Not All Who Wander Are Lost

For the second time this year, I spent this weekend traveling up to Sherman, Connecticut, to hear a staged reading of a short script of mine.  (The first time was the debut of a piece called Norwegians Pay Half Price, which you can find on NPX here; I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten the second piece fully revised and sent out into the world.) It was in picturesque little theater – a converted church, naturally – in a picturesque little town just over the state border, and a good ways north.  Far closer to Poughkeepsie than Manhattan, in fact.  A two hour journey each way by both train and car in the best case scenario.  All so I could test out a twelve page script in front of a few dozen devoted theatergoers.

And I can’t really complain about the commute – one of the other writers in the line-up was coming all the way from Rhode Island, about double the length of the journey, for the exact same thing.

And it’s not like this is an anomaly for me.  In a few weeks, I will be heading back to Valdez, Alaska, to participate in the Valdez Theatre Conference for the third year in a row.  This will involve a flight across the entire North American continent, and then a seven hour bus ride around glaciers, over permafrost, and through mountain passes.  It takes more than a day to complete, and it is a lot – heck, simply getting from where I live to Newark airport is a lot for most folks.  And again, it’s all so that one script of mine (well, more than one script, actually – spoiler alert for the conference) can receive a reading in front of a few dozen people.  They’re really nice and savvy people – it’s a very good conference – but even so, the question is raised:

Why am I going through all this?

There are the usual responses, of course – then when this is your calling you’ll go to any lengths to follow it, that the creative journey itself is more valuable than the destination, and so on.  And all these things are true – and don’t really answer the question.  Because I am co-Creative Director of Tuesdays at Nine, a cold reading series in New York (and the longest-running one in the country I’ll have you know).  I could put up my own writing whenever the heck I wanted, right here where I live.  Why go through all this trouble?

Well, for one thing, if I forced the audience each and every Tuesday to listen to my own yammering, and excluded too many other writers in the process, everybody would start getting a tad grumpy.  Rightfully so.  But more to the point, the whole point of staged readings is get the necessary feedback for future revisions and productions of the piece.  To figure out what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not.  And as a friend of mine asked me last Tuesday, as we unwound at the bar afterwards, “how do you get honest opinions from people who feel they have to like you?”

(You can tell she’s my friend because she asked a good brutal question like that.)

It’s a fair point.  Honest feedback requires a variety of feedback, from a variety of sources.  And so the quest for those sources continues, by plane and train, through fields and over mountains, scripts in tow and ever at the ready.  All in the hope that one day, at journey’s end, there will be that rarest and most magical of prizes to be found:

A production with more than just music stands!

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