I don't know which to do first -- compliment you on your extraordinarily brilliant writing, or send condolences for your extraordinarily bad fortune. I suppose they go hand in hand.
Don't ever beat yourself up for a dream. Especially for That Dream.
Or for failing to play the corruption game.
Or for the fact that the 99% are indeed the chosen self-dead.
There is that 1%, for whom it worked brilliantly. Perhaps they (we) were like the people who Mother Teresa scooped up in her arms and loved until they died. For them, it was well worth it. For them, in fact, it was literally the only game in town.
I wish I had lots of money. Hell, I wish I had a LITTLE money. Heck, I just wish I wasn't in debt right now. Because I can't think of a better cause to contribute to than you and Stolen Fire, unless it's getting myself out of debt and paying the rent so my rather large new family can continue to live here. But alas, I'm currently struggling again, sinking slowly into debt again, and trying to crawl out again by applying for full time jobs in education again, having never quite fully recovered from the ten grand or so that I never received and which I'll never see from WaveQuest. (And I know you don't want my money and aren't asking for any, but I just wanted to tell you that if I had any, I'd give it to you anyway.)
I'm really sorry. I feel like I've just witnessed the aftermath of a train wreck. If only you were selling sex or weapons or drugs or something, you'd be rich by now. So naturally you're bitter -- or if you aren't, you should be. Welcome to AmeReicha.
In fifty years, none of this will matter. Or sooner, if our economy crashes before that.
Thank you for trying. You have a lot more guts, persistence, and energy than I do in that regard. (Come to think of it, in most regards.) All I did was reap the benefits from your investment and your work.
On behalf of everyone who was moved or touched by your work, thank you.
I know it doesn't help you much at this point, but Dwain, for what it's worth, I honestly and sincerely believe that you are the single most artistically gifted person I've ever come across -- and I mean that in terms of your brilliant acting, your extraordinary directing, your exceptional design skills, etc, etc. I can think of no one on this planet who I would rather share a stage with, in any capacity.
I don't know what else to say.
I'd love to see you in person. Come on up -- soon -- and we'll cry about it together. Right now I'm in shock, but I think the tears will come. And, like the best of theatre, they'll be made partly of joy, partly of sadness, and all of intensity.
You are an awesome human being. Thank you for being you.
oh what remorse i feel ...after reading your beautifully tragic words.. i believe there is a loss to our county as well as the state and universe at large when the passion you have seems extinguished ...and when a society cannot recognize its own failures and its own shallowness! it should not take our country so little effort to make art meaningless...and to have to pay the press to go to theater without a bribe....in inexcusable and at best disgusting...
i love you and what you have done... i respect you and will send your message far and wide and try to assist you (spiritually as well as fiscally) as best as i can... this is an outrage ... and america you should be ashamed!
this is a sad day for me ... i share in your passion your friend always!
Peace Light Love
Dwain - Thanks for your note - I feel reading it as I feel when I hear a friend has died - numb and speechless. I don't think live theater is dead, though, and I think it will be with us for as long as we're here. And if we murder theater, we murder something in ourselves, perhaps something of what is best in ourselves. I remember reading somewhere that drama began in Greece as ritual in honor of Aphrodite and Dionysius. I think that the gods are with us still (we know this because we know that we have, or, to be more accurate, are, souls) and I think theater will stay with us for as long as the gods stay with us; and the gods will stay with us for as long as we're human. I remember also that the word "drama" comes from the Greek "dran," which (I think) means to create. What I'm saying is that humans are creative animals and so, for as long as we're human, we'll have drama. I know as few can know how hard all this can be, but I think also that there is cause for optimism. We may abandon them, but the gods (whoever they are) won't abandon us.
I checked out Stolen Fire's website yesterday - very nicely done - and was pleased to see Shoshannah mentioned. I remember Billy Houck (correct spelling?) gave it a good review, from which you might want to add a quote or two. That sort of thing cheers me up when I need it, and what the hell, it may work for you.
