Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do It Yourself - from the pages of The Dramatist

Here is my editor's note from the July 2009 issue.  Reprinted by permission of The Dramatist, Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America.

In 1995 I had a crazy plan. It was an unprecedented, no-good, “another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into”  plan. I had just finished the second year of my BFA and I decided, rather suddenly, that I would write, produce, and star in a solo show. And over the summer I would tour this show to seven fringe festivals. I had never written a play. I had never performed a solo. And I had certainly never produced anything. But, for some reason, I decided I could.I think I was perhaps too young, naïve, and stupid to be terrified. Boy, I wish I was still that naïve and stupid. It made it much easier to hatch crazy plans. I have a lot more experience now, but there was a certain fearlessness born of ignorance that I can only remember with a sense of awe.
So, I borrowed $5000 from my Dad, a silver Dodge Spirit from my Mom, and hired the best actor I knew (my buddy Vik) to direct it. The costume came out of my closet, the set (two folding chairs) came out of a catalogue, and press materials were created on Word Perfect 5.1.
Now, I wasn’t completely without fear. Writing and rehearsing the piece induced a fairly paralyzing terror. In fact, I tried at one point to back out. I phoned the festivals but they wouldn’t refund my $3000 in participation fees. So, I pushed on out of financial desperation more than anything else. I set out on the festival circuit armed with a large pile of fliers made on a school computer, photocopied posters, and a staple gun. I hustled and annoyed people, pestered the press, and performed excerpts on local radio. I marched in parades in costume, wore T shirts emblazoned with the title, and implored my audience to spread the word after every curtain call. I was shameless.
And somehow, it worked. People came.Critics reviewed. Tickets sold. I made back the $5000 and then some. I met people. I signed with an agent. And although it makes me cringe to read parts of that script now, and I’m rather thankful video doesn’t exist, it remains one of the shows I have done in my life that I am proudest of. Not because it was particularly brilliant, but just because I actually did it.
I remember my director said to me,“there are a lot of people around here just waiting, waiting for the theatre fairy to come along and tap them on the head.” And no matter how harshly I judge my failures and successes since then, I cannot deny that that summer, fifteen years ago, I didn’t wait. Don’t wait. Do it. Do it yourself. And keep on doing it until other people notice. It’s really the only way.