Letter to L and E

...Things go well here in Portland, though not without frustration. Sushiland just isn't the same without you unsavory types.

Your cookies in January inspired me, I think. Lately I've been coaching with an awesome group called Playwrite, in which coaches are paired up one-on-one with at-risk kids to write plays. Last week my writer was a 16 yr. old foster kid and abuse survivor in a residential rehab, a cutter on self-harm watch with pretty destructive and caustically cynical tendencies. Now, I think of myself as a relatively tough customer. Like I could beat you up easy, E, just a couple of quick jabs and a decent uppercut and you're done. L, that's harder because she's so cunning... But for whatever reason, for all kinds of reasons, this writer started getting to me. 3 hour sessions would leave me exhausted, like I'd just stormed through a 10 hour day. Keeping my humor and my composure began getting harder and harder.

Somehow, somewhere in there I remembered your cookies. Your splendid, splendid cookies, perfect little roundels of richly chewy wondrousness. Savory coasters of hope on which to rest my overflowing goblet of despair.

Encouraged and made determined by your example, I picked up an old recipe for Chinese almond cookies. Eggs! Almonds! Baking powder! Two whole sticks of butter! Emboldened rather than discouraged, and with your delicious examples enshrined in my memory, I quickly set to work.

At first, all I'd hoped for was something tasty to feed myself. But somewhere along the way (halfway through cutting up both sticks of butter into baby-pea sized bits), it dawned on me that the heaviness of the day was leaving me. Even more so when I was kneading the dough, my hands and fingers buttery-shiny and puffs of flour all over myself.

Since we can't give gifts to our writers, the next day I gave my fellow coaches as many cookies as I had left over, and then stopped at Powell's to pick up a cookie cookbook. Finally, I now have a relatively safe and legal outlet with which to satiate my remorseless urge to deprive the world of its butter supply.

As you may be able to tell from all this, I continue to move forward underemployed, skating along on an empty tank from paycheck to paycheck. Prospects abound, and such work as I do have slowly but surely leads to more. I have days where it feels like I'm holding my life together, with both hands and barely (as I seem to say with increasing frequency). But I also have days where tide and time are resolute allies, and the whole world is commonly conspiring to quietly favor my bravest designs. There's a vintage WWII era British poster that aptly captures the moment for me. On a socialist-red background, spelled out in big block letters, very simply, the words, "Keep Calm and Carry On." The whole thing surmounted by the British Imperial Crown.

My experimental theatre group, The FORGERY, unveiled our first little piece two weeks agoi in a bar/music venue stage. Untitled, the piece ran for less than 20 minutes, following a series of mundane characters leading repetitive and colorless lives. Gradually, their world is overrun by living sleeping bags. The whole thing had no dialogue, and we had original (and very specifically timed) music underscoring everything, in the Four Tet-early Radiohead-Aphex Twin vein. It was wonderfully awesome.

Our audience loved us, and we even surprised ourselves to discover that we'd actually succeeded in crafting a decent piece. Plans are in train to do more, and more, and yet more.

I'm advocating a paradigm for theatre, where we move away from six-week runs, and tech weeks, and even one-night-only's. What if a complete Work takes place over the course of an evolving year, built from a constellation of diverse pieces--puppetry, movement, text--lasting only as long as each piece needs to last, minutes or hours. Each piece is one evening, in a found space, perhaps different each time, and it's defined by being both complete in itself and also yet one more star in a slowly unfolding constellation.

The audience gets to drop in at any point--it's non-linear storytelling--and maybe we get to repeat ourselves, revisit and revise pieces as we continue to craft the larger Work over a longer period of time...