Thanks again for the note, and more than anything else for producing Shoshannah.
All the best, Brad
When I was eleven (or thereabouts), the Carolina Playmakers came to our school and did "Lost Horizon." We had a stage with no lights in a creaky building that seemed to sway. All of that stuff about deathless love was wasted on me, but I will never forget the plane. When the hero departs at the end of the play, he flies over the stage and everybody waves. There was only the sound of the plane's engine, as it swooped down and then faded away in the distance. I was enthralled. Back stage the guy showed me how the sound of the plane was done. A piece of thick cardboard was fed into a big electric fan. Magic! I was hooked.
I didn't write anything, but I became irrational about plays. I traveled irrational distances to see productions that I didn't understand. That didn't matter. I saw "Don Juan in Hel" and "On Borrowed Time." "Harvey" and "Arsenic and Old Lace." One night, at a drunken party for the cast of the outdoor drama, "Unto These Hills," I saw a Russian play entitled "Theatre of the Soul." The play took place inside a human heart. There was a throbbing timpani, characters named "Emotion"and "Reason"and "The Eternal Self." Emotion killed Reason and the owner of the heart shot himself, filling the stage with red confetti and stopping the temponi. Darkness. That night I pledged my life to theatre.
In college I was told that theatre was not a "practical" major, and this viewpoint was endorsed by my family. Vocational Rehabilitation threatened to withdraw their financial aid if I persisted in my dalliance with "the effeminate arts." So, I compromised. I would teach English and take a second major in speech and theatre. That meant I would be qualified to direct the senior play, except in most rural schools, that was an honor given to the oldest member of the faculty.
Cardboard and house paint. Lights made from Maxwell House coffee cans. Sponsorship of the Thespian Club. Painful productions of inept plays like "The Monkey's Paw," "Fumed Oak," and that awful thing about the convict on the night of his execution who quotes Wilde's "Reading Gaol." Then, there was "The Glass Menagerie" with a teenage Amanda and a Gentleman Caller who spoke in falsetto. Oh, yes, and "Theatre of the Soul" everytime I got the chance. (I have done it over 20 times and would do it again tomorrow.)
Community theatres replete with aging gays, unhappy housewives and asocial teenagers. Theatre that seemed to be more therapy and solace for the world's misfits than....theatre. Struggling theatre in abandoned buildings, theatre in schools with no auditoriums or stages. Thirty years of trying to justify having theatre at all.
It never occurred to me to act as a profession. Indeed, it never occurred to me to write a play until I was 50 and began to suspect that I was capable of writing something better than what I was currently directing. The first play that I did was an overblown, pretentious thing filled with Artaud-inspired scenes, ritual, mime, dance, elaborate sound effects. It won the Atlanta Drama festival, but no one had the resources to do it. It was eventually produced by a mime troupe. So, I learned the bitter lesson: small casts, little or no set.
Mixed blessing that it was, your production of "Land's End" is definitely the high point in my life. I have never received any encouragement from drama instructors, theatre owners or directors prior to your production of "Land's End" at Stolen Fire. Even though I have had productions in Atlanta, Key West and Asheville, each left me with a sense of frustration. Everywhere, I encountered some kind of jaded ennui in directors and critics alike. Even the glowing reviews in papers like the Atlanta Constitution had a "hoo-humm, another sensitive play" quality to them. A decade of frustration in my own region (North Carolina), left me feeling that what passed for theatre was in the hands of traitors, incompetents and/or bureaucrats. The only way I could get a decent response was/is to get the hell out of the state.
So, Dwain, please take heart. I watched "Deep Blue" last night on HBO and listened to Mike Wallace and William Styron talk about manic depression, and the long, poetic descriptions of personal, suicidal helplessness filled me with a sense of kinship. When Styron talked about "spiritual death" and Wallace the despair he felt upon waking on some mornings, I was amazed that someone else felt - and was willing to admit - the way I did. I flirt with suicide the way some folks think occasionally about buying a new car or a new pair of shoes. Recent events haven't helped. The fire and the loss of my books, the loss of three applications for assistance from the state arts council, having all of my teeth pulled, the loss of half of my income due to cancellations and a pile of debts that go far beyond my pitiful income.
