George: Of robot hearts, honesty and grand things

I want to be a playwright. I’ve been fighting it for years because I never thought I’d have the strength to explain that that’s what I want to do:

“What are your plans?”

“I’m going to be a playwright.”

“Good for you.”

And then I get that special nod, that “Oh you’re choosing an artistic path, this is all part of the grand cliche” nod that makes me want to vomit on the person across from me. So I go into the whole bit about how I’m following my heart, I only do what makes me happy at the given moment, etc. The person across from me just keeps nodding their head, unaware of the fact that the very reason I continue to talk is because they keep beckoning me, like some master and dog. But in their defense, what else are they supposed to do?

“What are your plans?”

“I’m going to be a playwright.”

“You fucking nuts?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t say ‘Yes’ as if it’s a point of pride, to be nuts. It’s simply a bad idea to be a playwright.”

And maybe it is a bad idea, because playwrights max out at what, $15,000 a year? In a good year? When you’re 45? Also, who goes and sees plays anymore? If it’s anything like Yale, then friends whom I’ve passive-aggressively guilted into coming to see theater.

But it all boils down to the cliches: This is what I love. I do. I didn’t decide that I wanted to be a playwright at age 4 (“Daddy, I’ma be a SORCERER!”) — I worked my ass off to get here. I responded to the things that made me stay up late without complaining about it the next day (it should be noted that I was unable to find a career in “hanging out with friends” or “going to Miya’s”).

But it’s not like I’m completely comfortable in my playwriting skin: It can feel self-indulgent at times, creating art. And then I sometimes wonder who is watching when I put on a play. Or reading when I write an article. You know, like who is reading this? What are they really getting from this? What do they want to get from this? I’m convinced so much of creation is based on the notion that people think other people are easily deceived.

I heard in a playwriting class that the Split Britches Theater Company (co-founded by none other than our own Deb Margolin) assumes that their average audience member is a lesbian. Not that lesbians have one world view, but at least the author isn’t projecting her work for a faceless (most likely upper-middle class white) audience to consume. Who do I write and create for? I usually end up saying the safest answer, which is “myself,” meaning that I write what I find entertaining. But that isn’t completely true, or else I wouldn’t ever feel the need to share.

At the end of the day, I write because I want to be honest — I don’t think enough people are honest enough, and I want to show that honesty matters, that honesty is the root of good theater. I sound like a jerk; I don’t mean to be. It’s just that people are so busy worrying about convincing other people of some grand thing without thinking about the grand thing itself. What else is there but the grand thing?

These are all thoughts I am thinking before I hit the real world. But I want to write them down and have them stored on some large, publicly accessible database like, I don’t know, the Yale Daily News website, so that I can return to them when I forget what I’m doing. So, to the Matthew a year from now, or two years from now or a million years from now once they invent robot hearts — just be honest, to yourself, to others. Let that drive you. If not, then may you ever be reverse haunted by the younger, optimistic ghost of your Yale self.

BOO.

Comments

  • debmargolin

    As a playwriting teacher, there is no greater joy than hearing that a student has found what he loves to do in his life, and is willing to face the future by falling into the joy of that pursuit! Desire has power, and agency, and radiance! Mr. George’s life as a playwright begins unfolding even as he speaks! And those of us who have read and attended his plays know how eloquently he does so!

    As a founding member of Split Britches Theater Company, I think it’s fair to say that we had no expectations of who our audience would be. In some of our earliest days, we were lent the Bellevue mental hospital’s auditorium in New York, a huge, cavernous space seating many hundreds of people, and we often performed for 3 people, who we encouraged to please sit in the front row. Sometimes we dragged people in off the street to watch the show. As a three-member company, we promised each other we would not perform if there were fewer people in the house than in the company, a promise we broke regularly. I am certain that, very often, the two or three people in the house which was designed to seat hundreds were not lesbians. Oftentimes they were men. We were honored to present our work to them, and one day, Laurie Stone from the Village Voice, a most heterosexual individual, was in the audience. Her review changed our lives.

    We did not expect any particular type of person in our audience, except, as is the hope for every playwright, that the one who came was willing to laugh; willing to examine herself; was willing to allow the transmogrifying permissions of theater to change her, or his, view of what it meant to be human, as a lesbian, as a woman, a man; as a citizen of the world.

    Matthew George is working from within this same aspiration. Long may his life be as a playwright, and as a passionate, humorous, throughtful and profound contributor to the human conversation.

    Deb Margolin
    Theater Studies Program

  • The Anti-Yale

    Plays change the world.

    Oedipus Rex turned Freud on and no one could turn him off .

    Death of a Salesman pulled the rug out from under the American dream

    A Raisin in the Sun humanized black families for white bigots.

    Our Town makes Death a friend and paves the way for Civil Unions: (“People were made to go through life two by two.”)

    Hamlet outs suicidal ideation.

    Etcetera.

    Best wishes to Mr. George for a future of changing our battered, broken world.

    PK

  • Inigo_Montoya

    “Oedipus Rex turned Freud on”

    lol.