For my last bit of theatrical activity before I prepare to go to the Valdez Theatre Conference next month, I took part in my monthly classics reading series this holiday weekend. While we started out as a Shakespeare reading series, we call ourselves Dead Playwrights Society and so we cover a lot of repertoire as a result (seems like there’s more and more dead people every day, ha ha, we’re all doomed). For this May installment, we tackled Sam Shepard’s science-fiction/rock-n-roll mash-up, The Tooth of Crime. I’m not sure how I snagged it – probably my long beard these days – but I got to play the leading role of Hoss, the aging rocker warlord, sort of a King Lear-meets-Howlin’ Wolf presiding over a strange sort of Thunderdome. It was a lot of fun – especially since, as a bookish Shakespeare scholar, it’s about as far away from how I see myself as it’s possible to get.
But it’s got me thinking.
As I mentioned, next month, I’ll be attending the Valdez Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. After two years of working on it exclusively through zoom readings, my play An Arctic Confederate Christmas will finally be getting its first public reading. I’m excited, of course, but extremely nervous as well. This play contains extremely disturbing subject matter, and is set in the Alaska of a horrible possible future – and I’ve never been to the state in person before now. Who am I, this nerdy guy from Brooklyn, to lecture them about the intersection of climate change and rising fascism? (That’s what the play’s about. And Christmas stuff.) Surely they’ll be aghast, and this disapprobation will color any further development of the piece, effectively smothering it in its crib. Surely they’ll sense that I don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t have the right to talk about it, and judge the play – and me – accordingly. And poor, polite nebbish that I am, I couldn’t possibly respond.
But – I haven’t been that nebbish for a while now. I’m still rocking my wild pandemic look – largely because we’re still in a pandemic which now somehow has monkeypox what the hell is going on. I’m not Anonymous Playwright Guy anymore – I’m the Scary Bearded Hermit from the edge of town, with an equally scary play to present. And by and large, none of the folks at this conference know me, or will have any other context for my work.
I could be the Scary Bad-Ass Who Demands Respect, is what I’m saying. I never used to be that person, but now? I might just be able to carry it off.
I think this is the plan. It should work, after all. I just need to make sure that none of the conference goers realize that it’s all an act. Like, for example, if they read something in which I explain that it’s all a put-upon persona and…oh, wait. Crap.