Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Art Imitates Life and Vice Versa

I don't always believe in a higher plan. Sometimes I think life is just random and how we deal with it sets up the next chain in a sequence of events and more random stuff as it comes along.  Sometimes though I am struck by certain "coincidences" that happen. There are times when I look around and know that everything I am has prepared me for this particular moment.

Doing theatre is like that for me sometimes. I can not say that I haven't learned something from just about every play I've ever done. Sometimes the "aha" moment comes in just the audition, as I experienced when I auditioned for 100 Saints You Should Know.  There is a monologue where the character I wanted to play talks about loneliness. At some point delivering that monologue it stopped being the character and started being me. It was my heart I was laying open for everyone to see. But I got to hide behind the character, so it was safe.

I played a father in Brighton Beach Memoirs when I was wondering if I'd be a good father. I'm not sure if the play came to me, or I came to the play with that one.  I did You Can't Take it With You at a time when I was trying to learn to lighten up. The Laramie Project was one that left me heartbroken every night, but it also spurred me to political action.  I played Mel in The Prisoner of Second Avenue and delivered a couple of monologues which foreshadowed my own experience of being fired from a job I'd given my life to.

This list goes on and on. I don't know if the audience walks away with new found understandings of anything, but as an actor, I certainly do.

So now I'm in the most timely play of my life. It's a new work called Saint Paulie's Delight.  I play Paul, one half of the couple, Paul and Oscar. The two of them have been together for twenty years and now the state in which they live has just passed marriage equality.  Something they never anticipated when they got together twenty years earlier. Now Paul wants to get married and begins planning the wedding to end all weddings. Everything is perfect until Oscar drops the bombshell that he doesn't want to get married. He likes things just like they are.

What I love about the script is that it takes an honest look at relationships and the whole picture. I won't tell you everything because you should come see it, but there are some lines where I stop and think "wow, that's so true."   It's so easy to get caught up in the "right to marry" fight that we sometimes forget that not everyone needs that. Not everyone wants to conform to expectations of the norm.

I believe we should have the right to marry and the right to decide not to marry if that's what we choose.

So, how does this play affect me like the others? The other night when we were running it, I found myself holding back tears as Oscar tells Paul he doesn't want kids and that if Paul does, he should go out and find someone who wants that too.

I never really thought I wanted kids. The whole notion terrifies me, but hearing those words, even if they are in a script and said to my character and not me, makes me very sad.  Personally I'm more like Oscar in this play, as I don't want to bend to societal norms, but for a moment each night I find myself wanting the same thing Paul wants.  I want kids and a family. I want a white picket fence,  soccer practice, and a nosy neighbor to watch Wheel of Fortune with.

Who knew?

A Revolution

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"
~Les Miserables

I'm awake tonight wondering what tomorrow will bring. Today the US Supreme Court made a ruling that set voter's rights back four decades. Tonight, a filibuster is happening in the Texas Senate over a woman's right to choose.  Tomorrow the US Supreme Court will announce it's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Prop 8. It could be a big day for or against gay rights. 

I worry. Not over one issue in particular, but of the way government has become so out of touch with the people of the United States.  We are a society ruled by the most part by rich, old white men who don't know what it's like to be stopped from voting, marrying the person they love, or having to make a decision to end a pregnancy.  They don't seem qualified to make the decisions they have put themselves in power to decide. 

I worry that the people will rise and take back the government. I worry about this because it's going to be a bloody war that must be fought if we are ever to regain our country. 

"Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!"

We are not victims and we will rise up and overcome. It's how America was born and how it will be reborn. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

God Doesn't Hate F*gs; We Do That On Our Own

The thing about writing a blog, is not everything I write gets published. A lot of it stays in a draft folder. Sometimes it's because the idea isn't fully formed and sometimes it's because I'm afraid what I have to say will be so misinterpreted that I decide not to put it out there. The following is one I wrote over a year ago. I've written several along this line because I don't think the truth really gets revealed much in this area. Most of those entries remain in the draft folder.

If you're a gay man, you may recognize the feelings expressed here, but we don't talk about them, because they might perpetuate the stereotypes we're trying to deny exist.

