We had a great opening night last night and I don’t take that lightly. Good crowd, great reactions, and wonderful conversations after the show. But there’s more and most of it is internal.
I’m in that place of peace where you know you’ve achieved most of what you want to get out of a piece…before the reactions and reviews really change the piece on a cellular level for better or worse.
We pack a lot into this 90 minutes and it is a real slalom course. I like giving myself something that’s slightly beyond what I think I can do. It forces me to be in it as much as I can. This certainly does that. Marisol, who is one of the funniest and most talented performers I’ve ever seen and is tremendous in this show, has said more than once this week, “This is kind of a BEAST, Chris Harcum.” And, well, she’s right. She has the physical aches and I have that special sprained tongue-and-brain combo for which there is no ice pack to help. That said, it is a deeply joyful show to do.
There’s also the feeling that I don’t want it to be over, even though it just opened. Productions are like life sometimes. You have all the time in the world…until you don’t.
I’ll be honest, this was not an easy thing to create. Mostly because of life and the world getting in the way. I started on this when the election was getting to a fever-pitch and then we somehow went into a weird vortex where I must keep telling myself this is just an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and eventually we will move on to another reality. I also came down with a case of vertigo around the holidays that last just over a month (MRI showed no signs of anything wrong, possibly a viral infection) at the same time tectonic shifts started at my Clark Kent job that continue to rattle the walls. In essence, I haven’t felt like I’ve had ground under me since last summer. The Buddhists say the true nature of life is groundlessness but they can kiss my ass about that right now.
Over tech weekend, we found out about a young and talented member of our company who has been hospitalized with a serious condition. Aimee and I saw him recently on what turned out to be a very bad day in his life and at the end of it he said, “I’m coming to see your show.” In that way only he can, full of light and spirit. Almost like it was a dare. We saw him a couple weeks ago in his show and he lit up the room again. He got his Equity card from that show. Things were looking up. A post he wrote a week later said, “Got the best news today. Look at God.” I tell myself we have to do the best we can with this show in his honor because I can’t process what is happening with him otherwise.
Then there was just facing this piece. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF IT. It’s Martin Denton’s life and work, for crying out loud. Plus I kept thinking about the actor screwing in the light bulb joke (“I could do it better if I were given the role”) and subbing in playwrights on that joke (“I could win more awards if I were given the commission”).
For some reason, there was this heavy duty emotional baggage for me as well in making this. Looking back over this time for Martin, I was coming to terms with a mix of not feeling like I’ve accomplished as much I’d like and a major dose of survivor’s guilt. Maybe I’ll figure that out in the fall after this is done. But this piece was something of a return for me. I had been doing a lot of stuff but hadn’t created something like this since 2013. I needed a break from theater and was playing around with stand-up and improv, as well as taking acting classes and wasting money on One on One sessions that got me nowhere except frustrated and full of humble pie.
Aimee did so much to make this a real piece of theater. It was not easy, I know. I deeply appreciate her sacrifice and willingness to go along with this no matter how impossible it seemed. In addition to shaping this, she went above and beyond in terms of doing things outside of her job description. Each time we seemed to have something figured out it changed. It was just one of those processes where nothing was really simple. Her big heart pumps through this whole thing. I count my lucky stars that I have her as my partner in life and art.
Because of the timing of this thing, we did this without a fundraising campaign and were rejected for two grants. There’s a perception that we’ve already sold out the run from some and we are far from that. For now. But all of that’s OK because I truly and fundamentally believe in the strength of this piece. The story is one that needed to be told and there is no better time to tell it.
So doing this play represented something for me. A homecoming. That’s what I felt last night. Something in me shifted. That is the reward for putting in hundreds of hours to make this. And not giving up.