ewhightower

The Kind of Work I Want to Do

In Employment, Intent, Theatre on February 2, 2014 at 8:56 pm

It’s a sad day. Philip Seymour Hoffman has apparently died. I say apparently because there is a large part of me — my entire soul — which wishes for this to be a massive hoax. Until I hear otherwise, I am going with the news sources (WSJ, CNN, PBS) reporting that he is, in fact, dead from an apparent drug overdose.

The first thing I feel is great sadness: Hoffman had a quality about him that made me feel as though he and I were great friends who simply hadn’t met, yet. I have, in my mind, this unwritten agenda of things to do in life, and one of the items I’ve only today realized was high on the list was to thank Philip Seymour Hoffman for the amazing breadth and depth of his work. Simplicity is central to everything he does, and seems to be the path to honesty in acting.

I don’t know if this is true for you, but it is for me: when I lose someone I admire, a strict stock-taking is prompted in my mind and soul. What have I done with my life? How come I never met them / didn’t know them better? Why is my life bogged down with the kind of mediocrity against which I rail when holding petty court at a rehearsal or on break while filming, and to which I return to rest at the end of the day? Why is my nest cluttered with shit, and why is my work gathering dust while I frantically try to get all the dishes done or sweep the floors before V gets home?

Ridiculous bullshit, all.

So I’m focusing on the kind of work I want to do. And it’s pretty simple to sum up: I want to do the kind of work Philip Seymour Hoffman did. Does, in all extant samples of his work. Simplicity. Honesty. Bullseye.

I’m not pleased with my career — or lack thereof — and its effects on the rest of my life. Such a big mistake coming back to California from NYC. So foolish. I do not know if I will ever feel otherwise. The idiocy of that decision hangs over everything I do like a vast, deadly avalanche that has fallen, is about to fall, will fall.

Maybe I can find a way out of it. Maybe if I approach everything with honesty and simplicity, I can find the path away from the nest I’ve cluttered together under the threat of impending disaster.

So here’s the kind of work I want to do:

In Film, I want to work on well-written projects, only. No more impassioned note sessions with writer/directors who can’t understand how to use an apostrophe or comma. If they don’t know how to do that shit, I’m not in their project. I want to work with brilliant writers, brilliant directors and brilliant cinematographers. People who do work like this:

In Theatre, Regional Theatre is as low as I’ll go from now on. The next project I’m in is THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Berkeley Playhouse, a venue that appears to be Community Theatre (I’ll know more as rehearsals progress; if you’re interested, ask for updates). Here’s some honesty for you: the only reason I took the job is because it’s directed by Kimberly Dooley. She’s one of the founders of Shotgun Players, which, for my money, is the best (most daring, most potentially powerful, most impassioned) theatre company in the East Bay — possibly in the Bay Area.Working with Kimberly will be, I hope, a helpful lubricant to penetrating Shotgun. Zing.

There are other places I’d like to work in the Bay Area: Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep (I’ve understudied there, once), TheatreWorks, possibly ACT and definitely Marin Theatre Company. But the reason I love Shotgun Players so much is simple: they have that lithe, quick, spare quality that keeps theatrical art vibrant. The larger a theatre company gets, the more slowly it moves, until it becomes bogged down in political struggles between the Artistic Director, the Managing Director, the Board of Trustees, the Designers, the Donors … What was once a powerful, dynamic space in which miracles were possible becomes a behemoth wallowing in its own inability to create without upsetting the myriad apple carts others have built on its haunches.

The problem area that lies between the work I want to do and the work I’m doing is simple: nobody knows my work. I’d allowed myself to get trapped working at Solano College Theatre, which, while itself a once-vibrant Regional Theatre in Fairfield, CA, reached its high-water mark with The Producers in 2009 and has receded ever since. The college gutted the company in 2011/2012, and it’s now nothing more than a community college theatre department. Sad, sad days. So, while some of my best work was being done at SCT 2008 – 2013 (as both actor and, eventually, director), nobody came to see it.

The result is that, in many ways, I have to start over. While my resume is impressive, I was spending so much time at Solano that nobody in the greater Bay Area had any idea what I was doing. It’s basically impossible to get anyone to come see your show if they have to drive more than 30 minutes and/or cross a bridge. I actually offered to buy some people a tank of gas and dinner if they would come see The Producers. They never responded to that ridiculous plea, rightly turned off by its sheer desperation. That could easily be a contributing factor to my not having worked at any of the biggies in a while.

So I’m starting over. At 40, soon to be 41, years of age, I am doing Community Theatre for less-than-minimum-wage, all in the hopes that the simplicity of my own work will lead to more jobs at better theatres that pay a living wage and are creative springboards to wider, deeper ponds.

Cross your fingers, gentle readers, and comment if you have any thoughts you’d like to share.

Advertisements
  1. I started, am starting, at 54, now 55. I refuse to give up. I dislike climbing ladders as much the next person, but I will not stop. I don’t have a myriad of connections in theater YET,m but I’ll be damned if I put on the brakes. I’m even thinking MFA, which for a man my age is quite likely as ludicrous as gets. I’m starting a weight-loss regimen to rid myself of the (at least) 60 pounds that have already kept me from roles at which I’d have kicked ass. My current goal is to make certain that after my current project with Novato Theater Company, people WILL know my work.If it all goes into the sewer line, I will have gone down singing and swinging.

  2. Holding my breath for great things to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: