Staged Reading

October 18th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have a staged reading coming up on November 7th at Cleveland Public Theatre and I’m trying to get a sense of how I should feel about this. A part of me is excited and proud. Part of me is highly skeptical.

Four years ago I entered the Masters program at Cleveland State University not really knowing what I wanted to do. I was a medical librarian at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. I was a webmaster and manager of video teleconferencing. I was to appearances successful and very busy. But something wasn’t right and I looked back to the interests that my ‘true’ self had. I always remark on the quote by Joseph Campbell that has become somewhat cliche by now, that each of us should follow his/her bliss. Campbell said that people try to change the world by moving the pieces around–this is just, this is unjust; this is not equal; this person makes too much money; this person doesn’t make enough; this is evil, etc. But Campbell firmly stated that moving the pieces around doesn’t lead to a world that is vital; that any world is a living world regardless of how the pieces are arranged. To be truly happy in this world you must do what it is that makes you happy. If you do this, and it is never easy to do it, you will become energized and vital. You will come alive. And he said that ‘a vital person vitalizes’ the world. One vital person makes the world resonate and live. Think what a world of people vitalized would do. This is by way of saying that I was anything but vitalized at the time. I felt like I did when I was on the playground in third or fourth grade and looked off to the horizon and wished devoutly that I was any place but on a playground in third/fourth grade.

A year after entering the master’s program at CSU (so, three years ago) I decided that I wanted to write plays. So, I picked up a book and started reading how to do it. A year later, I was in the NEOMFA program on a playwriting track and had already had a play staged. Then it was another play. Then I was working on a play with a group of playwrights for the Ingenuity Festival. And now I’ve got a staged reading.

Things have moved fast and I guess I should be proud. Four years ago I was unsure what I wanted to accomplish, and now I’ve got a reading at a theater I could barely comprehend in 2003; let alone be heard in.

In 2003, I had the first act of a play that I had written in 1995 stuffed in a drawer or a box. In 2007, I have nine finished plays and a solid idea for the tenth and a strong feeling of momentum moving me toward a solid path. So, why am I trying to convince myself? I feel, sometimes, that I am too old. I look at Shepard who was successful by 21 or so. Then I think, what do I have to say? A librarian working in a university with a pregnant wife, a daughter, three cats, two cars and a mortgage. Who am I to talk about the mysteries of life? Who am I to dramatize anything at all? And on a more personal level, what is this voice that keeps trying to burst out from my head and scrawl itself all over lined pages and computer screens? Is it my true voice? Is it the devil? Is it a fraud? Should I trust it or should I even listen to it?

I’ve been through the play development process before; several times. I should be used to it. But somehow, now, it seems to be on another level. I feel that I am no longer in the realm of students, but in the realm of professionals–people who are committed and dedicated. People whose time I am wasting if my stuff is no good. That my smirking inner voice (the other inner voice) needs to shut up, pay attention, and have some respect for the sacred path I’m walking onto.

I’m reminded of the post from Intermission that I discussed earlier. My in laws will be coming to this reading. What do they think of all this? Is their son-in-law just wasting his time? Is it a nice little hobby that he has? Is this even a fair characterization? What is serious in this world? What should be taken seriously and what derided? There are young men and women dying each day in a foreign land for an ideal that is as ineffable as a puff of air and yet as strong and binding as coils of steel wire. And I worry about a staged reading or my future success as a playwright. Is this valid? Is it indulgent?

The only leg I can find to stand on, again, is that formed by the words of Joseph Campbell. His insistence that each of us must live the life that makes us feel alive: vital.

This is sacred. This is important. Perhaps the only thing there is. And in this, I can find consolation.

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