'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Saturday, September 04, 2004 ]

Hey, stalkers and stalkers-to-be, if you're looking for more material to add to your stuff-Rob-said-in-print scrapbook, look no further than page 17 of the second issue of Madison's latest newspaper, Core Weekly.

Yup, there's a little interview with Joel Gersmann, Matt Grzybowski, and myself about Broom Street Theater.

Now, when I did my interview last week, I thought that they were speaking to all the playwrights at Broom Street. Then I read this:

As a result of the controversy and media attention surrounding [Audrey Seiler, Where Are You?], Gersmann said, more people have shown interest in the independent theater. And two young talents he said people should pay close attention to are 32-year-old Rob Matsushita and 30-year-old Matt Grzybowski, who are each writing and directing a play for next season.

And I just have to sit down.

Okay, let's just say it. I told all of you I was leaving Broom Street. I told all of you I wasn't coming back. There's tape of me saying this.

And yet, here I am, on the schedule for next year.

I think back to what Tara Randl said to me on closing night of Psychos In Love:

Tara Randl, who ran lights for about 5/6 of the run, asked me if I'd ever come back. I told her I honestly didn't know if I could--if I'd have the inclination to return, or if (and I'll be honest) I would be allowed to. Time may tell, I told her, but the big thing now is that I need a break. Make the situation right to be able to do this full time. "Joel, I bet, secretly hates seeing you go," she told me, "I bet he really wants you to come back."

Time will tell on that too, I told her.

Well, I guess time told.

Back when Matt was casting Untitled Farce, he and I were emailing each other and I asked him how things were going. He said he was having trouble casting for the part of Ian--no one he'd seen had really gotten it. I emailed him back, and told him that was surprising--to me, that part seemed like the easiest role to figure out.

Then I showed up to auditions.

I don't even fully know why.

I was in full swing of the divorce, I was still working at the bank, and I felt weirdly incomplete. My life was at a standstill and I needed a distraction, or at least something to get me up on my feet and moving. My brain was starting to atrophy, and I just needed to wake up.

Matt called me up the night I auditioned, cast me, and asked me what everyone who'd been there was wondering: Why the hell did I come back?

I told him the truth: You just can't put a price tag on doing something that shocks the hell out of everyone. Even yourself.

Acting again, in that space, brought a lot back a lot of things I missed.

After my marriage ended, I felt very separate from my life. Even doing "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" for Nocturnal Editions didn't make me feel the same way, because it was too fractured an experience. I didn't dislike it, but it was so brief and weird that I still felt disoriented.

Working on Farce was different. I really connected with some old friends, and some new friends, and even people who I only sort of knew, and somewhat clashed with, and buried a couple of hatchets. I felt connected again. That's the best way I can think of it.

Anyway, I had fun, and Joel, I heard, liked me in it.

Joel is a strange guy. I mean, that's not really news, but I mean that Joel can be strangely sentimental. I'd heard that Joel saw me in the show and wondered what everyone else wondered: Why come back when it was pretty clear that I'd rather walk on broken glass with my bare feet than set foot in that theater again?

Maybe Tara was right. Maybe he'd want me back.

But would I go?

What I really said at the time was, "Hey, I'll come back as soon as Joel never did any of the things that made me want to leave. The second he never did those things, I'll be back with bells on."

Cut to a few months later, when I get the phone call from Matt.

Matt tells me that because of a scheduling problem, there's an empty slot.

Before I can tell him no fucking way, he adds, "Believe it or not, this was Joel's idea."

As it turns out, Joel was very excited about the idea of bringing me back into it, and he wasn't the only one. In fact, Matt told me, all but one director thought it'd be a great idea to try and get me to come back.

(Which one? Heh. One guess.)

And all my cynical responses just sort of...went away.

It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, I can be left speechless.

Matt told me that he understood and wouldn't hold it against me if I didn't want to.

I asked him when the slot would be, and he told me that it would be the June-July slot, and that date was not negotiable. I told him I needed a day to think about it.

I took the day. I mean, could I do it? What would I do?

I thought about pulling out the idea I had for "Sledgehammer Party," but I'd pretty much permanently shelved that idea. It's about married people and I'd just gotten divorced. It'd be like ripping open my guts onstage and forcing everyone to watch. Everyone would be wondering about if things in the play really happened, and if this was the reason my marriage didn't work.

Then I started to think more about it, and I realized that if I ever did that show, Broom Street would be the only place I could really do it. And I had to be the one to do it. There's stuff I still need to process, and something about the characters I'd created and the situation they were in was helping to put my own life in perspective.

I checked my schedule, and I discovered that I had a conflict--one that I could not get out of.

I couldn't do the show.

I called Matt and told him the bad news.

But I also told him that something about not being able to do the show made doing the show that much more important for me to do. I had just worked myself to a point where I felt I could do it, and suddenly, I can't do it.

I added, "and like every other Broom Street situation, it starts in torment and ends in disappointment." He laughed, but he also said that he thought that it might be possible to work something out.

He suspected that the date being non-negotiable" might not have been accurate, and whadaya know, he was right. Ron Collins was happy to switch with me.

When Matt called me back, I finally realized how much I wanted to come back.

I called Joel the next day, and it was like I never left. Joel just jumped back into it, as if I'd never left.

And with that, it looked very much like I was back.

And, for better or worse (gulp) I guess I am.

Then comes this article. It's a good article, and it really points up an issue that Matt and I have been talking about for a couple of years--that the styles at Broom Street are different enough that just because you don't like one show there, that doesn't mean that you won't love the next one.

It's kind of cool how Matt and I are placed as counterpoints to each other, me being the dark one, and him being the light one.

When Rena Beyer, who wrote the article, inteviewed me, she asked me what my thoughts were on "Audrey Seiler, Where Are You."

And because I have no brain, I told her the truth about how I felt about it. Luckily, she didn't use any of it. I mean, it's not like I was overly mean. I just basically said that I didn't really think it was a good way to get attention for the theater (I said that given the 35 years it's been around, it'd be a shame if Broom Street ended up a footnote in the Audrey Seiler story), but that the attention itself might not be a bad thing if we could keep any of the new audiences the publicity has brought in.

We actually talked for over an hour--I gave her enough for a book--before both sides of her audiotape ran out. (Those of you who know me know that I tend to run on a lot.)

Like I say, check it out. I've been interviewed before, and there's always that fear of how you're going to come off, or how much they're going to get right, or what have you. This one actually made me feel better about coming back.

At some point in the future, I'll fill you in on the ins, the outs, and the what-have-yous about "Sledgehammer Party," as far as what it is, how it came to be, and how it fits in with the rest of my work, but that's a huge story for another time.

Other good news: Two more of my monologues are going to be published in a book of women's monologues, published by the "Ultimate Audition Book" people, Smith and Kraus!

Cool, huh?

posted by Rob on 1:50 AM | link



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