Friday, April 4, 2008

Standing at the Crossroads...

I was out the door. I really was. A few weeks back, I'd had it. I felt like my life in NYC theatre was going nowhere. I was fresh off a couple of rejections, stuck in the midst of rewrite hell on plays I've been working on forever and wasn't getting right. This isn't working, I thought. This isn't working at all. At New Year's, I had a long, frustrating and ultimately fruitless conversation with my dad, one of those conversations most artists have with their vaguely disapproving parents, the one where they oh-so-subtly advise that you give this pipe dream up. That conversation that really, really stings when it seems like nothing is panning out, when the plays aren't getting any better, when the production opportunities seem to be going to everyone you know except you, and when it's New Year's and you're realizing that you're well-past wunderkind age and should be feeling more comfortable in your work. That conversation that, underneath everything asks, "Is this really where you're meant to be?"

And add to that nearly a decade spent working in theatres as an administrator and not having health insurance or anything like a pension fund and barely even a savings bank. You're at the point where other people start getting serious raises at their careers, moving up in the world, but for you, you're in the twilight zone. Too experienced for an entry-level position as a script reader, not quite experienced enough to be an artistic director. And there just ain't that many associate artistic director positions out there. But, if you switch careers, throw in the towel, in most cases, you're starting at the bottom anyway. So...damned if you do, damned if you don't.

And I just plain felt damned.

So I was out. I'm still young(ish). I write firecracker dialogue, craft decent stories. I mainline pop culture like it was fresh china white and I'm a rock star from 1969. I like working with other writers. I even like assignments. You see how this math adds up. I've got a rented room, a temp job, and only a semi-serious significant other.

Mix it all together and what comes out on the other end? L.A.

I have some friends there, some connections. I've been once and liked it. I've even heard the decent things about the theatre scene. All in all, it ain't a bad idea.

Theatre, especially in New York City, can be such a thankless slog, an unending grudge match between you and about 500,000 of your closest frenemies. Sometimes, just throwing in the towel and saying, "New York, you win this round," seems like the only thing you can do to salvage even a shred of sanity.'s still my home, the place where I feel like I can own the sidewalks (even if I don't today). It's a big change, and a huge shift. So...I drag my feet and hope, just hope that something will change here, some chance will happen, some door will open.

And I guess I'm realizing that, before I throw up my hand, I can give it all one more shot, and really not hold back. Reading around the theatre-o-sphere the last couple of days has really inspired me a bit, to get up off my ass, stop blaming the system quite so much (which isn't to say there ain't a lot of things wrong with it) and do a bit more. Make my own doors, or jump through a window or two. It's the least I can do.

Besides, it isn't like California is going to fall into the sea. Tomorrow. I hope.

Time to pick a road...


Bilal said...

I've been reading your blog pretty thoroughly in the past few weeks since having it recommended by others.

Change "New York City" to "Chicago" and a handful of other details, and you've been living in my head for the past few months.

In its way, this is a comment designed to say "Hang in there," but since I keep finding myself unable to convince myself, at times, of the same encouragement, this is more of a "Best of luck" comment. And I'll still be reading this space here.

Sarah McL said...

Yeah, I pretty much reached my nadir in December... but just like boyfriends, I tend to stumble on the best opportunities the second I become too disgusted to keep looking around.

New York sucks, but LA sucks harder. You have to drive a stupid car, and it's sunny all the time. What could be worse than that? Ha ha.

Travis Bedard said...

New York New York
I won't go back
indelible reminder of the steel I lack
I gave you seven years...
what did you give me back?
A jaw grinding disposition toward a panic attack....

~Soul Coughing - The Incumbent

Fight the fights you need to fight.

Ian R. Crawford said...

Hey so I've been reading your blog for a while now and though its probably not a life changing opportunity heres what I got. I have a theatre company called thirsty turtle productions and we are looking for submissions for three workshops we will be doing this summer in the hopes of finding our next project. I know its another workshop but if you would be interested shoot me an email. Our company tries to explore the relationship between fantasy and reality and we hope to find plays along those lines especially with larger casts- i dont know if this sounds like your work but if it does shoot me an email and I will send you more info. you can check out my site for some of our work and links to our (unupdated) page.

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...

To mirror Travis's comment, above:

But oh, the smell of burnt cocaine
The dolor and decay
It only makes me cranky.
Oh great calamity,
Ditch of iniquity and tears
How I abhor this place
Its sweet and bitter taste
Has left me wretched, retching on all fours
Los Angeles, I’m yours

-- The Decemberists

I spent my first 18 years of life in L.A. and left as soon as I possibly could. I think it's ultimately not about where you are, but what you do and how a place makes you feel while you do it.

99 said...

Thanks, y'all. I think this will be a bit of a corkscrew path, because, ultimately, I agree with Charlie. The "where" isn't so important, it's the "what." And I have to figure out what's the "what" for New York and me right now.

But I do love that Decemberists song...