It’s like that joke from Annie Hall, about two women at the catskills complaining about the food. The one says, the food here is terrible, and then the other chimes in, yes, and in such small portions!
But I had that thought yesterday, devoid of irony or any other secondary awareness of the ridiculousness of the supposition: this play sucks, AND I can’t even finish it. Course, if it does suck (and it might), it will be all the easier to finish. Just gotta suck it up, make up some more bullshit, indent the stage directions, and voila!
In all seriousness, though, I am working on a play, and I am having trouble finishing it. The trouble is largely, but not entirely technical. The technical problem (as I see it) is that while I have nicely introduced a world, and that within this world there is a multi-faceted problem, I’m not satisfied with how the problem resolves itself. It leads me to wonder whether this problem is really a problem at all, that maybe there should be more problems, more conflicts, more drama in my drama.
But that’s not the whole problem with finishing my play. The other part of the problem is, in a lot of ways, more problematic. Finishing a play (or in my case working a project to the point where finishing it is not an unreasonable possibility) is scary. Finishing means sharing, with an eye towards maybe someday producing. That terrifies me. And, paradoxically, the closer this writing project comes to completion, the further away a final end, production, really seems. And it seems increasingly likely that this project, like others before it, will end up in the rubbish bin.
I am not great at finishing things. There was the first play I wrote in college, which I had a reading of, but compulsively revised into a shell of its former self. There was another one act I wrote, didn’t even get that far. I have a solo show in the works that I submitted to a festival last fall, got rejected, and now don’t know what to do with. It’s an imaginative character study of the world’s most prolific streaker, a medidation on violence and exhibitionism, and just a bitch of a show to describe, let alone someday find an audience for, so while I might try a couple more festivals I don’t know if that one will ever find a home, as I creep up on a full year since I originally workshopped it. There’s also my Memoir in Verse, a story of growing up told in rhyming couplets, an expansion of something I actually did complete, and performed, for our solo show showcase at the Portland Playhouse last fall. I’ve submitted that to a couple Canadian Fringe festivals (I’m #10 on Victoria’s wait list, cross your fingers for me), I’m also workshopping the first 10 minutes of it in three weeks in Seattle, and this past fall that was my passion project. But now that passion has passed, as I remember the boggy realities of performing an autobiographical story, and the artistic and marketing challenges of producing a solo show loom.
I have been changing passion projects with the seasons. Literally, this summer it was the Streaker piece, but then come fall I’m sick of that. Don’t know how I’ll market it, don’t know where I’ll do it, don’t know when I’ll do it, don’t know why I thought it was such an interesting idea in the first place. Memoir, that’s where it’s at. Easy to market–it’ll be in fucking verse!–easy to produce–I fucking pulled the solo show showcase out of my ass in about a week, just gotta make it like six times longer and I’m golden! But then fall turns to winter, you write-write-write-write, verse starts to seem dumb and challenging and fucking dated. Your own life story starts to bore you, and you wonder what you, with no traumas and significant privilege, have to offer as a parable. And then you start writing something new, just on a whim, and holy shit, this is why people write about shit other than themselves. It is so freeing, so fun. You don’t have to worry about misrepresenting others, or being factual. And it’s a play. Which will have other people. Fuck solo shows, I wanna do a play. I can cast people I admire, and also myself, just like Noel Coward did. It’s gonna be great.
And it still might be. But fuck if I can finish anything. Different things in life require different kinds of bravery. I have developed, as an actor, quite sufficient audition bravery. The bravery to do things asked of you that you’re not sure you can do. And I’ve also, in years past, exhibited what you might call geographic bravery, traveling long distances to new places and setting up show there, in the cities of Portland and New York. But producing a show requires a different kind of bravery I have not yet found in myself. A bravery to do things nobody’s asked you to do, or ever remotely expressed interest in seeing you do. A bravery to take people’s money, and offer fuck all back. I would like to cultivate this sort of bravery.