For the past two weeks, I’ve been taking part in private readings with a new writer’s workshop. (None of my own scripts to read for it yet – I’m still plodding away on that front.) Since it’s a new group, the readings have been somewhat nomadic, taking place in different rented studio spaces. Not the well-trafficked NYC studio spaces like Ripley-Greer and Pearl; no, since we’re poor simple folk without much fancy folding-money, we’ve been grabbing well-worn, cramped, grubby rooms wherever we can find them.
Or perhaps I should say, WHENever we can find them.
New York studio spaces seem to exist in some sort of time warp. Even at Ripley-Greer, probably the most upscale and up-to-date of Manhattan’s studio rental facilities, posters of the same mid-to-late 90s shows have adorned the walls since before I got my Equity card. It seems that Toni Braxton-as-Aida and Barry Williams-as-Captain Von Trapp will be gazing protectively from the walls at young actors for many more years to come. Over at Nola Studios (our new group’s first port of call), there’s a poster for an “upcoming new film” that has, without exaggeration, been there for at least eighteen years. And over by its elevator, there is a massive headshot wall containing the headshots of scores of 70s and 80s tv shows, as if trying to decorate with my childhood memories. For heaven's sake, half of them are still in black and white. It has looked this way since I can remember, and my memory is long and winding.
Why is this the case? Perhaps it’s a simple matter of economics – if you own and maintain one of these studios, you have many things to spend your money on before you get around to upgrading the décor, so whatever’s on the walls when you start out is liable to stay there indefinitely. But then it stands to reason that there’d be stuff on those walls from even further back, and that rarely seems to be the case (even though it would have considerable historical interest were it to be there). No, inevitably the stuff on the walls (apart from the grime) clusters in a very specific range, from the late 80s to the late 90s and early aughts – i.e. my misspent youth. All these signed posters, these playbills, these flyers and banners and other Proustian madeleines – could they possibly be directed at me?
It’s not necessarily as paranoid as it sounds – I’m the age and demographic of folks who are actively trying to rent spaces and produce work, to try and convert our youthful artistic endeavors into some kind of regular career and/or lasting legacy. We’re the ones who go prowling the studios, looking for a temporary home for whatever we’re up to, and we’re the ones plunking up the cash – perhaps it makes sense for them to make us feel as comfortable as possible, to calm and assuage us with grubby, well-worn familiarity. But once we accept that sort of a premise, it’s easy to get even more solipsistic and paranoid with our thinking. Hell, maybe the fact that the pictures on the studio walls haven’t changed in nearly twenty years means that I’m really trapped in the proverbial Matrix, and our machine overlords haven’t seen fit to provide an art upgrade in all that time.
If that’s the case, I hope the Matrix can download the finished draft of the script I’m working on directly into my brain. It’s the least it could do.
Posted on April 11, 2016
by Michael C. O'Day