From Artists at Play ... at Play! (January 23, 2015), a special event to kick off our fifth year in Los Angeles theatre, featuring all-original pieces written by the AAP producers ...
MARIE is at center stage after the welcome, while the others are sitting in (4) chairs set up in a semi-circle behind her.
ALL: Let’s play!
MARIE takes seat as JULIA steps up to the mic.
JULIA: Welcome, everyone, to tonight’s gathering. This is a safe space for a fellowship of men and women who want to help each other. Those of us up here will be doing some sharing now, and perhaps our experiences will parallel some of yours.
I’ll begin: Hi. My name is Julia and I'm a theatre addict.
ALL: Hi, Julia.
JULIA: I’ve always loved the arts, first as a viewer/admirer then later as a performer. Things got pretty intense about five years ago when I started producing theatre. My now husband, who’s been with me for almost 10 years, grew increasingly frustrated the more time I spent at the theatre, working on theatre, rehearsing theatre-- It wasn’t just the time spent away from him, from home, but also the fact that I wasn’t really making any money that was really straining our relationship. He’s threatened to leave me several times… jokingly? I’m learning to scale back, but I'm still struggling to find that ideal life-work-theatre balance. Thank you.
NICHOLAS: Hi, I’m Nicholas and I am a theatre addict.
ALL: Hi, Nicholas.
NICHOLAS: I don’t even know how I got to this point! I used to hate theatre so much. When I was 11, I was forced to see The Phantom of the Opera and I fell asleep. And, now the duet The Phantom of the Opera from the show is my go to karaoke song, because it shows off my vocal range! Vocal range! What is that even? I remember when I thought musical theatre was only for nerds and white people.
My addiction to theatre has gotten real bad too. I choose theatre over everything. My family never sees me anymore. It’s so bad that I had to give them an ultimatum. “If you want to see me come to my play and pay $30 or don’t see me at all!”
Theatre is all I ever think about...like I read plays for fun! I guess it all started in college. I went in as an English Education major with an emphasis in African American Literature and minor in Spanish and some how left with a degree in theatre. But once I got a taste, I was hooked and now I work full time for a theatre. I literally need it to survive. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started to develop an overly theatrical personality and that’s an acquired taste—most people think I’m annoying! I wish I were addicted to something easier like movies—you don’t have to pay for parking when you go to the movies. But, being here helps.
PETER: Hi, I’m Peter.
ALL: Hi, Peter.
PETER: I really don’t understand why I’m here. I’m not a theatre addict. For a long time theatre was my day job. And then I like to do theatre on the side. I like watching theatre. I like reading plays. I like thinking about theatre, a lot. But I’m not an addict. I can go without theatre if I need to. I mean, I once went a whole week without doing anything theatre related….five days? Reading reviews doesn’t count, right? I have friends outside of theatre...I just don’t see them often. It’s not a problem. It’s just a big part of my life....like big...you know, important.
STEFANIE: Hi, I’m Stefanie and I’m a theatre addict.
ALL: Hi, Stefanie.
STEFANIE: So, I don’t actually see much theatre. I don’t even average a show a month. I don’t read that many plays. To be honestly, I generally don’t even get through all the scripts that Artists at Play considers for any given year. I wasn’t a theatre major in college like my fellow co-producers. I was an Asian American Studies and Political Science major. I wanted to become a journalist so I could tell the stories of underserved communities in mainstream news outlets. Then I wanted to be a lawyer so disenfranchised people could have a voice in the legal system. A summer internship at East West Players changed everything and, for the last 15 years, theatre has been my tool for advocacy. And I don't know what I'd do without it.
ALL: Hi, Marie.
MARIE: It’s been about two months since the last time I saw a play. But, I spent the previous 3 months seeing 25-30 shows. In October, I went to not one, but two separate theatre festivals and conferences. Some weekends, I spent more time at the LATC than I spent time at my own home. I stopped seeing my friends. I sacrificed sleep. I spent too much money on parking, food and drinks.
I just don’t know how to shake it. You know, that feeling of looking for the next production that will warm my heart or make me think about life or society as a whole. It just feels so amazing, especially when the play is good. It gives me a high. Can I say it also turns me on?
So here I am, looking for help.
[Cue transition music: “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse]
Read the next piece: Swimming in Circles