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  • Thomas Ward

In no particular order


I recently met a very talented actor and theatre maker named Carrie. We were in my play International Falls for Greyman Theatre Company. One night before the show we were talking about theater and whatever. She said that she didn’t like therapy in the guise of theatre. I took it to mean that she’s not a fan of the autobiographical play about your eating disorder or cancer or mommy and daddy issues. The way I took it was that she prefers aesthetic and structure and metaphor and storytelling and stuff like that. You know, stuff like effort and art. The timing of this conversation was impeccable for me personally because I had recently let myself become completely sold on therapy theatre. I had allowed myself to write the most self-indulgent thing, the most autobiographical thing I’d ever written (31 Plays). It became a collection of short plays and sketches tied together with a fake talkback between me (the actual me) and a dramaturg. What was supposed to be a discussion of my writing, Inside the Actor’s Studio style, became a full on, comedically heightened therapy session. I had given myself permission to write this way after reading a couple of books by David Shields, Reality Hunger and How Literature Saved my Life. Shields seems to be more interested in the artist than their art. I mentioned it to my new friend Carrie before we went on stage, this thing about the artist being more interesting than the art. She made a gagging sound and said she disagreed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I’ve been trying to write. Writing has been slow going for me lately. I don’t know why. I just don’t really have anything on the burner at the moment except for a writing assignment that Carrie gave me in connection with her company Hook and Eye Theater.

I had a few days a year or so ago where I thought I’d rather just blog than write plays or screenplays. The notion passed.

It’s no mystery why I find the possibility of the artist being more interesting than the art so incredibly tantalizing. I think I’m pretty interesting. Why do I have to write something with effort and art and composition and structure and imagination for the rest of the world to see it? Geez.

I’m done beating myself up for being lazy. I’m not.

I say that because I almost made a “joke” about how I’m lazy to end the previous paragraph.

I got see my good friend Wes at a play reading in Houston a few weeks ago. Wordsmyth Theatre Company did a reading of my play Slide By. There was a talkback after the reading and before it started Wes texted me, “Don’t self deprecate.” It’s good to have friends who know your bullshit tricks. I complied with his advice and the talkback went well. Far better than if I had done my usual act of being a dummy.

I’m done pretending to be a dummy.

I think it’s time for me to move on from using myself as the source for my stories. It’s been fun, but it’s dangerous. It’s made me crawl into myself and that's not a good place to be.

And I lied just now, it hasn’t been fun.

I worked a ten hour shift today at the Chinese restaurant where I deliver food. An alert came up on my phone that said I had an audition in thirty minutes. I had completely forgotten about it. It was for a play at a theatre. Normally I would’ve scrambled to try and get my shift covered so I could rush over and do my two minute contemporary monologue, the same one I've been doing since college. But I didn’t. I sent a text saying that I couldn’t get away from work. Sorry for the short notice. I won’t be making it for my slot.

It felt so good.

I don’t know what that means.

It’s kind of scary. Kind of exhilarating.

I don’t have to do anything.

I might be done auditioning. Or at least, I might be done with general auditions. Those two minute monologue auditions. They are meaningless. They are degrading. They are a waste of everyone’s time. Carrie sent me a great blog from an actor who has made that declaration, though he claims to be done with auditioning for theatre altogether because he's worked enough and with enough people (directors) that they know what he can do. If you want to cast me, then cast me. I've never stayed in a place long enough to have that familiarity with theaters and directors. I always leave just as that is beginning to happen. I'll save breaking open that little nugget for another post.

I sent that text that said I wouldn’t be making it to the audition and then I went back to delivering Chinese food. I finished my shift. I drove to the ATM to deposit some cash to cover a bill that’s about to go through. I came home. I sat down at the computer and stared at the white screen. I opened this file that I started last week, the stuff about therapy and art.

My point is that I didn’t give that missed audition another thought until this moment.

And it still feels good. It feels really good to have skipped that audition.

Kind of exhilarating. Kind of scary.

I made a joke with Carrie in New York that that production of International Falls might be my last. I was throwing in the towel. I was retiring. "I think this is it for me," I said. "I think I'm done." When I say things like this, it's bait. It's me needing to be needed. Wanted. Admired. Pursued.

So don't read any of this and fall for my little trick. Do what Carrie did instead.

She rolled her eyes and said, "Shut the f**k up."

#acting #audition #auditioning #cattlecall #directing #givingup #fear #doubt #laziness #quitting #theatre #writing #carrieheitman #hookandeyetheater #greymantheatrecompany #internationalfalls