Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who The Devil Writes It?*

As it sometimes does, being in someone else's house for a while makes you think about your own. This week, I'm guest-blogging at Isaac's place and I posted this item, which engendered some interesting conversation in the comments between Josh and Jack Worthing (who I believe has also dropped some comments in here). In both the post itself and in the comments, I acknowledged something that I really haven't before and it gave me a bit of a pause. Since it's sort of a meta-blogging kind of thing, I figured I'd post it here instead of taking up Isaac's blog.

You see, 99 Seats isn't really me. Not exactly. In the same way that "Stephen Colbert" isn't really Stephen Colbert. I guess this is true of most bloggers and probably more true of most anonymous bloggers and anonymous writers. In a comments section that I can't quite find, even Don Hall so much as admitted that the "Don Hall" who writes An Angry White Guy... isn't quite the Don Hall you'd meet in a bar or a rehearsal room. It's not an earthshattering realization. But in the midst of an argument that gave at least one person personal offense and reminded me of how blithely we can say things out here in the internet, it made me pause a little bit.

The person that I am is...well, I hope, nicer. More genial. Less doctrinaire and rigid (in some ways). I'm unleashing part of my personality here, but not all of it. Partly, so I can speak truth to power in some way and say what's really on my mind. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit it, sometimes it is to make a splash, drive traffic or links or whatever (though I don't have any ads, so I don't get paid for it. I guess, like most theatre people, I just like the attention). That I'm less proud of and I feel is less useful.

Is it useful to the field to tar ALL MFAs or ALL Ivy League schools as hopelessly classist and exclusionary? Probably not. Almost definitely not. Does it make for good copy or a good argument? Yes, I think so. Is that worth it? Sometimes...I'm not so sure. In the end, what's useful is a discussion of the role class plays in our field. Do kneejerk comments and arguments get us closer to that discussion? It looks like no. But then again, nothing else seems to, either.

I struggle with this whole anonymity thing on a regular basis. Sometimes it feels like a choke chain. There are things that I would love to blog about, not as myself, but as 99 Seats: meetings I attend, off-the-cuff conversations and comments, shows I see. But I've done that already and gotten myself in hot water.

Sometimes it's freeing. So much of this business is based in hypocrisy. I know I fall into it, but having an outlet and knowing that, even though I have to keep quiet when I hear something that's off or wrong, given the circumstances, I can go home and blow off steam at whomever or whatever, is a useful release for me.

Lately, though, I've gotten a bit paranoid that my secret identity has gotten out, and more people than I think have sussed it out and judge me for it. Or that someone I've offended, either intentionally or accidentally, will "out" me. In my worst moments, I fear that it's hurting my career or work prospects. It's a bit nerve-wracking. Sometimes I think it would be best to just close up shop and move on. Blog under my own name for a while. Sometimes I think it would be better to unmask myself and take what comes.

Do I stand by the things I've written? Absolutely. Even the more bullheaded, shocking or offensive things. If someone called me out, in person, would I respond? Yes. Do I mean them all exactly the way they're put here? ...Not...precisely. Does that make me a hypocrite? Quite possibly. Can I live with that? Yeah.

I don't have any grand summation for this. I'm not planning on a big unveiling, not any time soon. I'm not planning on closing down the store. I do stand by everything I've written here. But that's the thing: it's not really "me." But if it's not me...who the hell is it?

*Cf. And apparently, Cf. Who knew?


joshcon80 said...

It wasn't my intention to tar all Ivys or MFAs. I kept trying to make it clear that I'm actually all for education and maybe I shouldn't have followed it up with some smart ass remark, but hey... who am I kidding? I can't change in a day. Also, if I can make fun of Yalies, the who can I make fun of? They ca take it.

Anyway, I use my own name, but the person I am online is absolutely a character. An exaggerated part of me. I think that's common, right? In real life I'm much quieter and much, much better looking.

99 said...

It does seem to be the way the internet works. No one of us are us here. But then people get upset or offended or whatever and stick to the wise-ass remark as the key thing, not the underlying argument. It's like when conversatives get the vapors because someone uttered a curse word and then that becomes the focus: the fascination with "civility." Because, apparently, people with MFAs can't quite take it.

Jack Worthing said...

Don't imply that I can't take it, 99. I just don't like snobbery, whatever direction it goes. The theatre has enough of it. It doesn't need to make more. That's been my argument from the beginning. But you're right: the business is full of people who CAN'T take it. Some of whom are very powerful. That's why I'm Jack. I'm pragmatic, if nothing else.

99 said...

Jack, you're not the only person pushing back. And I would like to remind folks: I have an MFA as well. Not from an Ivy League, but from a relatively respectable program. And I'm from fairly humble beginnings (and current circumstances). Maybe I'm a self-hating MFA'er. I don't know.

Is it snobbery to reject the snobbery of others? It seems like a circular argument. Josh says being treated like a second-class writer because he doesn't have an MFA sucks and is snobbery. You (and others) say it's snobbery to say having an MFA makes you a first-class citizen. Is it snobbery to say that being born wealthy or attending an Ivy League school gives you an advantage? Or does it suck to hear it when, after going to the Ivy League school or being born rich, your life is still hard or sucks? Can the disadvantaged be snobby towards the advantaged?

joshcon80 said...


That was a point a made on Parabasis, albeit not so graciously. MFA holders can think I'm snobby all they want, but at the end of the day they have an MFA and I don't.


Anonymous said...

The web persona is the real you. It's the other, nicer guy that's fake.

99 said...