Ever since taking over as one of the Creative Directors for the Tuesdays at Nine reading series this past fall, there’s been a constant voice inside my head. It’s the classic voice of temptation, the little devil sitting on my shoulder. You’re a playwright, it whispers to me. You deserve to have your work read, to have it heard by an audience. Why not program it yourself? Why don’t you take this position of yourself and use it to make sure your work gets heard? I’ve done my best to resist this temptation – not so much because it would be an abuse of power, or would go against the rules of my position, because there is no rule saying that a Director can’t program their own work (and other Directors through the years have happily done so), but because of the sheer number of other writers hoping to have their work selected. Some are friends of mine. Many are established pillars of the Tuesdays community. Many more are impossibly young and bursting with promise. How do I look over all of the work they eagerly present to me and straight-facedly say “nope, sorry, we’re just going to do mine instead?”
And yet – I’m one of those writers too, aren’t I? Impossibly middle-aged and with some modicum of promise remaining? And so the solution I came up with, in consultation with my colleagues, was to consider myself as a back-up option. I wouldn’t program my own work, but I always made sure to have copies of a script-in-progress on hand each week. That way, if there were any sort of last-minute emergency – a writer hopelessly caught in traffic, say, and unable to come on their scheduled night – then I could substitute my own pages in the nick of time, and the proverbial show would go on. Yes, Constant Reader, I had the hubris to believe that my pages were not only worthy of presentation, but an easy solution to any potential problem.
Last Monday evening, the fateful moment arrived at last. We always try and schedule a musical act in one of each evening’s six performance slots, so that songwriters can try out new material in the same way that our playwrights, novelists, and essayists do. However, while we have musical performers lined-up pretty solidly for the next few weeks, none of them were available for that first week of January, and we had reached the eleventh hour with nobody lined up. And so, my back-up plan was finally activated. In lieu of a musical performer, we’d program a fifth dramatic entry, and rather than scramble to find somebody else on short notice we’d go ahead and put up my pages. The emails were sent out, the plan was agreed to, and I went to bed that night, bursting with anticipation and quite delighted with myself for my foresight.
Alas, I had forgotten about the sushi I’d had for lunch that afternoon.
In the predawn hours, I was roused from sleep by that awful, unmistakable feeling, and proceeded to become violently ill. I slept through the open call I’d hoped to make that morning, and under normal circumstances would have spent the day shivering and whimpering under my covers. But not that day. Apart from having unavoidable obligations at my day job, I needed to be present for my pages to be read at Tuesdays.
There was no back up plan for the back-up plan. I’d never even considered that we might possibly need one. If I were simply co-hosting the evening, I could text my colleagues that I was sick and that would be that – but thanks to my eager springing of The Plan, that was no longer an option.
I forced myself to go, even though the mere act of walking to the theater was proving fairly difficult. I made it through the evening, and after many long months of anticipation, my pages were finally read in public. And the public seemed to like them, being highly complementary towards me when speaking with me afterwards. At least I think they were complimenting me – by that point, my ability to comprehend the spoken word was getting pretty wobbly.
If there weren’t an obvious natural cause, I might have thought this was all psychosomatic in nature – a classic case of the fear of failure, the fear of judgment, manifesting in a physical way to keep me away from the possible source of failure. But there was a natural cause – curse you, bodega sushi! Yet still I wonder – was I guilty of hubris after all? Did the gods see fit to strike me down for having the audacity to program my own work?
I hope not. But I am glad everybody’s confirmed for tomorrow.