All the world is not a stage…and I miss that.

It’s just nearing the end of February and this has, both, taken forever and come ever so quickly.

The two fastest weeks having flown by from Feb 11-Feb 21:   My time spent at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit, hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

I have not had an experience like this in quite some time.  Working on new script (The Book of Will) by Lauren Gunderson, with an incredible cast, in a stunning arts community, in the beautiful (and never-visited-by-me city of Denver)?  Yep. This is how to live a life.

It’s been since March of 2013 since I stepped on a stage and something I had not made public to many was, I thought I would not step back on stage for a long, long time. I thought, truly, I would move to film/tv for acting and only write and direct for stage.

This was a stupid idea.

Although 2015 was the kindest it had been to me so far in regards to booking tv and film, AND i’d spent 2013-2014 developing two new world premieres, AND, on top of all that, did a fellowship for directing at The Alliance Theatre followed by a directorial debut with Process Theatre… I think I may have been in denial.

I was tired. I didn’t know if I had the energy nor stamina it took to do theatre well.  REALLY WELL.  I also thought, when/if I want to go back, It’ll be easy.

What I discovered in Denver:

a) It’s not easy.

b) I miss theatre. A lot.

Theatre made me a better film/tv actor. I offer more because of that background. Fuck. Doing good theatre with good people? Makes me a better writer and storyteller and teacher and conversationalist and world citizen. Doing good theatre with good people makes me patient when doing good theatre with bad people or doing bad theatre with good people or doing bad theatre with bad people.

Why I thought I needed to stop, I don’t know. Like I said, I was tired… and it concerned me. One’s commitment on stage cannot waiver to exhaustion.

I honestly thought that booking film/tv would satiate that performance desire but… film/tv VS theatre for me?

Film/TV is the popular guy asking you out and you can’t believe he knew you even existed and it makes your stomach flutter and you’re nervous and you lose weight because you can’t eat because it’s just too much and then you go out with him and it’s!…Good. It’s fine. It’s nice. Everything went as it should and you got along… but, at the end of the date?  You’re still lonely.

But doing theatre is like… being in a relationship.   With your best friend.  And…Each show has so much love and dedication and the understanding that no matter what, you will make it through together and there will be nights where the sex isn’t always good but it’s great because it’s with theatre which means, tonight might not be good but tomorrow can be. WILL be.

Film/TV doesn’t give you that. You get one chance. And that’s it. I mean you get that one time over and over again within the moment, if you’re lucky… but… just that once.

Anyway. I digress.

My point is, coming back with Lauren’s new script and the cast that sat around that table… was definitely the best way to find my way back ONTO the stage.

Now, if I can just remember how to do this…

Disgraced in 2016

I worked with the creative and community outreach teams from the Alliance Theatre during the months of January and February during their production of Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar.  This included sitting in on most rehearsals, reaching out to members of Al-Farooq Masjid, and hosting post-show community artistic conversations between the cast and audience members.  Working with this show was a necessity to me that I was unaware I needed.

When I first read the script, I despised it. I found myself not trusting the playwright and being angry that there was permission given to fear Muslims. Because of those feelings, I asked to be included in on the project.

Smartest decision.

I re-read the script, prepping for rehearsals.  Fascinatingly, I discovered I had a completely different reaction to it.  I began to stop seeing the characters for what their ethnic/religious identities were, despite that’s how all of them saw themselves and each other, and began to see them for … well, Americans. Human Beings.  One percenters. New Yorkers.  All the identities you can throw.  Because, that’s the thing, right? We, individuals, have never been one label, yet we keep trying to make the one label idea work.  And it can’t. Because one’s perceived idea of a label is not the same as another’s. AND NO ONE CAN BE SUMMED UP IN ONE LABEL EXCEPT HUMAN.

But I digress.

My favorite comment on this script came from the playwright himself, and i’ll paraphrase here:  You take a white character and make him unlikeable, he’s merely flawed. You take a non-white character and make him unlikeable and he/she represents their entire race. Why is that?

I am grateful to have had the chance to dive into this script, to have had the change in me while reading it and re-reading it and then sitting through numerous rehearsals, to have engaged in wonderful conversations with scholars and laymen and all, to have been reminded of many many things I did know but had forgotten, to have faced things I don’t like to admit, and most of all, to work on something that really impacted so many people in so many ways. Congratulations to the Alliance and Ayad, as he continues to do this every time this show is produced.

I will leave you with my two favorite responses in post show discussions (mostly because I wasn’t expecting them):

From a high school student: I didn’t know people could sit in a room when they disagreed with each other and just share their ideas like that.  I didn’t know the conversation doesn’t have to end just because you don’t agree. This show inspires to challenge myself to become that person, not to win; but to learn ethane a conversation and listen to all the ideas.

From an older gentlemen:  It is my opinion that every character on that stage is just despicable. None of them had one really redeeming quality. And I believe overall, what this play is saying is, New Yorker are just horrible.