makes him happy. It is a specific activity. I love attending theater, discussing it, working for it, but all these tasks are not the same as making it. Whether performing on stage, picking up a hammer or paint roller, putting the words to a keyboard or telling everyone what to do, making theater is the high of all highs for the unlucky few.

I think our crowdfunding campaign goes live tonight or first thing tomorrow. I wrote all my love notes on my share of the donation ask letters this morning. Using a pink pen I scrawled brief but heartfelt messages to family in different states, friends from various points of time in my life and to colleagues that through shared experiences on and behind the stage have become fast friends and dear family above and beyond our professional ties. It was a rather moving exercise – sharing with others who have encouraged and taught and mentored and comforted me through successes and failures of the past ten years, and it is odd to suddenly realize that you are old enough to say that. A decade of experiences! I still recall this one particular night on the front balcony of my Fort Worth apartment, sobbing to my best friend that I worried I would make nothing of my life! I felt so stagnant, so trapped. Coming to New York changed all that, even in those quiet first few years.

I’m excited. There is very good juju around this piece. Back in 2009 I thought Spark was special. I thought I want to work with Angela. I was to make some theatre. For weeks, months even, despite all our talk the project didn’t feel all that real. Until one day it did.

The cards have predicted – in more circles than one – that our show will be a success. “Like a bat out of hell!” Angela said, throwing her head back and laughing.

“I don’t even know what that means,” I replied. “Is a bat out of hell a good thing?”

“Oh you know how shows are,” she said. “Come January time is going to fly!”

I do know what she means.

Rehearsals! I cannot wait. Oh, how I love rehearsals. You might wonder why I have stayed away so long and all I can say is I blame it on my practicality, my need to pay bills in advance, chip away at student loans, buy another pair of genuine leather boots for which I have an eternal weakness. Despite the excuse what is important is that I am here now. We are here now.

I believe in time. That all things fall into place when and how they are meant to. Perhaps I was not ready before now. Perhaps Spark need to marinate a little longer in the back rooms of my goals and to-do lists. Perhaps I needed all of the amazing artists that I now know before I could embark on this journey. I do feel supported. I feel partnered – invested in – and it’s a really amazing sensation.

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