Thursday, March 13, 2008

I Really DO Wish I Was Stranger Sometimes...

I've been so incredibly busy the last few days that not only have I not had time to blog, I haven't even had time to read any of the news stories about Elliot Spitzer. I mean, it's a rare week where the ONLY thing I know about a story is what I see on The Daily Show. This morning, Catherine and I are took our 18-year-old cat, JoJo, to the vet, so I didn't have to go into the day job until early this afternoon. I caught up on the Times a little bit, and then took a few moments to start a new post.

One thing, that I've been turning over in my mind the past few days is a conversation I had with Ralph, my PWP partner. We were talking about my blog and he brought up the subheadline, "I Wish I Was Stranger." Ralph said that he's had that feeling himself: he grew up in a fairly ordinary environment in suburban Raleigh, NC; his parents have been married for well over 40 years; no big traumas that haunt him into adulthood. It makes him feel that, in order to be taken seriously as an artist, he ought to find ways to be stranger: because all artists are weird, screwed up individuals living on the edge of society.

I've known Ralph for over 18 years now and you can take it from me, his fears are misplaced: he's plenty strange.

Seriously, though, I know exactly what he means. But I actually think it's probably more a matter of perspective. It reminds me of the only time I had an opportunity to work with Anne Bogart.  It was on a play by Charles Mee, Another Person is a Foreign Country (which also would have been a good title for this post). I was in the ensemble and, early in rehearsal, Anne had said to us that she'd like to have more performers to fill out our ranks. I had a friend who had just moved to New York from Texas and I thought he'd be a good candidate—in one of our college theater classes, he'd done Lucky's speech from Godot inside the scene shop elevator which he'd filled with crumpled scraps of paper.  My friend, Philip, came to a rehearsal, watched Anne work with us and all of us rolling around on the floor, improvising, creating scenes—the usual things that used to happen in Anne's productions, from what I know. At the end of the evening, Philip talked to Anne for a bit, shook her hand and we left. On the way home, he told me there was no way he could do what we were doing. At first, I was surprised: he's an incredibly creative and open actor and I thought what we were doing would seem pretty obvious to him. But as we talked, I realized that he hadn't been around for the first two or three rehearsals where we started the process; from his perspective, it was all confusing and he felt that he had no instincts for this kind of work. I knew everything that had led up to this point in rehearsal, so it didn't seem all that outlandish to me—I mean, I knew it was weird, but I didn't think it was W E I R D.

Perhaps I'm stranger than I think. I hope so. And, if not, perhaps I may still achieve the level of strangeness I desire. I am willing to learn...

Incidentally, the subtitle is a quote from (hanging my head in pop culture shame) L.A. Law. A temp who was constantly fouling up her job finally attempts suicide: she, of course, fails. After she's taken away, they find a note she left, which ends: "I wish I was stranger." Someone asks, "How could she possibly be stranger?", to which someone else replies, "It's a typo: she meant I wish I was stronger."

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