Theatre is dying.
I've been developing some projects with an actor buddy of mine: a possible production of my play Louis Slotin Sonata, here in Seattle, and a late-night offering of short pieces intended to explore the problem of horror in theatre. He didn't show up at my party this past weekend and I must confess I was a bit foolishly irritated with him.
Then I got this email from him on Wednesday.
First off, my apologies for not showing up at your party. I was fighting off a bit of a stomach flu and then I received a call that afternoon telling me that Tacoma Actor's Guild was going out of business and that the production of Glass Menagerie I was supposed to start rehearsing this week, had been cancelled. It was like a sucker punch in an already weak stomach.
Needless to say, I was not in a festive mood and spent the evening sulking at home.
It's been five days and I'm still not over it. It's a miserable feeling to watch theatres topple over one by one in this city. There was an article in the Sunday NY Times about the dearth of new plays on Broadway and that, if you do the math, it signifies the imminent death of theatre as we know it. (Which, God knows, may be a blessing in disguise, but still...)
So, I'm licking my wounds at the moment. But, if anything, it proves beyond any doubt that it truly is up to us to pick up the slack. So, yes, let's meet and talk. I now have the time to move forward with the Slotin production and have a few new pieces of info. to share with you. (And, of course, there's "Often Lie.")
When is good? I could do early next week, if you'd like.
Let me know.
Theatre is dead.
It really is as bad-- no-- worse than it has ever been for the art form; well, at least since they closed the houses in London during that asshole's interregnum. But even then we had a repressive enemy. The overlords don't even give us a second thought now.
Theatres are closing all over the country. My own career as a playwright, never scorching mind you, has cooled to the point where for the first time in years, I don't have a production coming up somewhere in the next year or so. And this, not to bitch, after my first national media coverage, on NPR in October. Show me a playwright who premiered their first work after 1985 making a living with scripts, and I'll show you a television writer. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
It's a damned unlucky lull is what it is. In October Iceowl and I wrote a screenplay in 8 days because we made it to the second round of Sundance Institute's Fellowship application process, only to be told, "Thanks but no thanks" a week ago. A San Francisco theatre that had expressed a keen interest in my latest play has suspiciously gone silent. Theatres that have lasted 25 years and longer, with established reputations and long lists of subscribers are closing their doors forever all over the country. And yet. . . and yet . . .
I wrote back to my actor-friend.
I'm so sorry you got that double gut punch. I remember a few years back there was a production of SLOTIN all set up and ready to go at a cool "Empty Space-ish" type theatre in Chicago. They even paid me up front and everything. Then it fell through with barely an explanation. It sucked.
But on the other hand, I think you're right. All this carnage is a clarion call to those of us who think we can offer something new and better. Theatre IS nearly dead. And that's what I think is so exciting about it. We absolutely NEED to find new ways of doing it-- not so that it survives, it'll always survive, just like bacteria and cockroaches do-- but so that we can enjoy ourselves as we offer it to our friends and neighbors in the community. It's not so much about saving theatre as it is about saving ourselves.
Theatre shall rise again.
I've been in correspondence with Stewart Brand of the Long Now Foundation, ever since he came to my play reading in San Francisco back in September. At one point, I asked him in an email if he had any playwrights attached to the project of building a ten-thousand year clock and accompanying library out in the Nevada-California desert. He responded that none of the playwrights he'd ever talked to had taken the project seriously. I pounced. I wrote him explaining that theatre is the best low-tech solution to the deep time communication dilemma. I began reading everything on the website bibliography. I was determined to become the Long Now Playwright. And. . . . things look good for my doing just that. (I don't want to jinx negotiations. Just suffice it to say: things look good.)
So ironies of ironies: I can't get arrested as a playwright in my own city in my own time, but with a huge amount of luck and some amazingly hard work, my play, or rather something inspired by and derived from it, could, if a myriad of things go right for the project specifically and for our race generally, be performed ten thousand years from now.
Long live theatre!