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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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sobbing My Guts Out (Or: Observations in Storytelling and Catharsis)

Here's a thing that happened to me during the Lab, that I meant to write about but didn't, because, you know, my life had been swallowed.

On the evening second day off, after nearly 13 days straight of Lab insanity, I made a curious and altogether uncharacteristic choice: I watched Boys Don't Cry. It's a movie I'd been meaning to watch for ages - essentially since the movie came out - because I felt it was an important movie. But it didn't seem like a fun movie; it certainly wasn't a movie I wanted to watch.

Boys Don't Cry is a pretty extreme film by anyone's standards, but for me? Let's just say I have exceedingly low-brow taste when it comes to movies. I don't like sad movies, or intellectual movies, or movies that are too deep or two slow. Oh, and I don't really like any of that mushy romantic stuff either. I used to, and I still make the occasional except for a supreme piece of cornball [crap], like the remake of Sabrina or Love Actually, but basically when it comes to movies, I like to watch people make jokes and blow stuff up.

So why, why on earth would I, in the middle of this blisteringly intense creative experience, want to drain myself even further by watching, OF ALL MOVIES, Boys Don't Cry?

Well, I can't quite explain it, but even so, I think from an artistic perspective it's worth noticing, and remembering:

During that time, I was so tightly wound up, so tense, so stressed from the Lab experience, that I needed a release. I needed, basically, to sob my guts out, and either couldn't or wasn't ready to do it in response to my own inner life.

That's fine; that need for catharsis is understandable and, as an artist, familiar territory. But what interests me is that, while I almost never go for a movie like Boys Don't Cry, I do crave release when I watch my low-brow stuff-blowing-up usual fare. But it's a different kind of release, in response to a different kind of emotional life: I want to get swept away in the adventure and the excitement of an experience that bears no resemblance whatsoever to my everyday life. In July, in the Lab, for some reason I craved the opposite - it's like I needed a sort of adrenaline drain.

So why is it that in one particular situation I craved a certain kind of catharsis, and in another I feel I need a different kind? I don't ask because I'm interested in parsing out the tangled layers of my psyche. I ask because, as a storyteller, I think it's interesting to take note of the different kinds of catharsis that a story can offer. And I wonder: If I can maybe understand better the kind of emotional release that is sparked by a Boys Don't Cry story, as opposed to a, say, a Die Hard story, if I could know more intimately why and when and how people crave release, maybe I could serve them better; maybe I could be a better artist.

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