It’s a whole crazy thing producing your own work. Creation is a whole crazy thing.
There’s the euphoria of the new idea, the intimacy between you and your writing tools. There’s the feeling of having an extra dimension in your life as the story plays out in your mind and in your notes. There’s a high to it, a real feeling good while you hash it out, struggle, fight with yourself, stay up late, wake up early. You feel driven, and you can fucking drive. It even hurts, but you’re a masochist. You know that when the screen gets blurry or the ink smears because you are crying while you write this, that you have hit the molten core of yourself, and perhaps something even greater and larger than that. You like it. Art fucking hurts. And it ought to. Art is not yoga and braised radishes.
I’ve been working on this play since I got the idea in 2009. I’d heard an NPR report about Radio Mogadishu in Somalia, and the valiant journalists who broadcast the stories of their country and their world despite persistent threats to their safety. These journalists were the keepers of their country’s history. Decades of audio recordings were housed in their radio station, and they needed to make it digital in order to preserve it. What a noble fucking goal, I thought. I thought about who these people were, and how long such a project would take, the little details of it, the glitches and tedium.
I wrote it up into a few proposals, asking for everything from travel money to development time. I didn’t get any of them, and didn’t pursue the project right away. I have alot of ideas, and they don’t all stick around.
Then last fall the Archivist in my mind decided that she had the terabytes of hard drive space that she needed, and started the transfer. The DJ was on the air all day and all night. He was the last one left at the station and he felt a responsibility to his listeners. He sits in the DJ booth, broadcasting his favorite tracks. She sits in the archives room, faced simultaneously with an OCD need to get every recorded word digitized and the impossibility of doing just that. I begin to realize that they’re not in Somalia (I never got that travel grant, and everything I know about Somalia I learned on NPR), but in a country called Mara Mara, named for the twin Mara Mountains, one to the west, one to the east. Mara Mara is a country in crisis.
I don’t have a dedicated producer other than myself and my usual collaborators, Dave and Ali, so when I got about 30 pages in, a good, if temporary, ending point, I sent it in for a self-producing one-act festival here in NYC. I wanted to see it on its feet a little, get some smart people in the room, and see what we were dealing with. Once our production was underway, Ali Ayala directing, Christopher Burris and Zoe Metcalfe-Klaw as the DJ and Archivist, respectively, I felt my focus really diverge. There was being in the rehearsal room, working on rewrites, designing sound and props (integral parts of the play that I wanted autonomous control over), coordinating with the venue, scheduling, and marketing. It would have been easier had we hired a stage manager, but for a two-night workshop, I didn’t want to pay the added fee, so Ali and I split the job.
Now we’ve been accepted into the NYC Fringe this year. The whole team is back on board and I’m ramping up my energy to make it happen. I’ve been working on the script, on the story of the DJ and the Archivist, and the story of Mara Mara. I feel ready to tackle anew all the art parts of this project, those aspects of making theater that are creation, but there is one area where I hesitate: marketing.
I do not like marketing. I do some marketing for my regular job-type-job, but marketing other people’s artistic product, is much different from marketing my own work. Marketing your own work is like saying:
“Here I am! Look what I made! Leave the actual comfort of your own home or bar stool and come watch my story! You can’t watch it on demand! Also you have to buy a ticket!”
That’s an incredibly difficult thing to say over and over again to everyone you know and even to strangers. Those people who do crowd-sourcing and fundraising campaigns and then ask you to buy a ticket, those people are amazing, capital A, capital Z.
So I ask you, gentle readers, if we mount Radio Mara Mara in the Fringe NYC between August 9-25, and you’re in town, would you come?
(If you respond I’ll take that as a yes. And if you don’t respond I might take that as a yes, too, because I’m an artist, and I’m into self-delusion.)