I should have known there was something off when I fell asleep at the beginning of the second act. Granted I’d been up at six getting kids to school and walking dogs and yes, one of my problems with the theatre these days is it’s pretty much past my bedtime and yes, I’d had a second Stone IPA with dinner. Still. Falling asleep on a couch, in the light booth, during the second act of a play is bad form. Especially when it’s only the third preview. Especially when your snoring disturbs the stage manager. Especially when it’s your play.
Yes. I’ve written a new play.
Theatre has always been more fun to make than it is to attend. For someone with ADD anyway. When I go to a play, I’m forced to sit still for two hours and I’m usually fidgeting at the ten-minute mark, squirming at twenty and praying for the intermission at thirty so I can leave. Usually.
But when you make theatre, it’s like one of the old Andy Hardy movies where Andy (Mickey Rooney), at the penultimate moment, when the shit is hitting the fan and there’s no way out of the mess he’s gotten them into, suddenly exclaims to Judy Garland – “I know! We’ll put on a show!”. The next thing you know they’ve transformed the family barn into a Broadway theatre and they’re singing and tap dancing like whirling dervishes to a full orchestra.
Mickey Rooney? Judy Garland? Granted, I was just a little kid at the time but boy, am I’m dating myself.
My experience wasn’t quite Andy Hardy’s. It was more like – “okay, we’re out of college, we’re misfits, we haven’t found anything we especially like to do except this. We’re in New York, no one will hire us, so you, when you’re not waiting tables, will write something and someone will find a basement or storefront to do it in and Jim, when he’s not tending bar, will direct it and Dave and Doug and Dan, when they’re not moving furniture, will act in it and Larry, you hold the flashlight and there’ll be no props and we’ll wear our own clothes for costumes and we’ll live on the free mini-cocktail franks they put out at the Ascot Hotel’s lounge on 39th street between 4:30 and 5 and maybe if we’re lucky, our friends will come and we’ll charge them, I don’t know, five bucks maybe and after we pay the guy who owns the basement, we’ll take what’s left over and we’ll all go out and drink beer and talk about what we’ve done and what we’ll do when someone is smart enough to give us the chance to “really work at this”. Oh, and by the way, next time write something with women in it – not a musical! – so we have someone to try and sleep with after the show.
I’ve made a living as a “dramatic” writer – emphasize the quote marks – for the last forty-odd (yes – odd) years now and much to my surprise, I wonder if that time and those experiences weren’t the highlight of my – again, put it in quotes – “career”. And perhaps that’s what I’m trying to recreate by writing a play again. An innocent time. A time when we didn’t know any better. A time of enthusiasm and idealism and no fear of failure. A time of fun.
Yes, at the end of the day it’s supposed to be about fun. Rocket club for show-offs, misfits, egomaniacs and emotional nerdlings. There is a country called theatre and once you’ve lived there, your citizenship can’t be revoked.
Even if you fall asleep during your own play.