Three performances of my chat-room play Nights in Squirt City, Phukenburg have taken place at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Two more are slated to happen next week, and then that’ll be it. The director seems pretty happy with the project overall. The cast is also happy. Reviews have been good, the few that were posted by people in the audience. I couldn’t be more miserable.
Now why would that be? I’ve been thinking and thinking and came up with five reasons, all of them good, but I still can’t be sure that I have this right. I’ll start with the weakest reason and then proceed in order of magnitude.
- While I’ve been very happy with what the director has done, I’d only give Squirt City, the way it was done this time, a B+. That’s still a positive rating. But why not an A? The director cut many things and really sped up some of the “inconsequential” chat-room patter, as he calls it. He was right to do this, but he ended up cutting so much that the second half of the play, which happens in, as it were, a different register, comes too soon and goes by too fast. To compensate for the tremendous speed and all the cuts, the director should have encouraged me, or I should have known, to expand the latter half of the play by at least ten minutes. This didn’t happen. We now have a very good sketch, but it goes by so fast that the whole project doesn’t have the weight that it ought to have. As I said, B+.
- The second reason for my unhappiness is the big weak link in this whole business:____________________________________________________________________REDACTED!!!___________________________________________________________________________________ Theatre people are almost as obsessed with crowd size as our President. Poets, on the other hand, are more or less resigned to having just a meager handful of people in the audience. Poets don’t have expectations; poets know their art is unpopular. _____________________________________________________________________________REDACTED!_______________________________REDACTED! _____________ _____________________________________________________________________lized.
- More important for me, perhaps, than the number of folks in the audience is the fleeting nature of the enterprise. This isn’t film, which gets memorialized for all time. It happens a few times, and it’s over, never to reappear. During the last several years of my “theatre phase” I attended many, many performances of plays, but because I wasn’t involved with their creation, their fleetingness didn’t bother me. But I’ve been working on Squirt since January. All that money, all the meetings, all the time, all the preparations, all the discussions…for what? Poof!—it vanishes like a soap bubble.
- Which leads to the non-appearance of “friends.” I had assumed that half the people I know would want to come and see this play. Not necessarily to support me, but out of sheer curiosity. Not one person from my Wednesday poetry group showed up. I have never in my life witnessed such an array of excuses: family illnesses, broken bones, sprained ankles, sudden surgeries, sudden suicides, difficulty driving at night, lack of transportation, lack of time, lack of funds (and I’m sure most are legitimate). My next-door neighbor, whom I hardly know, immediately said he would come and support me, even if the tickets were three or four times what they are now. This showed up the fact that closer friends…where were they? All the hours, all the money, all the work, all the commitment, for what? It all goes back to childhood. Were my parents supportive? Of course not.
- And maybe—though I’m not too convinced of this—I’m suffering from a bit of generalized post-partum depression.
The next project, slated to be done later this summer and involving a different team, might very well convince me (who knows?) that writing plays isn’t a total waste of time after all.