For a few solid weeks there, the social media feeds of myself and many of the theatre professionals I’m friends with were infested with giant photos of my head. (My apologies if you’re one of them and it freaked you out. It freaked me out, and it’s my head.) My friend Josh Gladstone recently took over the revived Playwrights’ Theatre of East Hampton; a few months ago, he asked if I’d be interested in having a reading of my play Before Vinson out there. After I’d happily agreed, LTV Studios (where the program is now based) made an aggressive social media to promote the new series – and the thumbnail their web team happened to use was my headshot.
Apparently that headshot works, because we got a good crowd for a Saturday night in the Hamptons. The cast and I travelled out there early Saturday afternoon, rehearsed for the day, then performed for an appreciative crowd. An older, rather polite crowd – they were Hamptonites choosing to go to the theatre on a Saturday night, after all – so not as raucous or boisterous as the theatre audiences of my dreams, but still a good group. We stayed at LTV Studios for an hour or so afterwards, drinking and chatting, and then drove out to our overnight digs in Amagansett for more drinking and chatting. (Again, Hamptons.)
Since we didn’t arrive at our rooms until around 11 o’clock, it wasn’t until the next morning that we realized we were lucky enough to be right on the beach. I looked out that morning on a field of deep blue; Hurricane Lee had headed further out to sea, and the choppy waters had yielded to a placid, soothing vista. I stood on our balcony, grateful for a moment of rest and transcendence after a few weeks of hectic activity – when all of a sudden, something large and black broke the blue surface. It was gone in a moment, but as I kept staring out at the horizon, it appeared again. And again.
A humpback whale. Repeatedly breaching the surface and having a grand time for itself.
Now, if you’re experiencing a sense of déjà vu at the moment, Constant Reader, that is because the same thing happened to me in June, at the Valdez Theatre Conference. During the lunch break before my play was to be read, I strolled down to the harbor and saw the blowspout of a humpback whale. And as it happened, the play I had at Valdez this year was Before Vinson – the exact same play that was read in the Hamptons. (Well, we did a revised version in the Hamptons. Feel free to read it here.)
Once is a remarkable occurrence; twice is a pattern. And so I’m forced to conclude that while Before Vinson has always received a polite reception from human audiences, it is absolutely beloved by whales. I have no idea why – do whales enjoy period pieces? Legal procedurals? Are whalesongs actually long discussions on possible interpretations of Arthur Miller? And how did they even know about the performances, anyway?
I wonder – is it possible that the LTV Studios’ Facebook algorithm is even more aggressive and far-reaching than I realized?