Sunday, November 11, 2012

At Work Again

I spent most of October spinning my wheels. I meant to finish the first draft of Helen. I meant to send out cover letters and resumes to Shakespeare festivals across the country, in search of future employment. I planned to draft the press release for Cressida. The list went on. Instead, I read books, went to the gym, and watched more episodes of soapy television dramas and bubbly sitcoms than I care to admit. So when the temp agency called to offer me work on a corporate audit, I decided to take it. And so far, going back to work has helped me get back to the work.

The work right now involves three plays: Cressida, for which rehearsals begin today, Helen, the play I am writing, and Feral by Bruce Hostetler, a new play that Compass Works hired me to direct in January. Feral is a poetic account, moving between “reality and symphony,” of a newly homeless father’s first night on the streets. The source material for the show are interviews with over 500 people who are, or who have lived homeless. The stories are alternately heart breaking, terrifying, and life affirming. These are characters who need and want work in a way that I am fortunate enough to just barely comprehend.

The next three months will be grueling: writing, directing, and producing while holding down this other job. Luckily the office job is a place where I can work on things at a subconscious level, where ideas can percolate as I focus on thousands of lines of data. The other way that the office job is helpful is that it forces me back into relying on the public transit system to get around. Buses and trains teach you a city in a deeper way than driving does. You cross streets you may not otherwise. And the people. You get to watch so many people and wonder about their various walks of life as they come and go.

Reflecting on my month of idleness and this new month of productivity: there are a few things I hope I will remember after the shows close and my corporate contract is up. One is that as hard as I fight it, I do not want to work all the time, I do need rest, and a month of idleness is not the worst thing in the world. Second is that creative work requires a good deal of time not being directly stared at, next time I am working from home, I have to find my equivalent of thousands of lines of data. (Ibsen apparently spent the first year of work on a new play, taking long walks to just think through it’s structure. He didn’t write until the second year. Or at least, so says Fiona Shaw in an interview on “Downstage Center.”) And third, I am someone who needs to get out into the world, who needs the hustle and bustle of a crowd, and the chatter of life around her.

Final thought: One of the best meditations on work is Phillip Levine’s poem “What Work Is.”

The Blue Line, this past summer during idler and warmer times.

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