It has been eight days now, Constant Reader, and there are no signs of abatement. Our national discourse is still dominated by the Slap. The ongoing consequences of fracas between Will Smith and Chris Rock aren’t simply the main topic of discussion about the Oscar ceremony; the incident isn’t simply the main topic of discussion about the entertainment industry. It’s still the main topic of conversation, period, its plethora of (usually terrible) hot takes dwarfing coverage of all other current events. This is rather remarkable, considering that at the moment World War III and a global pandemic are taking place at the same time. And it’s a shame, since many other notable things occurred during last Sunday’s ceremony, with significant consequences for many other figures in the performing arts.
Like, y’know, me.
A few months into the aforementioned global pandemic, I wrote my first play specifically for the zoom theater format. It’s called Trivial; if you’re so inclined, and are a member of the online service, you can find it on New Play Exchange here. The folks at Boston University’s Stage Troupe staged it in the fall of 2020; people seemed to like it. (I like it, anyway.) It’s the story of a young woman, distraught as so many were at that horrific time, who tries to contact a suicide prevention hotline but accidentally crashes the zoom meeting of a New York trivia team. Instead. (I may or may not have real-life models for some of these characters.) The team takes it upon themselves to try and talk the young woman down. To complicate matters, they need to do this while the online trivia round continues, and as the questions keep veering unhelpfully towards mental health issues and other dark topics. Consider, for instance, what the Quizmaster character asks as the round’s ninth and penultimate question:
Ninth and penultimate question! Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix both won Oscars for playing the Joker. What is the only other role to win Oscars for two separate actors in two separate movies?
At the time I wrote Trivial, and in July of 2020 when the piece is set, the clear and unambiguous answer to that question was Vito Corleone. (For Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Robert DeNiro in The Godfather Part II. In case you’re curious.). But eight days ago, sixty years after Rita Moreno won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Anita in Robert Wise’s West Side Story, Ariana DeBose won in the same category for the same role in Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic musical. It was a tremendous moment for actors of color, for LGBTQ performes, and for the Broadway community as a whole. It also meant that there were now three roles in world cinema which had won Academy Awards for multiple performers, which further meant that my script goddam it my script was totally ruined!!!
Or at least it was now a period piece. Which I suppose it was anyway – with vaccines available and lockdowns being lifted, the world is very different than it was in 2020. Plus the piece is specifically formatted for online performance, and we’re as anxious to pretend that zoom never existed as we’re anxious to believe the pandemic is over (even though it totally isn’t wear your damn masks people). But that just increases the likelihood that Trivial, like so many zoom plays, will be willfully ignored and forgotten, having had less than two years to make any sort of an impact.
It almost makes me want to slap someone.