When this article was posted and the facebook and twitter feeds blew up, it was tough to get through the day of emails and meetings because I found myself for the first time in a very long time really upset.
As a producer, I am fully aware that this is the way things go sometimes and that it's important to accept when things don't work, learn from the experience and move on- but man was it a tough day. As I walked around with this monumental lump in my throat, I recognized that the feeling was one I was familiar with and it wasn't until I got home on Tuesday night that I placed it.
It's the same feeling I had when my godmother died of cancer. She was young and it was really just too soon. I remember that experience was the subject of the first play I ever wrote and after that particular time in my life, there was a strong desire to become a doctor and find a cure. I was horrible at science and was nowhere near on the path to be a physician, but I really wished that I could fix it. So I did the thing I knew how to do: I wrote about it and eventually it became a 90 page script that was performed in my undergrad at Rhode Island College. Lenny Schwartz read 17 rewrites of that script and it wasn't until the 17th that I stopped editing and just let the story tell itself. I was a wreck as I pounded out the whole thing in Microsoft word in the RIC computer lab, but when it was done, I felt better. I felt like I had done something.
I couldn't be a doctor, but I could honor a memory with my nascent playwriting ability.
So now I'm sitting here at the screen feeling that same feeling and doing what I know.
I'm going to write and hopefully honor a memory.
Out of all of the shows in my life, this is by far the one I am the most proud to be a part of. This is a show that forces you to think while in the theatre and leaves you with so much to think about when you leave and when I think of the sheer artistry and passion that goes into a production like this, I am in awe. I would be lucky in my lifetime to write anything half as poignant and powerful as this show. The question that reverberates through the sound as I tap these keys is "Why?"
Plenty of folks have plenty of opinions as to why any show closes and why any show stays open, but I have no interest in dealing with any of that now. For me, the why goes far deeper than ticket sales, marketing strategies, the economy, etc.
For me it goes right back to cancer.
Cancer takes you whether you are ready or not and often it takes the life of those too young and this may be bold or just plain too metaphorical for some, but I'm going to say it anyway.
The entertainment industry has it and it kills shows all the time.
And I feel the same way I did back in high school.
I want to get rid of it. There is a major flaw in a system where material that educates cannot survive and if you are reading this as a producer, I beg you to recognize it and do something to stop it. Take a second and think about how many Broadway shows there are that honestly have made you think about yourself and the world around you. Are they still open?
Sure, like in every story there are survivors and shows that make it despite challenging subject matter and we can look to those for some sense of hope, but when it comes right down to it, it's up to the producers out there to look at the system and figure out what's wrong and actually do something about it. I for one will not stop pushing for work that is challenging and provocative, because at the heart of it all I am an educator. Being a teacher never goes away and neither does the sense of responsibility. If I could, I would bring this show to every high school in the world including the one I taught at for eight years, because this is a piece of history that needs to be told so that we don't repeat it. One very sobering example of this comes to mind:
My second year teaching I directed a production of The Laramie Project and decided to go to Laramie to research the show. During my trip I was hard pressed to find anyone who would talk about the incident and some people literally told me they had no idea what I was talking about. I never forgot what that was like and it became a part of my discussions with the cast about how important it was to tell that story. I knew that if we didn't tell that story, the sophomore who came out to me during my first year would have to go on hiding and worrying that he might get beat up. It was a tough story to tell, but we told it so that we could combat the ignorance and the hatred.
We need to tell the tough stories. We need to educate or the ignorance will eventually hurt us all in the long run.
We need every day from here on out to "Entertain the Truth" because if we don't, we're living in an industry of lies and doing the cakewalk to shows that numb minds and I for one do not want to look at the industry I have given my life to and see a bunch of minstrels.
The show closes on December 12th and you can buy tickets here.
Hey what do you know?
The lump in my throat just disappeared.