See the Good for the Bad

I should have been happy this weekend, or whatever it is that passes for happy lately.

OMFG, not the masks again...

OMFG, not the masks again...

Saturday, I heard from three different theatres about a few of my plays. A small, fledgling group in Santa Monica wants to do Love Among the Ravioli, a short piece about two blind-dates-gone-bad that turn out well in the end. This will be its fourth staging, which I guess means a number of different people find something worthwhile in it. Cool.

Next up was an apology from a small group in NYC. I had submitted a really short piece – four pages – last summer for a showcase they hoped to put up in the fall. Economic conditions scotched the fest, but the artistic director said they liked my piece and wanted to hold onto it, in case they got the production off the ground this year. Well, sure.

Finally, just a few hours later, I received a rejection – but a nice rejection. I had submitted my solo show more than a year ago, even before staging it here. The woman explained that they rarely do solo shows, so they were passing, but she had some nice words about the writing. Any rejection beyond the standard form letter is nice; the unsolicited positive feedback was just a bonus.

So on the whole, a good day, writing-wise. But why did the string of mostly upbeat news leave me so empty? Partly because no matter how many of my works get staged, I want the big enchilada: a production of one of my full-length plays (and it doesn’t even have to be Equity). Each small success is better than no success, I know, but when your dreams constantly elude your grasp…OK, let’s face it, I know the major issue is talent, not perseverance. I think I have persevered these 20-plus years. Though in some ways, leaving a theatre mecca for suburban hell does not feel like perseverance personified, hmm? The act of someone who still thinks he can catch his big break? Probably not.

Chicago was supposed to be the big break, or the first step toward it. That was the dream more than five years ago. Now it is about to end. Don’t get me wrong, the move was right, for my writing at least. I have learned a lot, met great people. Written plays maybe I would not have written otherwise. Though maybe some of them ought not to have been written…

A tiny piece of my heart was pierced this morning when I saw that Samantha had thrown out the leftover playbills and postcards from the solo show. Was it really just a year ago I was putting all that together, nervous but hopeful about this somewhat quixotic (and yes, of course, self indulgent) effort? Now, with the detritus staring up at me from the garbage heap, all the bad memories and unfulfilled expectations flooded over me.

So all that helped carve out the recent emptiness. But even more than any one event, or small string of them, the Crisis seems to so overtake my being, that even the happy moments that come into my life, or that I let in, are quickly diluted and then dissolved.

I know we shouldn’t try to accumulate happy moments, any more than we should accumulate any thing or emotion. Detachment: existential catch-and-release. Yet it’s hard not to want to keep some of the positive feeling that comes with the events that bring happiness: shared dinner and conversation with friends, validation of creative endeavors, experiencing the grandeur of nature. And I have felt all of those things at times lately. Just not enough of them. Or not enough to counterbalance the overarching emptiness that is much more common these days.

So a UConn win on the court: nice, yes, satisfying, but fleeting. And ultimately meaningless, I know. The rapt focus and in-the-moment satisfaction of Real Thing rehearsals: welcome on many levels, not the least of which is social interaction. Cooking: a continuing comfort, even if I do worry a bit more lately about how the finished product is ending up extending my gut in ways not seen since prime girth days.

I worry (why? Because that’s what I do) that being alone for two months is not going to make me any more apt to see happiness in everyday things. So watching The Real Thing take flight will be good. Seeing my play staged in New Jersey will be good (it’s not too early – get your tickets now!). Seeing the Red Sox play in Minnesota will be good. But again, ultimately these are just things that will pass. They will not create whatever uplifting, sustained emotion I am seeking. That only comes from inside. I have work to do these coming months of Crisis. I wonder at times if I am up for the task.

But then, what choice do I have?

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~ by mburgan on March 23, 2009.

2 Responses to “See the Good for the Bad”

  1. ah kiddo…i’ve got what 3 years on you…the freaking me work takes time…when everything fits into place the feeling is..yeah amazing…I still have unhappy events occur, but I look at them differently…don’t give up your dreams, keep writing, keep trying…

  2. Well, I can’t imagine not writing, since it is part of how
    I define myself. If it ever stops, it means I’m probably dead. I guess it’s just harder right now to look at the bad events with the right perspective. Getting out of bed each day is such a chore…

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