Excerpt from my Letter to Jennifer H, 2 April 2006

...I much regret and am often frustrated by how often I'm caught, between the Rock of always being on the road, and the Hard Place of a performing artist's income. Tim Blake Nelson recently spoke of how actors subsidize theatre (emphasis mine)--specifically referring to how both the tangible and the intangible contributions we make towards our work entirely outstrip the crude, simplistic resources available to us as compensation. As usual, nothing short of a sea change in how this all goes down will do anything to make it any better, but the point is an important one, and one which continues to redefine a lot of my views about this slogging, heartrending, overcooked, two-bit, ass-backwards shell game which we call 'theatre' in polite company.

But then, as I see it, the true rub here lies in how fruitfully these unresolvable questions--like the question of how to rationalize perpetually subsidizing my own work--can be made to fuel and enrich this very same work. In these stages, and for these past several years, I haven't seen (or am not yet able to see) how to afford to do anything else.

Yesterday, I finished reading Wallace Shawn's "The Fever," a long monologue-confessional that wrestles with issues of conscience and meaning in the context of working and living in this world, rife with poverty and brutality as it still is. The text deftly conveys the desperate confusion of being conscious, and helpless, and both more or less by choice.

It is some evidence of the quality of Shawn's writing that I am only here and now realizing how difficult it is to write meaningfully about it. Shawn himself does not really conclude the monologue so much as he simply sets it down, in a kind of capitulation as painful as the issue it cannot resolve, but then just as much as easy as the simple act of leaving a book unfinished and open-faced on the bedside table.

"The Fever," and, to a lesser extent, Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" (which I also recently finished), are both spurring me back towards my old perennial friends, Cicero, Boethius, Bacon, Spinoza and Locke, anxious as I am all over again to somehow sustain the unsustainability of this contemporary situation. (It's as though the Fall of Communism, Globalization, the UN Charter of Human Rights and 24-hr. live TV coverage have all conspired to make brooding little Hamlets out of thinking people everywhere. Or were we all just like that to begin with?)

And I mention all of this because it does, in fact, and in its own perverse manner, go some ways towards resolving the earlier question of how to sustain the all but perpetual self-subsidization of theatre. Ironically, it makes me feel better, and its easier to stomach the intractability of my position, when I realize how comparably fucked-up the rest of the picture looks like.

Shawn stresses how much he's chosen to believe in a beautiful life, one that appreciates the loveliness of people and things, and even if this cannot and does not answer for any of the rest of it, this is still the only straw left to grasp, for me. It's the Noble Virtue of the Stoics, St. Augustine's City of God, Lenin's Dictatorship of the Proletariat. I choose to believe that it is worthwhile to do what I do, even as I question the wisdom of so choosing...


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