Fairness Doctrine

Well, we’re up and running.  My new short play Basic Cable Method Acting had its debut performance on Sunday, at the Secret Theatre in Woodside, Queens.  It’s presented as part of the Queens Short Play Festival, which runs through the end of March, so we’re guaranteed at least three more performances of this work.  Like many short play festivals, it’s organized as a competition, with the audiences voting for their preferred plays of a given evening, and the “winners” moving on to subsequent rounds of performances.  It’s therefore possible that, after our “last” performance on March 18, we could have as many as two additional performances – in a semifinal round on either Thursday March 23 or Friday March 24, and then a final round performance on March 25 – if we have the votes.

Over the years, I’ve known many playwrights involved in these kinds of competitions, and performed in a few of their works as an actor.  I must admit, as much fun as they’ve been in the past, there’s always been a little bitter to mix with the sweet. These are, after all, popular votes deciding whether or not you move on.  That’s perhaps not conducive for heavy dramas, or experimental works, or in your face political satire – not in the place of crowd-pleasing comedy.  More to the point, in that sort of a festival setting, many productions come with their own built-in crowd.  If a playwright happens to have entourage of friends coming to whoop it up for their show, then there’s a pretty high likelihood that show will be seen again.  If you happen to be that playwright, great!  If not – if you and your two actors have spent a month polishing something you know is beautiful, only to have it overwhelmed by somebody else’s mob of supporters as – then you’re likely to find yourself stewing at the unfairness of it all.  Likely to find yourself flashing back to that familiar childhood sting of knowing that you’re not the popular kid.

For a long time, I’ve fallen in the latter category.  But is that still the case?

After all, I currently co-host the Tuesdays at Nine cold reading series; every Tuesday night, for the past few weeks, around a hundred people or so have heard me talk up this little show of mine.  This is the community from which I’ve pulled my cast as well, so community interest in the project is thereby reinforced.  And on top of that, I’ve got the whole network of writers and actors who I’ve worked with on many previous productions.  (Just how many? Over how many years? I’ll never tell.) Over the past few days, I’ve allowed myself to entertain a seductive thought – is it possible that the largest rooting section for any of the plays in my particular line-up might be mine?  Could it be that the inherent unfairness of what often winds up being a popularity contest might actually work out in my favor?

Well, the time for speculation is finished, because our first performance is under our belts and I’ve seen the show in front of an audience.  Which, of course, I counted.  And in the mostly-full fifty seat venue in which the show is performed, the number that came to support me personally was – seven.  About one sixth of the house, on a bill of six different pieces.  And each one of those pieces seemed to have about equal support.

So…we’re all on even footing.  It really is a fair competition.

It’s quite a lovely novelty.  Our next performance isn’t until Saturday, so I’m going to spend the next few days savoring it.

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