Daniel Sullivan

Daniel Sullivan

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 14 2000 9:00 PM

Daniel Sullivan

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Let's try a real diary this time. What the hell. It's late at night, I'm tired, and the truth might set us free. Or bore us straight to hell. In any case, here, with occasional interpretive asides, are the straight goods about my glamorous show-business life.

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9:00 a.m.: Woke up alone. Was not surprised. Urine stream healthy. (I'll be 60 in June and am increasingly delighted by such observations.) The big choice of the morning: Raisin Bran or Grape-nuts. Went with the Raisin Bran. Grape-nuts take time to soften to the proper consistency. Put on a CD: Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax playing Beethoven Sonatas. A little heavy for the hour, but my day ends with Eugene O'Neill so I might as well jump right in.

9:30: Opened the blinds on the bedroom window of my basement/garden apartment. A Samuel Becket-like desolation greets me. My friend and landlord, Jonathan, has been working on this garden for several years now. He managed to progress to the point of spreading a ton of sand as a bed for a brick patio but has since been unable to make a choice of the kind of brick to use, and the "garden," as we still hopefully call it, has languished once again, becoming, instead, one of New York's largest cat boxes.

10:00: The Monday-morning phone calls. I've made a list over the weekend of the people I must call, but for the life of me I can't see what's so important now. The agent George Lane. Can I commit to doing a play next spring? Next Spring?! 2001? How can I do that? I get out of breath just thinking about next spring. Did I know a play I was working on had been sold to HBO and that I haven't been included in the deal? What else is new? Set up house seats for friends for Moon. (Sometimes friends come expecting to have got free tickets and get a nasty shock. I can get only good seats, not free seats. Remember that, now.)

11:00:  Auditions for Proof, a play by David Auburn, a talented young man recently out of Juilliard. At Manhattan Theatre Club. We see good actors. I've never liked the audition process. Maybe because I used to act and hated having to walk into a room and sell myself as a character. So I empathize.

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Not that my empathy is apparent to the auditionee. I don't say much, either before or after the audition. I'm shy and have no bedside manner. And to top it off, I'm possessed of an aspect of disapproval. I don't disapprove, of course, but I look as though I do because that's just the way my features fall together so ... well, I suppose I frighten actors.

Get it over with, I think. Quick. Painful but quick. And if the actors can get past my stern regard and still make an impact, maybe they know what they're doing. I usually don't work much with actors at the audition, asking them to try other approaches, because they either seem possible to me or they don't, and I'd rather not prolong the agony. So actors find themselves in and out very quickly and the casting staff finds itself with a lot of time on its hands.

If I'm interested in someone or if the playwright is interested, they are asked to return for a callback session. We called back a number of actors today. Good, honest players who seemed to connect with the material. Fingers crossed.

5:00 p.m.: A meeting with set designer John Lee Beatty on another play, Spinning Into Butter, by Rebecca Gilman. To be produced by Lincoln Center Theater in the summer. We sat in the theater and talked about where things should go. The play takes place in an office in a New England college. John Lee said, "What do I do so it won't look boring?" He always gets right to the point. I was at a bit of a loss. "Windows?" I said. "Oh!" he said, surprised. But he always acts surprised by even the dullest idea. He's very nice. "Maybe it should be a very tall room," he said. "How tall?" "16 feet." "That's tall. Do they have rooms that tall in New England?" "Victorian rooms are tall." "But Victorian doesn't give you the typical New England school." And so it went for an hour or so. I don't know what initial design meetings are like for other directors, but this is par for the course for me. And at the end we agree to meet again soon since neither of us knows what the hell we're doing.

6:00: Made a curry with brown rice, broccoli rabe, cashews, and currants. Delicious. The only true satisfaction of the day.

9:00: Went to the gym. Crunch Gym, right down the block. The damn place was full, for God's sake. I felt terrible for all of us. I watched a million-dollar prize show on television as I ran on a machine. The big difference between the shows I remember as a kid and what I saw tonight is that to win now, you have to be pretty stupid. They ask you questions about the names of characters in sitcoms or the titles of Danielle Steel's books. I felt very proud not to be able to answer a single question.

11:00: A half-pint of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream. I deserve it, damn it.