I have spent a major part of the last half-century “sitting in the dark,” as my wife will tell you. And on many levels … she’s right. I’ve been involved in the theatre since I was ten or so, when my parents took me to my first Broadway play, “South Pacific,” with the unforgettable Mary Martin. Prior to that, I am told I put on a great hotel room performance for my Mom’s best friend, as a 4-year-old “wild Indian,” hand towel girding the loins, body painted with mother’s lipstick, rouge, etc. Since then, I’ve put in a vast number of hours as a playwright, as a director, as an actor, and as a drama teacher and acting coach. But by far the majority of my connection to the theatrical world has been as an audience member, sitting in a dark room. Add to that the hours I have spent in a dark room watching movies, and the sum total might sound downright unhealthy.
But I view my “dark room” as just the opposite: it’s mental health time. Whenever I am tempted to proclaim myself a knower of “truth,” it’s in the dark when I own my own ignorance. It is in the stories and words I’ve read, sometimes under the covers, where I have found the opportunity to explore all the “truths” I have either forgotten or not yet stumbled onto. It is the music I hear that transports me beyond my own limited talents and insights. And it’s the plays and movies I see that force me to discover, test, reject, compare, and reinforce my own little version of what may or may not be true in this universe of ours, and where I might fit in.. My dark room feels very safe. It’s my private space, the best place I know to be challenged, threatened, comforted, reassured, and awakened.
It’s an ongoing quest and it’s very personal: I am often criticized for judging a play or a movie “no good” if it’s not about me— No, not in the ego-trip sense. I claim no objective critic’s role here. It’s just that while I’m sitting in that dark room, if I can’t find myself on the stage or screen, in that situation, or in that character … I am bored! Whatever I am seeing, no matter how well done it might be, remains irrelevant to me. Plays and movies I may deem “Good” may or may not have anything to do with quality, talent, expertise, artistic sensitivity. But above all they must be about my identifying, empathizing, being challenged to change, to laugh at my own worldview, and to accept that my own “answers” may be pretentious or even “wrong” solutions. Whether by laughter or tears, they force from me recognition that my position at “the center of the universe,” that any understanding I may have as a human being for objective truth, is but a short-sighted and short-lived delusion. And finally, they ask me to recognize the resultant private fears that acknowledge a lack of control. And it’s nice to have company. If those fears can not be relieved or removed, then I am at least reassured that I’m not alone.
In this context, I continue with this “web log.” I expect most of all to be taught by what I write and how you respond. I’ll talk plays and movies, without an agenda, not as a critic, but as a personal response to what I see. I’ll also talk life, politics, and just about anything else that occurs to me. I’ll steal from my own past writings, and quote from anybody else’s.
And if it’s true that it’s all about me, I hope it’s also all about you too. I’d love to hear back from you.