So…What Are You Working On?

I received an email from a supportive director friend asking what I’m up to because he hadn’t seen me pop up on g-chat lately. Part of it’s because I disabled g-chat as I was usually getting IM-ed while at work when 3 things were happening at once. Or, as is the case more often than not, I’d get 2 people IM-ing me and being frustrated at how slowly I responded. Ever notice how difficult it is to carry on 2 conversations, let alone when the tone can’t be heard?

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “What are you working on?” I guess because it is mostly asked by other people in the scene and, frankly, it isn’t always with the kindest of intentions. Sometimes it really means: “Are you doing better than me?” or “Will you be working on something that will be in direct competition with me?” or “Will I have to suffer through your show when I’d rather have you suffering through my show?” My fave: “Hurry up and get through your answer so I can tell you about my thing.”

In fairness, some people are genuinely interested in what you are working on. The question comes from a genuine place. They want to kibbutz. They want to spend time inside the process with you, perhaps to get a little better or to help you. They are the minority.

Usually, I feel a tightening in my stomach when I’m asked. I feel I need to do my elevator pitch wrapped in a bow. Then I give a list of several things I’m doing. Actually I start by saying the last thing I did. If it’s been closed more than 3 days, it doesn’t mean much to people but I find it a good place to begin.

Part of the trouble is that the magic dissipates from a project if you talk about it with the wrong people. Some responses give a great shot in the arm of your ideas. Some chop it down before the roots have planted strong enough to withstand the winds. You have to protect the project until it can care for itself when you aren’t looking or it might get kidnapped or molested.

I don’t work like actor-actors. I’m not pushing for auditions or getting the Equity line at 5 a.m. anymore. It isn’t so much the auditioning or dealing with cold temperatures. It’s being around the actors who want to get in your head and try to make you feel bad. I wonder at times if they get paid to do so, they’re so good at it.

And I’m not a company. I don’t plan my season. I don’t know what I’ll be doing 3 shows from now. Conversely, I’m not still perfect The One. I’ve got certain pieces I work on until they get to a certain point and then ditch them like overheated cars in the desert, only to rescue and refurbish them at some later date. I reckon I have 8 of those waiting to be towed to my soul’s garage.

Currently, I’m doing the unthinkable. I’m involved in a few ultra non-concrete things while my main project is working on me. I might open at some point in April but since I’ve got a long-term lease on my personal space I can delay this as long as it takes for me to become really good.