Christopher Durang

Christopher Durang

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 16 1996 3:30 AM

Christopher Durang

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       Well, yesterday was productive. I dropped the video off to be copied, and I get to pick it up today. The place also offers video-editing lessons, and I think I might try that sometime. I then got to a copying store, and made copies of a revision of the alcoholism play, which I'm to drop off today also. And then I got to class.
       Normally, Marsha and I have our seven students just bring in whatever they're working on, and we all read it aloud and then give feedback. The fact that Marsha and I teach jointly helps reaffirm that what we're offering is opinion, informed opinion perhaps, but not "this is right, this is wrong" dictums. And we both try to come from a place of encouragement; we chose the students, and so there was something in their work that we both responded to and that we want to nurture.
       For this class Marsha had given an assignment--something we had hardly ever done before. Last week, she had a list of 10 or so opening lines--like, "I don't get it," or, "Do you love me?"--and the assignment was to write a short scene using that as the opening line.
       Richard Feldman, the wonderfully helpful acting teacher we work with in our Saturday labs (when Juilliard actors read the students' works), arranged to have actors come to class to read these exercises. And the exercises were really good (as were the actors; it's such a plus for writers to be around gifted actors; hearing your work aloud and acted is so different from seeing it just sitting on the page).
       Oh, and the other quirk of the exercise was that the authors left their names off the work, so we got to respond not knowing who wrote what.
       Since five of the seven students are new this year, it was intriguing to see whose style was so crystal clear we could readily identify their work, and whose style was harder to pinpoint or was changeable.
       Anyway, a very enjoyable class, and I left feeling very good about the students' talent.
       Then I went by the Cort Theatre to say "hi" to all the actors in Sex and Longing, who seemed chipper and friendly. They've been having many "Durang audiences," they said, by which they mean audiences who laugh with a kind of rock 'n' roll intensity at the play's sensibility. Apparently, that's how the shows were all weekend long--though the Wednesday matinee this week was probably the quietest they've ever had, and they had to go into a sort of Zen gear to get through it.
       I'm going to be in the city through the closing at the Sunday matinee, and so I told them I was going to "choose" the audience to watch it with. I, frankly, need to experience an audience who's getting into the play right now. The last time I saw it, a week ago, the audience was kind of cool on the whole thing.
       I watched a little bit last night. The laughter was friendly and pretty good, but not "rock 'n' roll" raucous; so I decided to postpone seeing it until tonight or Saturday ... and I'm definitely seeing the last show. I'm even braving taking a seat in the orchestra rather than hovering in the back.
       You know, with the play closing Sunday and this "Diary" thing ending today, I woke with this feeling of responsibility that I should somehow achieve wisdom today about the bad critical response to my play and what it means. Or, I should actually sit down and read the reviews, and have a stroke, and write about that. Or, I should have stayed at the show last night, and started screaming at the back of the theater. Something that would make a good last "Diary" entry.
       But, alas, nothing dramatic has happened. Yesterday, I felt kind of relaxed and at peace about the play, probably because I was also "doing" things that had clear outcomes: I'm bringing the tape to be copied; I get to pick it up; I get to give it out. All very clear and doable.
       But today I don't feel at peace about it. I woke up feeling vaguely dissatisfied and grumpy. But it's that kind of dissatisfied that is not quite identifiable yet; it's inchoate. So I can't express it or release it yet--it's just bubbling in there, making me feel kind of ... bluhhhh. (That's "blue" but with several "h's" replacing the "e.")
       So I can't talk about my play anymore.
       The weather is nice. I went out to breakfast at a coffee shop this morning and spilled water all over the place. Soon I think I should take a decongestant.
       Wow, one's brain can be poisonous. I can feel it on a downward spiral right now. It's very negative, it's very "this glass is half empty, goddamit," the "r" on this computer doesn't always work when I hit it, the "n" on the computer goes "nnn" if you're not careful; it's my New York "second" computer, so I should be grateful that I have two, but am I? No! I want two that work, not two with one working and one only kind of working. I could get it repaired, but where would I go? Would they cheat me? When will I do it? Should I buy a new one, but do I actually have the money to buy a second one right now?
       There's an A.A. Milne poem about a sailor who gets shipwrecked, and he tries to make a plan what to do: Should he build a hut? Should he make a weapon in case there are natives? Should he look for food? Eventually he's so overwhelmed by his choices and his inability to prioritize that he does nothing, wraps himself in a blanket, and just waits to be saved.
       That's how I feel this morning. Given the "Diary" deadline of a half-hour from now, I can't get myself in another mood that fast. So I'm going to just lie here, a bottle of NyQuil nearby, and "wait to be saved." Luckily, I don't have to talk to too many people today.

Christopher Durang is a playwright and actor, whose plays include Sister Mary Ignatius ... and Beyond Therapy.