I have this old friend who says “I will not apologize for that.” It could be anything, it could be his taste in music, or ambrosia salad, could be his mid-west attitude, sometimes off-putting, always honest. “I will not apologize for that.”
When I first started producing my own work, it was a bit classless to do it. There was this feeling that an artist shouldn’t self-produce, self-publish, self-exhibit. We didn’t care, Dave and I, when we embarked on the first project. We wanted to make work, we wanted to make our own work, so we did. We got some pr help for the press release from a writer I’d stage managed a show for, and she said “just don’t put your name as the contact name,” she said. The concern was that I’d look like a one-man operation, and an artist shouldn’t look like a one-man operation. Direct press inquiries to Molly “Meow” McGuire. She was our cat.
There was a weirdness when I told people I was producing my own play. They thought it was a vanity project. I was in a position of having to defend my decision to produce my own play. “Shouldn’t a proper theater make that call?” Was the question, “isn’t it tacky to foist your words out there on the world? Without permission?” Those were the questions we faced, and it was an uphill battle. I spent my own money, money that I should have spent on something else, money that is not worth thinking about anymore because it it gone. I went out there and said “my work is legit because I say it’s legit.” My husband backed me up, and together we worked hard to make the show happen.
I wish I’d had that phrase then, that I’ve learned now: I will not apologize for that. I would have said it loud. I would have tattooed it on my face.
Lots more artists are self-producing these days. And I’m glad. I like to see artists owning their work, not waiting for permission to show it. Especially you ladies, ladies of color, ladies with no connection to their ancestral homes and ladies whose histories are instrinsically linked to their presents; trannies, queers, alt/gender, alt/lifestyle, alt/sex people, don’t wait for permission, just take it, make it, hurl it like Molotov cocktails if you have to.
Don’t apologize for that. Don’t ask, just make, take, create.
I’m doing this new play now. I’ve produced lots of new plays since that first expedition on the boards of Second Stage at the Adrienne on Sansom Street in Philly, PA. But this one is different.
This one is lots of adjectives that I’m not comfortable with, so I’ll go with different.
I’m owning it fully. I wrote some words that are drastic, extreme, words that come from the heart. I was helped, to be sure. Brad Rothbart jumped in with some major dramaturgical insight right when I was ready to go into rehearsal with a draft I didn’t believe in. He backed me up against a deadly precipice until I fell right off it. The words barely expanded, to catch the slight wind, like a faulty parachute on a base jump.
The words are incendiary, and I can’t hide behind the pages, or in the darkness at the back of the theater, because I have to say them. I get to say them. I am performing in the play. I will sit on stage and say these things to whomever comes to hear them.
It feels dangerous, and I like it. I forgot that I like when things feel dangerous. And I will not apologize for that.