“When shall the artist assume his proper situation in society— in a society of thinking beings? How long shall he be enslaved? How long shall mind succumb to the grossest materiality? How long shall the veriest vermin of the Earth, who crawl around the altar of Mammon, be more esteemed of men than they, the gifted ministers to those exalted emotions which link us with the mysteries of Heaven?” -Edgar Allan Poe, 1836
We built a ship. I had little to do with it. Somehow even though I had little to do with it, I thought it was meant to send me away. It hasn’t done that.
I search for a way to remain positive. I know I can make this effort. I want to be free of it, but I must make the next two weeks count first. Then… freedom from the ship becomes the freedom the ship was meant to be.
People see the kindness in you, but don’t think you’re weak.
You’re the kind of director that every actor wants to work with, because you have vision, ambition, drive, and unrivaled ability.
You’ve helped me so much. Thank you for putting things aside so that you could make my life easier.
You’re really very sexy, and not just in a “for a big guy” kind of way.
I can tell how hard you work, and I know you do it because you believe in the project.
People take advantage of you, but we can see that you’ve done more than anyone could expect of one person.
No one thinks you’re a joke, or a failure. In fact, most people really look up to you.
You’re a good leader.
I like the way you do things; you let people be themselves, but you challenge them to be the best version of themselves.
I like the sound of your voice.
I’ve never felt like you were incompetent or scatter-brained.
You’re a supportive person, and I feel like I can do anything when you’ve got my back.
You’re smarter than you let on. It’s kind of you to let people feel like they’re on your level. Still, I can tell you’re a few steps ahead.
I love the way you do things.
People on this team seem to believe, maybe not all but enough people, that I am a scatter-brained goofball rather than a competent director who is managing all the threads necessary to keep this show afloat, if you’ll pardon the phrasing. Let me address that now.
As part of my commitment to this project, I answer all of my email every day. My inbox typically contains twenty or more new important email threads daily, and is always completely empty by noon. I have not seen this level of commitment outside of Marcee and me. It is part of what makes our company the success that it is. It is rude not to answer correspondence and questions, and it is rude to make people wait on something so that their emotional energy is partially dedicated to an open question, so we both take time to be on top of every thread. It is also rude to expect that they will put things on hold for you when they see you, or take a call when you decided something is important. Respecting people’s time means posing a question at their convenience, and answering within a reasonable time frame.
Marcee and I answer every email from the production team, every email from the outside for marketing and borrowing. It is exhausting and sometimes frustrating, as sometimes the answers have to wait for approval from so many people, but we do it. Then, I come into the theater every day and answer more questions, and offer help working on the set, or to stage management, or to anyone else who asks, so that we can provide an easier environment for actors and other creatives to do their job.
When that’s done, I try to clear my head for the limited rehearsal time so I can attempt to solve all the myriad blocking problems and sightline issues and acting beats and plot threads and character arc questions that the actors have. Yet, despite my repeated requests to the contrary, people still ask questions in this dedicated three-hour period about things they could hold until after rehearsal or email about instead. I answer this with a smile and polite professionalism, even though I will need a moment to re-center and focus on the actual task at hand which is rehearsal. Typically, no less than ten people ask him questions that could be asked outside of rehearsal. Stage management should be the only people asking me questions during rehearsal; all questions should go to Julia first. If you’re worried that she’s too busy to answer, then you should extend that same courtesy to me. Hold your questions.
With all these things in mind, occasionally, I need to ask questions about where we are and what action comes next, but then have to suffer the judging eyes of people in the room. I may come off as a goof in rehearsal, but I assure you there is a reason for that which has nothing to do with lack of commitment or understanding of the play or of what needs to be done. Rather, it is a defense mechanism. So many people assume that because I look like a bully, I am one. If I act in a straightforward manner, I am perceived as rude or intimidating, and that is not the environment I prefer. I prefer collaboration and openness and forgiveness, but that does not mean there is no authority structure in place.
Since, however, this approach has been greeted with disdain for the structure necessary to ensure that it all runs smoothly, you may see a different approach from now on. If what is preferred in order for me to given the respect I have given all of you is for me to be more of an authoritarian, I assure you I can create that environment instead. If what you need is to be treated like children in order for you to act like respectful adults, I can provide that.
