Today is my birthday. More importantly, today is when we open Sarah Ruhl's play Dead Man's Cell Phone. This last month has been a wild and exhausting ride as we've prepared and opened (or will have opened by tongith) two shows. We opened Always Patsy Cline last weekend, and then plunged into technical rehearsals for Dead Man's Cell Phone the next day. Don't ask me how they are going, as I've almost been reduced to taking one step at a time without having any clear perspective given the workload.
But then, that's not entirely accurate, because I can say that all the artists involved have been doing stellar work and I'm very, very pleased and proud of the efforts they are putting forth. Always Patsy is doing quite well and is a treat to behold. Dead Man's is one of our best efforts at Wayside Theatre, and is going to rattle a few cages as it is a different kind of show than we normally do. (Yeah, it makes our audiences think and I know many don't like that.) But the two preview audiences enjoyed it immensely yesterday, and in very different ways. The afternoon audience laughed quite a bit and applauded at the end of almost every scene. The evening audience was a listening audience that then came alive with laughter when Jeanne met Gordon and all the pieces came together for them. It was quite a ride. Tonight's opening audience will probably be somewhere in between, but then I imagine Ms. Ruhl's play will have a different response for each of the performances here at Wayside Theatre during the run. Call me twisted, but I relish that thought.
Back to the birthday thing. I'm somewhat blessed that I'm doing what I want to be doing as I tick of number 54 today. I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to do it given the fiscal challenges we continually face. It's weird as the challenges that surround making the art grow more difficult each and every day, the joy of getting in and doing the art becomes more powerful for me. It also becomes easier on some levels as all of the other bull shit seems like it just wants to make walking to the stage feel like wading through a dung heap. The dichotomy is astounding and sometimes almost too much to handle these days. I'm questioning more and more whether or not the highs are worth the lows, even though, like an addict, I find the thought of losing the highs terrifying.
But then, we get a moment like the many we had in each of the two previews yesterday where the audience and the show meet in some sort of union or communion and I realize how precious and fragile this all is, and how much it needs to be preserved. More importantly, how much I need to keep doing it and how much it is like oxygen for me.
As truthful as that is for me, I have to admit I'm finding it tougher and tougher to convince those who need to support this thing to do so, and that's wearing me down quite a bit. The bitch of it is, in our circumstance, while the challenges are large ones, in order to manage our way through it, the support we need really isn't that enormous.
Perhaps I delude myself when I wrestle with all of this and think it is all worthwhile. There's no doubt that art (in any form) is increasingly more disposable, which implies the artists are as well. The truth that art exposes is also increasingly disposable and maybe that's the key. Why dwell on the truth, when it is easier and more numbingly intoxicating to swallow bromides and half-truths and call it a day?
Anyway, it's a birthday today, and another opening night. Along the way, I'll be at the Always Patsy Cline performance this afternoon. I doubt I'll blow out any candles along the way, as we'll all be working too hard to make both a success. In so many ways, that's a gift given better than any other.