Jon Robin Baitz,

Jon Robin Baitz,

A weeklong electronic journal.
May 29 1998 3:30 AM

Jon Robin Baitz,

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       A short and exhausting week. God. Who wants to be a politician? Who could live life as an activist? At that pitch? Not me. Even this little skirmish steals time from reading, writing, friends, etc. Now everyone wants to get on with life, with writing, with directing, with living. Enough political action for a while. Enough statements and signatures. To say this has been an atypical week is an understatement. My thoughts now are of the beach a hundred miles away from Gotham.
       Joe and I have a little house in Sag Harbor. It is a joy. And I miss it. The light at the east end of Long Island, the potato fields, the farm stands ... I haven't been there in months. Sometimes I think of those empty rooms. At least we've been able to lend the place to friends, so it hasn't sat unused and wasted. I, however, have not been out of the city in ages. (Tony season, plays to see most nights, etc.)
       So. The hope is that we can get in the car tomorrow and not come back for as long as possible. (With some brief ventures back in for a day or two.) Terrence McNally and I wrote a play together (a rewarding collaboration but not, alas, about a gay deity of any kind), and we're trying it out at the little Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor in August. Joe is directing. The theater sits on a wharf. Shelter Island is a mile away across Peconic Bay. You can walk out of rehearsal and watch the boats. Our tiny house is a five minute walk away, right by the marina. In what used to be, when Sag was still a whaling town, the district where the hookers hung out.
       The fight for Terrence's play was obviously a vital one. You couldn't not make noise. Athol Fugard once said something to the effect that the moment a writer has to hesitate before putting pen to paper for fear of being hauled away (literally or figuratively) is the exact moment when the enemy has won. I was probably a young kid living in South Africa when he said that. Books were banned, people who spoke out were constantly being placed under house arrest, and that was the very least of it. Anyway, I have felt that I grew up complicit, even as a visitor to that country. I don't like that feeling. I would have hated to have just stood by, watching.
       As it is, the circus atmosphere around McNally's play, the right-wing dog and pony show and the tabloid vitriol, have tarred the process. So the play will get on, and people will use it as an opportunity to sell papers, rant and rave, and freak out. Life in the American big top goes on, as Martin Amis quoting Saul Bellow said, a "moronic inferno."
       Who said the theater was no longer part of the culture?

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz is the author of The Substance of Fire, Three Hotels, A Fair Country, The End of the Day, The Film Society and, most recently, Mizlansky/Zilinsky: or "schmucks."