I will not allow this show to suffer for the sake of egos any longer. Do your job, and I will do mine.
I had a dream last night about the other “unrehearsed” Shakespeare companies in town. Apparently there are many. It’s a weird position to feel like the outsider because you’re the expert. Akin to this article I read about why Trump has support, which mostly confirmed what I was thinking in the more empathic center of my brain. They live in rural towns and retain the “We hate rich billionaires, but more specifically, rich billionaires who don’t speak with our voice.”
The voiceless. The irony again is that I also have no voice, because to speak is to be alienated by the people whom I would defend. I am a feminist guilty of the male gaze. I am a wealthy, white male who wants to give opportunities to artists who work hard. I have white guilt and am trying to overcome it. I am an intellectual and an apologist for it. I am an elitist who wants the masses to shut up and take their medicine so that they can have better opportunities. I am an overly empathic person who has shut down in the wake of so many people taking advantage, consciously or no.
I am the voiceless. I understand why Trump’s followers feel they have not been heard, why they feel like we live in a PC culture that won’t let them express themselves. We are all that way now, apart from those at the top of the oligarchical food chain.
Twas ever thus, I suppose. The clown, the cynic, the poet, the philosopher, they are the first to be outlawed. In order to lead, you must fit in. In order to change, you must first accept. The world is full of bullshit; a good pair of wellies is a better choice than a shovel.
With that in mind, how do you live in a world of people who will consistently ignore your positive contributions? Who will gossip? How do I do the work when so many people are fighting to keep me from doing it?
I hope I can pull myself through this last show.
I bought a video game that I can’t play. I bought a social video game which I avoid playing because I don’t want to hang out with my friends. The game only allows you to play online with people, and I bought it, knowing the last thing I want from a video game is a social experience. A competitive, team-based, ostensibly social experience.
I think that, in the minds of my friends who play it, because we are on the same team that it is considered a cooperative game; however, team sports in my opinion, whether they are physical or not, drive everyone into a bestial froth of comparison and compromise. You see, good play is good play. Once a strategy is found that seems to work, everyone uses it, so good strategy is meaningless in the face of good tactics; that is, only players who are good in and of themselves can execute any particular strategy better than others. When you are dealing with casual — and by definition, mediocre — athletes (video athletes are thing now), then following a particular strategy doesn’t necessarily increase chances of winning, and decreases the “fun” in play, because you are now stuck in a command-chain system and locked into somewhat robotic behavior.
I remember a time when I was playing advertising league softball, and there were some competitive people on the teams. I am a natural athlete, by nature of good genetics. Always healthy. Faster and stronger and taller than the average person, with a propensity for quick learning and very quick reactions due to my hyper-vigilance. But, I don’t care. I only want to have fun.
To this end, I would sing glam-rock anthems from the 80s while I sat in left field where balls are never hit. Except that day, when my former best friend and roommate came up to the plate. He hit a soft fly ball right to me. I was under it. I knew I had it. In that split second as the ball came toward me, all of these thoughts came to me before the ball. “I’ve got this. I can help my team. I can prove that I’m not a dope to them, and to the other team. It’s early on; this will be a huge confidence booster for the early part of the game. He will remember that I am capable. He won’d see me as only that loser that her thinks I am. He’ll have to confront the thought that I am more than I have been made out to be, if even for a moment, before he dismisses me again. He needs this. He needs it more than I do. I don’t want to drop this…”
I dropped it. It hit my glove and hit the ground, and I threw it feebly to third base to stop him getting a double. I don’t think I dropped it on purpose, exactly, but I threw away the competitive feeling of those first few thoughts in favor of my typical apathy toward winning.
This instance, I think, sums up everything about me. Due to my upbringing, I am always considering lines of consequence. Sometimes, this can take the form of empathy or selflessness, but in reality, I fear consequence. What makes these thoughts acceptable in some form, and what wins me to people’s hearts, is that this usually favors other people. They get something out of it, even if only momentary satisfaction. On the flip side, however, people tend to view me as weak because — and I genuinely believe this is because of how I look — they want someone like me to be a domineering asshole. When I’m not, they assume it is not a choice, but a character flaw. Thus, I myself have begun to see empathy as a weakness that I cannot afford, if I want to have any care for my own self-worth.