A friend of mine published a novel not too long ago in which one of the lead characters is a not-so-sympathetic gay man.  The book is called Well With My Soul by Gregory G. Allen. I won't give away the plot, but as I said, one of the main characters is not so nice.  This morning, Greg sent me a link to a review he saw that called him homophobic because the gay character isn't portrayed in a positive manner.  I actually found that part refreshing.  Let's face it, not all gay men are nice!  Some are assholes! 
I know, I know... Gay Pride!  We're all supposed to like each other and support each other and all that crap.  We stand united against the Bible beating politicians and we tell kids "It Get's Better."   Yes, kids, it does get better because you get stronger.  You learn how to fight and you learn that you're worth more than anyone will tell you, and you certainly will NOT learn that lesson in a bar, a bath house, or a Gay Pride parade.  You will learn that by having loving supportive friends around you.  Some may be gay; some may be straight. 
In a brief history of the gay rights movement, the police harassed us, the drag queens stood up to them, we made headway and then AIDS came, wiped many of us out, we stood up again, got Don't Ask Don't Tell, got knocked back a bit, pushed forward and made headway with gay marriage.  More backlash. Forward movement.

Externally, we've made progress. Internally, we're just as divided as ever. Look at the makeup of the large gay rights organizations. Predominately white. Predominately good looking.  Predominately affluent. 
I decided not to finish, or publish this because it seemed angry and homophobic.  Angry, yes. Homophobic, no. The truth is, we don't treat each other very well. I hear women say sometimes that they would love to have a gay best friend because we are all fabulous.  No, we're not ladies.  Not all of us.  We can be bitchy, judgmental, offensive, and arrogant....all under the excuse that we're gay and we have the right to be that way.  We are FABULOUS! It's our birthright.  Actually it makes us no better than Ann Coulter or the Westboro Baptist Church. Hate is hate, regardless of who is spewing it.

If you're gay and you're white, slim, under thirty, and a have a few dollars in your pocket, I don't expect you to understand any of this.  This may not be your experience...yet.  If you're not white, over thirty, not slim, or struggling like the rest of America, I think you might have a clue as to what I'm saying.  You've experienced that feeling of being invisible in a crowded room. It's a lonely existence.

This month, as we've deemed it Gay Pride Month, can we maybe do something we can actually feel proud of? Can we treat each other with a little respect and dignity? There are many wonderful people already doing this, but there are just as many, if not more, who could use the time to catch up.  Let's show the world that adversity has made us better people. Let's show the world that we are people of all shapes, sizes, colors, economic brackets, etc...

Just be nicer to each other. Recognize the human condition that is all of us, gay, straight and everywhere in between.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Glass or Rubber...You Decide

When we're kids, or in our early teens, we can't wait to be an adult. You can do what you want. Go where you want. No one tells you what you can and can't do. Oh, but how wrong we were......

Being an adult sucks sometimes.

Life can throw us some pretty gnarly shit and no one can take care of it, but us.  Unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, a serious medical diagnosis. There are lots of things that can turn your life around on a dime, but it's how we deal with such things that either makes us stronger, or destines us to always feel like a victim.

I could get started on how we've become a society of victims, always offended by something, always blaming others, always feeling powerless, but that's another topic for another day.

When something shitty happens, we need to stop and regroup. It's probably the healthy thing to do, but it's not always easy to do.  Life doesn't stop because we lost our job, someone died, or we got a shitty diagnosis. Life just keeps on happening. The electric bill needs paid.  The dogs need fed. The kids have to go to school. We have to bathe.  All the usual responsibilities are still there.

There are times when I've had a rough day/week at work that I want to crawl into a hole and not be bothered....ever, but I can't.  I can unplug for a couple of hours, but I can't disappear from much as I might want to. I can't turn into a fragile piece of glass sitting up on a shelf, where nothing touches me.

I don't know if I'm angry there is no one who will carry all my burdens so I don't have to, or grateful that I don't have to depend on someone to take care of me. I'm not a piece of glass. I'm more like rubber. I can bend further than I ever think I can stand, but then I always snap back eventually.

I may not be perfect at it, and sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out what I need to do to take care of me, but I've been doing it for a damned long time. Whitney Houston said learning to love yourself is the greatest love at all. I'd add taking care of yourself to that. It's the greatest skill I ever learned....after writing, of course.