Writing words for yourself to say is different from writing words for others to say. When I write a play I’m staging it in my own head, I’m picturing the characters, their clothes, their mannerisms. When writing parentheticals (i.e. SARA (makes face) We’re having chicken again?), I make the face; I imagine actors making the face. I write the play for the type if stage it should be staged on, regardless of whether or not it ever sees that stage. A playwright writes for actors; a playwright writes for a stage.
From 2007-2012, I basically wrote for one stage: Bowery Poetry Club. It was a big deal when we started working there, the place seemed like an integral part of NYC’s downtown cultural fabric, even though it was a relatively new edition. Bob Holman, Taylor Mead, Eric Bogosian, Karen Finley, comprise a short list of only a few of my art heroes who’d graced that stage, and for six years we lived on that stage too.
After a few years of watching everyone else do it, I started picturing myself up there too. Suddenly I was the actor in my head. Bowery Poetry Club was the stage. I started writing for myself.
It’s kind of a freeing feeling to write for yourself. I dispensed with character names and just used my own name. (i.e. LIBBY (wields knife and shrieks like a lunatic) We’re having chicken again?) I wrote primarily for my friend Ali and I, and I wrote about trips we’d taken (Montana “Wildfire at the Billings Logan International Airport,” Mexico “Como se Dice Espanol,” Greece “Gettin’ Killed!,” going nowhere “Staycation”). But when I ran out of trips I just started exploring other ideas, like the impact of the economic downturn on people like me (“Animal/Animal”), a comedy on gang rape (“Puff Puff”), and coming up at Sticky this week, a play about refusing to read your best friend’s blog (the maybe too meta “Get Me/Get Me Back”). In these later plays I found myself unable to use my own name as the character name, opting instead for Lindsey (after Lindsey Torrey, who played the role in “Animal/Animal” before I screwed up my nerve and played it myself in subsequent productions), and Lorraine in the last two, changing Ali’s name to Andrea. It’s like I need a thin shield between the me who wrote it and the me who was playing it.
I don’t know if Eduardo Machado wrote the role of Jose Maria in Mariquitas for himself to play, but it was a surprise for me when I saw him walk on stage. I’d seen Eduardo perform before, and knew that his early career was primarily an acting career, but I was not expecting to see him take the stage in his own play. He played a dying man, a man in love, a man in need of receiving love. This man was desperate and scared, unlike the Eduardo I know. This man was vulnerable, and instead of deriving strength from vulnerability the way Eduardo does, he was ashamed of it.
I wonder so much about this process of Eduardo’s becoming Jose Maria. Was it like building something on top or breaking things down? Was Jose Maria a welcome shield? Eduardo played the role with compassion and empathy, forgiving Jose Maria’s faults but not embracing them. There was a visible struggle within Jose Maria. He was gripped by his need, and his determination to go get that which he needed, while simultaneously being ashamed of needing quite so badly. This is how Eduardo writes, too, and as a long time student of his, it was a both a real education, and a joy, to see Eduardo the Writer meet Eduardo the Actor, live and on stage.
If you’re in NYC, this is the last week to see the show:
Theater for the New City presents
A new play by Eduardo Machado
Directed by Michael Domitrovich
Through May 19
mariquita f (plural mariquitas) /mari?kita/: Noun. 1. A ladybug. 2. A fried plantain chip. 3. (Slang) Queer, homosexual. Diminutive of marica “magpie, gay man,” from María “Mary”.
Set in a gay-friendly bed and breakfast in Old Havana, Mariquitas focuses on a group of Cuban jineteros (hustlers) and their older European clients as they satisfy the desires of their bodies, minds, and souls in a country with limited resources.
In the last 5 years, LGBT Cubans have experienced unprecedented freedom of expression due to the support of sexologist, psychologist, and politician Mariela Castro Espin. Still, the country’s history of marginalizing, persecuting and interning homosexuals makes faith in this new period of growth tentative at best. Mariquitas uses the struggles of a specific slice of contemporary Cuban life to illuminate a larger historical dynamic – the continued tradition of cultural and sexual imperialism between Cuba and its former colonizers.
Starring Omar Chagall, Matthew d’Amato, Ricardo Dávila, Oscar Hernandez, Begonya Plaza, Liam Torres, Ed Trucco, Carlos Valencia, and Ana Valle.
Performances Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm
All Seats $15, Students & Seniors $10
For more information and to buy tickets