Is this the hardest lesson of a wannabe Buddhist living in a capitalist society? That self-worth hols such value in the west, yet Eastern thought would seek to abolish self entirely? How can one give up any desire for success and still intend to help people, or continue to live at all? To live is, in essence, the most selfish thing one can do. To believe that one is entitled to drain the resources of others could only be the result of the belief that one is WORTH it.
This is what happens when I have a day off.
My favorite way to spend the day is normally via escapism.
I know that my most serene times have been sitting alone with a computer or console, discovering the story os a captivating video game, or movie, or sometimes book. I don’t have the reverence that others do for reading. I feel smarter, I guess, when I’m reading with my spare time, rather than indulging in what are perceived as lesser forms of entertainment or art. Still, I think people underestimate the power of multi-sense stimulation and agency that is possible through video games. Maybe if they were called multi-sense entertainment or something. The word “games” seems to carry with it a sense of frivolity, but much like the Tai Chi definition of “play,” it is perhaps this very thing which makes them closer to the more complete version of self. Certainly my self.
I suppose I would also love to be making theater as a favorite way to spend the day, but I can no longer find the same weightlessness it once carried for me. I am always fraught, and never free in the theater. I get the sense that people respect me without the confirmation that it is true. On the more passive acting or stage combat side of things, I find myself more interested in a single pursuit than in the contributions of others, which puts me solidly in the camp of artists I myself would avoid.
Is there some truth then to the feeling I have that some people assume about me? That is, do I only enlist in my productions those people who I feel I can adequately control? Is my resistance to casting those who are talented at the cost of compassion a fear grounded entirely in my inability to assert myself? Is art better with better people or with assholes who have translated their insecurities into powerful personality disorders which is the seeming birthplace of great art?
Because I cannot decide between the two, do I choose the “easier” path, and then justify it with lofty speeches about principle? Would I rather have a troupe of talented people who challenge me often, or nice people who act as the instruments for my own art? I am not, at heart, a collaborator, I suppose, even if I am capable of accepting criticism and feedback.
The pen, then. Always the pen. But writing is a place with zero external validation unless one becomes famous. Indeed, if I wrote the greatest novel of the century, my friends would only appreciate it after I was on Oprah. So, where can I find validation within myself? Is that actually the only validation? And if so, why do we bar the egotistical and the mad, when they answer only to the truth within themselves? Does society mean homogeny necessarily? If so, why do we only seem to value the rule-breakers, especially if within us, that’s what we all long to be? Rebellion, revolution… they are the only reality which fits this model, but there must be a norm to rebel against, and that is us. All of us vs. all of us. How is this expressible to the greater mass of people?
This is a journal prompt to make a list.
So, here are 5 video games to which I refer often when people ask me if video games are art (actually, they never ask that; they just ask what my favorites are. This is mostly in descending order of awesome. Mostly.
- Undertale by Toby Fox – an emotional experience like no other, Undertale speaks to the lost child in all of us. Yes, all indie games feature this now, but Undertale earns every metagame moment, and genuinely makes you feel things about yourself that you wouldn’t have just hitting buttons in a JRPG on which it’s modeled.
- Planescape: Torment – Released in 1999, this game set the standard for multiple endings based on story decisions and remains the game for which the most writing was ever done. Each setting and every character have unimaginable depth based solely on the writing and the evocation of your own imagination.
- Mass Effect Series – This game has unbelievable scale, broke down barriers of openly gay relationships in video games, and defined the narrative western RPG forever. Although Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic tested the waters for Bioware’s epic, they proved with this series that their writers could create one of the most complex and expansive science fiction universes of modern times.
- Arkham Series – Every one of these games manages to encapsulate multiple eras of comic book feelings in a single game. Players get to tangle with Batman’s incomparable rogues gallery, and examine the reasons why Batman and his comics are the most psychologically potent of the genre.
- Bioshock Series – Although I am partial to the first story’s setting and villain, each one experimented with agency on the part of the player, making them unwittingly complicit in a Rand-ian tale filled with paranoia, fear, and the desire to give up freedom for a sense of control, all while appealing to the modern-day shoot-em-up crowd.
That’s all for now.