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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, September 10, 2010


My best friend from my hometown and I are collaborating on a play.

This was my idea. Johanna, my friend, is a writer - mainly a poet. She is, without exaggeration, the most amazing poet I have ever met in real life. I will concede that she has some competition with some established poets - some of the well-published authors who are generally celebrated within poetry circles as the geniuses of our time. But within the circle of real-live people whom I have actually met? She is beyond compare. And, I should point out, I went to Sarah Lawrence, a school chock-full of talented writers. She truly has a gift.

Johanna has also tried her hand at a little short story and novel writing, although, to my knowledge, she has never quiiiiiite finished a story. (If you read her prose, you'd understand why - dense as hell. All the rhythm and imagery and tightness of a poem, but sustained for, like, 40 pages.) She mentioned to me that she'd like to try her hand at playwriting and I thought, oh my god. I don't want to sound like I'm using my oldest and dearest friend, but if she actually put her massive creative talent towards playwrighting, and followed through? I could have an all-access directorial pass to what might be some of the most amazing new work available in the theater. And as one who has struggled to find new work to be excited about over the past four or so years, this sounded incredibly enticing.

But Johanna, for all her poetic prowess, has very little interest in the theater as an art, and thus very little knowledge of playwriting, dramatic structure, etc. Here's where I come in. I thought - hey, I know how a play should be structured, and I'm a pretty okay writer myself, so what if we collaborate?

We spent a couple months bouncing ideas back and forth and then we stopped. I think, because we both sort of hit a dead end. We could talk endlessly about the characters - their backstories, their motivations, their arc. But when in came to actually, physically writing some dialogue, we hesitated.

I, very laboriously, clunked out a couple scenes between a mother and a son. They - if I do say so myself - failed SPECTACULARLY. I forgot that, of all the genres of writing I have tried my hand at, playwriting (alas) is the one at which I am the least adept.

But now we've gotten back on the horse, we're collaborating again and it looks like we're still just circling. We had what might have been a productive conversation yesterday, or might have been more putting-off on our parts, about wants. What does the son want? What does he get in the end? Ditto for the mother, and the waitress.

I'm sort of... haunted by Edward Albee. The Zoo Story keeps hanging over my head - the quintessential example of what, I think, we're trying for with our play: two people who need something from the other talk their way around each for a while and discover truths about themselves and human nature in general in the process. And then they get, or don't get, what they need.

Except, Zoo Story eloquently expounds on human connection, what it means to be and feel alive, and... well, YOU know. Everybody who's read or seen Zoo Story knows. And our play will just be two people yelling at each other - or resisting yelling at each other, as the case may be.

I know it's a pretty common creative demon to have the better efforts of another hanging over your head like this. I face it all the time as a director (*coughLearDeBessonetcough*). But I think it's got us both - at least me - in a point of complete paralysis, and I'm not sure how to work through it.

Maybe we're just not great collaborators. When I've collaborated with Sarah in the past, we sort of have a rhythm: we discuss, and then she writes. I'll be honest, this rhythm has often frustrated me. Why is she always the one that writes? But I can't seem to get my pen to the page as fast as she does - maybe the reason is because I can't seem to get my pen to the page at all. Maybe Johanna and I both need a Sarah for our collaborative process, and both of us are unsure how to step up to the plate and be the Sarah.

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