One thing I quickly learned from my experience last Fall while producing through Boston Public Works is that I am more than a playwright. I am, for lack of a term, an artist who, as of late at least, works in the theater. A theater maker, perhaps, though I loath the pretension inherent in that term, the way I loath most labels. Putting a play up on a stage is, for me at least, a much more encompassing effort than simply getting actors and theater artists together to meld all of their skills to produce a play. There has to be more to it than putting on a show, selling tickets, and counting your money.
Or, the more I think about it, the more I think I can say that it wasn't really the experience of producing Turtles that led me to this conclusion. It was the three weeks after the production that my wife and I spent in Paris when I could look back on the producing experience that led me to that conclusion. I was able to look back on what I felt worked and didn't work, what was enjoyable and what was sheer misery (and you might imagine that sometimes misery brought success!) and it allowed me to distance myself from everything--life in the United States and life in Boston and life in the theater--and decide what I really wanted to do, how I wanted to live with all of those aspects in my life.
I love Paris. Not France. Paris. I love the city. I love the culture that is infused in everyday life there and its beauty and disarming charm. I love the food and the wine, mais oui. I've visited a number of times, but what struck me the most this time was the notion of the number of people who lived and worked at some point in Paris, and they didn't just come for the food and wine, but for the philosophy--maybe that's the wrong word--how about the seriousness of life? How they viewed life on a grand scale.
The Impressionists didn't just paint; they embraced a philosophy bigger than themselves or their paintings and they were passionate about their personal philosophy. There were the Absurdists and the Dadaists. Some of the greatest artists and their work were vilified. Rodin's statue of Balzac was hated--hated!--yet, I can only stand before that statue in awe of its raw beauty and power. People lived and sometimes died for their beliefs. Right now I'm thinking of the Paris Commune. But to prove that I'm not living in the past, a month after we came home, the artists at Charlie Hebdo were gunned down for their art. I think what I'm saying is how that city attracted people who were passionate about issues bigger than themselves.
And I think that's what I feel is lacking in the American theater. A passion for something more than just self-promotion and fame.
Alley Cat Theater isn't supposed to be here right now. My plan was that it would be launched about a year from now. At Boston Public Works, I say we are always laying track in front of an oncoming locomotive. For ACT, I thought i would lay all of the infrastructure so life wouldn't be so hectic. But I think one of the most important things in life is to know what you want, because when the opportunity presents itself, you know to take it. When this summer's Providence Fringe Festival presented itself, I thought, well, life is presenting me with something.
But some of the big important work has been done. In Paris, long ago, and only a few months ago. ACT will be a diverse theater composed of theater makers (!) of all races, sexual orientation, ages, nationalities, and anything or anyone esle I've left out. The work will be challenging. I would prefer if people would leave the theater with questions rather than answers, so they can find the answers themselves. I never want someone to leave saying, Well, that was nice. Want to get some ice cream?