Wednesday, February 06, 2008

First bad review, in a Detroit paper (the Jewish paper in Detroit gave us much love.) Actually, the review was not all bad--the critic liked the individual performances and conceded there were many good things about the play, before trashing the ending-- but the headline makes it sound like a complete hatchet job.

I found out about it while talking to K, my new mentor. (I asked, and she accepted. "I'll be your big sister," she joked, "even though I'm short and you're ten feet tall." It's true--I towered over the Detroit Jews like a skyscraper.)

She told me she has gotten bad reviews too--it comes with the territory of being out in the wider world. Not one of the more fun parts. And that's the thing; the mother in my play has a line she delivers to her younger daughter: "Family life is not all it's cracked up to be." Nothing is all it's cracked up to be. Not family life, not career success, not "being a real professional playwright," none of it.

But the flip side of that is that things which are not cracked up to be so special can be innately satisfying. I just spent forty-five minutes clearing detritus from the front yard--all the stuff we clipped during our mad gardening day. I chopped it up with the new gardening loppers and filled the green bin. A former student of mine walked by and noticed what I had done and said, "You're getting there." And I am. One more week, one more recycling pick-up, and all the stuff will be cleared.

It takes no special skill to chop up pieces of rose bushes and get them into the green bin. But it was intensely satisfying to work with my body and just do something natural and non-controversial after the hothouse of theatrical production, the focus on ego and pleasing people, the worries about my words being right or wrong.

It was just me and the clippers and the brush. I was thinking about Heath Ledger. I remember his performance in Brokeback Mountain astounded me. I read how bad his insomnia was, how none of the meds he was taking for it were really helping and I felt for him. I've had intractable insomnia at other periods in my life--not so much now--and it was awful. I felt so exhausted I wanted to die, and he actually did die. I wondered if he could have gotten his hands in some dirt, done a Habitat for Humanity type project, just gardened or constructed a house or something simple and physical like that, if it would have helped.

Anyway, the conversation with K was illuminating--I'm finally ready to look at one of the stubbornest issues of the play, the Deus Ex Machina in the next to last scene, which the reviewer put his finger on as a glaring problem. Rahel doesn't really soften or give any evidence of changing before her final 180 degree about face. I wish I could have realized this sooner, but I didn't--all I can do now is make the script as good as I can and then send it out again.

As Carla said, my attitude about all this has to be unconditional. Not that I can't respond to criticism of my work, revise, feel frustrated or sad or anxious, get excited, whatever. But if my attitude is, I want to learn whatever I'm supposed to learn from this experience rather than Broadway Or Bust, then it will be a richer more worthwhile experience. Because I'm sure even Broadway isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I had another screaming nightmare last night. I have them about once a month or so--haven't really tracked how frequently. C woke up and comforted me. He said I yelled really loudly. I remember in my dream I was enraged. Detroit jogged some trauma stuff for me and it's time to find a somatic therapist who can work with me around PTSD as well. I HATE being in therapy--spending all that money just to talk to someone about issues that I always think I could process with friends or with myself or just put into my work--but so much has gone on this year, I can't process it on my own anymore. My sensitive system is just overloaded. It's not even the nightmares that bother me most. It's more the feelings of numbness and disassociation I feel when I'm stressed.

I have been doing my work, but not feeling ultimately all that connected to it. Maybe there's just too much; besides Kaddish, i completed three other plays last year, one long one-act, one short one-act and one full-length, as well as a couple of major and a couple of short essays. I just found out that the short one-act, about Marie Antoinette, will get a reading at the end of April. And luckily I trust the director, Stuart Bousel, will do a great job, and there will be no unnecessary emotional drama involved.

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