The Body in the Library

You will be pleased to know, Constant Reader, that the writerly juices are flowing again for another full length play.  Or at least a longish one-act; the idea I have, if it works out the way I’m envisioning it, would play out as a 60-75 minute two hander (one of those forms that seem to be all the rage these days, making it a nice change of pace for me in that it might actually be producible).  The submission opportunity I’m eyeing for it has a deadline of February 1st, so I’ll need to work quickly.  Fortunately, I’ve been making decent progress, as I’ve worked out the basic idea and am now well into the research phase.

The last full-length play I wrote was conceived, researched, and written all during the height of the pandemic.  (At least the height of the pandemic here in New York – remember, kids, despite vaccination and treatment breakthroughs none of this is over.) This meant, among other things, that libraries were completely shut down, so any books I needed that weren’t already on my shelves needed to be ordered online, either from Amazon or other vendors.  (I think I might still be waiting on one or two titles.) Thankfully, that’s no longer the case – the library system is functioning again, my local branch is open, and I can simply walk down the street and avail myself of the knowledge of the ages, for free, my hard-won right as city-dweller and citizen.

In theory, at any rate.

I live in the far reaches of South Brooklyn, so my library branch is one of the smaller in the Brooklyn Public Library system.  (Which, for reasons I’ve never been able to completely understand, is separate from the New York Public Library system – so if I want to go visit the stone lions on 5th Avenue and do some research there I need to use a separate library card.  But I digress.)  By small, I mean it’s basically one room, with a second floor above serving as a separate room for young readers.  The selection is practically nonexistent.  That’s not a problem, of course – I can simply put in an inter-library request, and the volumes I need will be located for me wherever they happen to be in Kings County.

In theory, at any rate.

The past few times I’ve gone to request research material, it’s been a laborious comedy of errors as two or three librarians have needed to confer with each other to attempt to figure out the request process.  They’ve stared blankly at their terminals, pecked away in frustration at their keyboards, and gone in circles navigating the procedure.  It’s been strange to see – these are librarians, after all!  Shouldn’t this procedure be second nature to them?

Except, of course it’s not second nature to them.  Nothing is second nature to anybody anymore – because we’re all a year and a half out of practice at whatever it is we’re trying to do.  Those poor librarians haven’t had to use that software in eighteen months, and now they’re trying to contend with the research needs of a playwright?! May the Lord look gently upon their souls.

It’s just another reminder that getting back to normal is going to take a good long while.  And that’s normal, mind you – the needs of theater folk are a long, long  way from that.

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