I was recently rejected from a graduate program here in the City I really wanted to attend.  The reasons are mysterious as the admissions committee offered me no feedback apart from an electronic form letter rejecting me.  I have received a lot of love and encouragement from my peers and some very wise friends this week.  I will say that one of the victories of this entire process is I really worked very hard on my application and I think that it was the application of an extremely attractive candidate.  Whether I was an extremely attractive candidate for that particular program will remain a mystery for now, but I am extremely proud of myself.

One of the things about my application I am most proud of was my Artist’s Statement.  Like many others in my field, I detest writing these things.  My first draft was a whole bunch of bullshit and I decided I could not send that in.  I deconstructed it, turned it inside out and presented my heart instead.  I wanted to share it publicly on this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.

When I was 10 years old, my father took me to see a college production of West Side Story.  While I am sure the artistic merits of this production would not be to my taste today, my 10 year old self was mesmerized.  The first thing I remember impressing me was the use of a scrim.

In the theater you can see through walls.  

Then after the Rumble that ended Act One, I was surprised to see the very dead Riff and Bernardo come back to life and join the company in the “Somewhere” ballet.

In the theater the dead come back to life.

In the theater life can pause for a moment before it hurtles towards a tragic conclusion.

I soon became obsessed with musical theater and that obsession led me to a performing arts high school.  While there, I caught another college production that would change my life.   I didn’t know what to expect from Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding.  I never really took to plays like I did to musicals.  Too much talking, not enough lyricism.  Not enough poetry.  Lorca changed all that.  When the Bride and Leonardo run off together, the narrative drove the playinto a surreal psychosexual dream space.  Images of knives and vines and horses and vampiric moons came together to create a dramatic language I had never heard before.

In the theater words don’t need music in order to sing.

To this day, when I sit down to write a play, I am working on a blueprint for an experience like I had with those two productions: facades melt away, time stops and passions become so great the moon needs to speak.

Unfortunately, I have discovered these desires put me at great odds with the theater establishment.  I don’t see where my work fits at any of the major New York theaters (both uptown and downtown), which for some reason seem to focus on every kind of play but the ones I want to write.  Additionally, my plays are steeped in two very important aspects of my identity–my ethnicity and my sexuality.  Like it or not, this makes my work a hard sell.

However, many theater artists are in my position and we have no other choice than to use our creativity to create our own opportunities.  I have felt deeply empowered by being a part of Packawallop Productions, a company I co-founded and serve as Associate Artistic Director.  At Packawallop, I have been able to produce and develop both my work and the work of others.  I have also built a community that is enthusiastic, supportive and loving. Most importantly I have learned to create an aesthetic with a director, actors and designers that helps put my passions on the stage.

Despite my accomplishments as a self-producer, I am feeling a little fatigued as making theater in New York gets more challenging.  Fundraising and reaching my intended audience take so much energy.  If my theater career has involved balancing the roles of artist/playwright with producer/administrator, I feel the scales have been tipped towards the latter.  I feel discouraged and unsure of how to proceed.

Discouraged does not mean defeated.  

As I near my 40th birthday, I feel as if I am at a crossroads in my life and there are many new adventures to be had, including artistically.  In many ways I still feel like that ten year old sitting in a darkened theater waiting for that production of West Side Story to start.  I am hoping a graduate program will help me get in touch with my passions as a writer.  I am hoping these passions will light a fire in me that will inspire me to find new ways to forge ahead and be a productive and enthusiastic member of the theater community.  I want to be inspired so I can be inspiring.  I want my producorial choices to be guided by the work and not the other way around.  And perhaps there is more to learn that I cannot foresee.

… Surprises …

What more can the theater do?

What more can I do?

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