Misunderstood

“Why the hell didn’t they laugh at that joke?”, “What are those old people near the front of the stage whispering about during the show” and “It’s a quiet crowd. Oh my god everybody hates it and hates me” are the kind of ridiculous things that race through a playwright’s twisted mind while sitting with an audience for the first time. At least this playwright’s mind. Having just opened my second show, I know these thoughts very well. I recently wondered, after not getting the kind of response I had anticipated if that maybe people didn’t get me and maybe I was in the wrong line of work.

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Self-doubt is part of the deal with being an artist so I try not to put too much stock in these kind of thoughts. Plus, being sober and having worked my ass off to try to like myself and give myself a break as much as I can, worrying about what people think is a fruitless and boring activity. Still, we creative types are always on the hunt for approval and I have specific ideas of what that should look like. Just hours of thunderous laughter, glowing reviews, tear-soaked faces and write-ups in the New York Times are all I really require to feel properly loved and appreciated. Clearly, I know how self-involved I’m acting and if you’re going through really difficult time and reading this makes you want to punch me in the face, I totally get it.

First off, I should be clear that the response I was talking about was actually fine. And I mean this honestly.  I really have had worse audience reactions. Like the couple who walked out or the guy who fell asleep during my first show or the audience member who wanted to meet face to face to tell me how bad it was. The thing about this crowd’s particular reaction on this night it was just “meh”. It felt like a solid mediocre and as a playwright that’s almost more insulting than being Fell Asleep During Your Show guy. Nevertheless, life and our show both go on and lots of work on this project and others had to get done. With some brainstorming and technical tweaking, we addressed some little glitches and then let it go. That’s right. The guy worried about what’s on the minds of mostly strangers, just let it go. We’re in the middle of a run and we had to move on. And that’s when something remarkable happened. By letting the show do its own thing, miracles happened. Reports of the highly sought-after laughter and tears combo platter came in from honest sources. Audiences howled at jokes that previously went unnoticed. Rhythms and magic moments never before seen were happening.  Mainly, the show found its groove and looked like a show we set out to make over a year ago. While trying to figure why or why not people weren’t reacting exactly the way I wanted them to (the nerve) turned out to be an exercise in futility, something occurred to me about the show. It has an opinion and it tells the truth. Does every joke work? No. Are there five minutes we could trim off? Sure. Will it change drastically in the next round of rewrites? Most likely.

But am I proud of The Singing Room? You bet your ass. This singing, joke telling, tender, brilliant cast makes everything I write so much better and are worth the price of admission alone. Also, the show takes risks and doesn’t say apologize for who it is. Yet there’s even a bigger reason I’m proud of it. A friend whose been caring for her dying spouse made a point in telling me the other night how wonderful the show was and how grateful she was for a night out. It was then I realized that this whole making art thing isn’t really about if people love me or how amazing I am. It’s about telling the truth and hopefully providing light for other people. If everybody doesn’t get it or love it, that’s okay. Maybe a couple will. And if  sticking to that mission makes me misunderstood, then its a badge I wear with honor.

If you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, grab tickets here! 

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6 thoughts on “Misunderstood

  1. If what we do in sobriety touches just ONE soul, then you have done your job. After that one, nothing else matters. In sobriety we must always be grateful for the small things, not necessarily the BIG things. You do what you do well. Do more of what makes you happy. Be gentle with yourself. And remember that we should always moderate our expectations, especially when it comes to ourselves. Do your work, turn it over, and let God do the rest. I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

    • Thanks Jeremiah. They told 4 years ago that 90% of it is showing up and doing my best and the rest gets handled. And you’re right it all about gratitude. I’m just grateful that today I can finish stuff and put it out there. Any reaction is a total bonus– even Falling Asleep Guy. best, S.

  2. Hmmm, yeh. That place between writing to express yourself authentically and being brave enough to share it, hits the fan when not everyone meets it with 100% enthusiasm. I’m not sure exactly what a Klout score is, but I think sometimes my Klout score is one. One person says something about how much they appreciate something I wrote. One person in a week or a month. Sometimes, that’s what keeps me going. No, actually, it’s the fire inside that keeps me going, but it’s that one person’s comment that helps me justify the idea that others too might benefit!

    Wow, really good post! Thank you for writing this and sharing it Sean! I loved hearing the bits of the early drafts and think it’s so cool that you’ve managed to nurture that little nugget of an idea into a full production. Very inspiring

    • Agreed! And the then there’s my favorite reviews: the glowing variety that come from folks I’m positive are going to hate it. Turns out I’m a sucky mind reader and thank god for that!

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