Why go on? Well, because of you. Because as bad as things are, I am blessed by having met you, having you do my play. You are unique in my experience and if I had the means to make your future in theatre a success, I would not hesitate to do so. Your existence gives the lie to the conclusion that the world has become too harsh and insensitive to bear, and as long as you are able to cajole an actor into walking on a stage, or convience the owner of a building to let you use his empty space, theatre is not dead. It ain't doing too well, I admit, but amid the welter of musicals and trendy crap, you remain unique. When I mentioned your name on the playwrights forum (largely a pretentious bunch of asses ruled by old lizards with a territorial imperative), the response was immediate. Dwain Edwards? Yes, I know about him. He did my play. He did the play of a friend of mine."
What can I do you you? Would you let me give you sole rights to "The Raindrop Waltz" and refuse all claim to royalties? Would you take Pat Van Rhyn and do it as a Stolen Fire production and consider it a fund-raiser to make back your depleted resources? I know you have this conviction that you should only do unproduced work, but this seems to be a situation that warrants an exception. I am confident it would be a success. Maybe it is arrogance, but I think it would develop a bigger following than "Land's End" back at your old site...or where ever you decide to do theatre.
Sometimes, I sit on the porch at night and fantasize. I'm gonna build a theatre, 60 to 80 seats and I plan it. Right there by the barn. A stage of pressure-treated lumber and a dozen stage lights. I have 80 seats in storage that I bought from Piedmont Airlines (with the little trays on the back). I will do a steady production of one-acts and the audience will be mostly by invitation. With a little finagling, I can get the elderhostel folks to come. I'll need a couple of PortAJohns. Some nights, I'll just tell stories. You want a piece of this fantasy?
There used to be a wonderful woman named Maryat Lee up in Virginia who bore her love of theatre like a curse. At one time, she pulled a wagon up and down the street and did "live theatre" from it. Wrote all of her own material. She was penniless most of the time, and was known to sleep in barns and wash dishes for food. She was brilliant and talented, but it didn't make any difference - she did not flourish. Before she died, people offered her alternatives, and some of them might have worked, but it was too late.
Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. Maybe for some of us "theatre" is an inhuman addiction, and we meant to feel unrewarded, and are doomed to spend a blackest hours cursing it as though it were an unfaithful, unrepentant, self-mocking whore. Monks, beggars and wandering storytellers. When we finally fall on the road or in the ditch, or are carted off gibbering to the nursing home, maybe like Oedipus, the Furies that have driven us will be the Comforters that take our heads in their laps and caress our brows and say, "There, there. You did good."
Let me hear from you.
I promptly read your manifesto, hoping for some good news of your production up in San Francisco. I had already had some fears however, and suspected that the end of Excellent Radio might be an omen for Stolen Fire, though I know that Charlie would still let you use the space.
The old saying about two ended candles comes to mind. Boy, are you an all or nothing kind of guy or what? That dead art of yours kept you up all night for years on end. The successes showed the effort you put into them. The work you did was worthy. Hundreds of people were profoundly touched- true by the author's words, but by your actions. My question is: Is the midnight method of Stolen Fire's past the only way to create productions? There are other's out there, like myself, who have been willing to do quite a bit, but so often you chose to do it yourself. Artifact was a headache in many ways, but it should have shown you that you don't have to do it all yourself. Do I know a better way? No, not really. But I know that there must be something between what you did and those cookie-cutter public theaters out there. I am very sorry to hear about your losses in SF. I am more sorry to hear of your losses in spirit than your financial losses. Even money problems can be taken in stride with the right mental fortitude and optimistic outlook. People have been asking me when the next play will be going on, and now I'll have something to say.
I would like to hear from you- a phone call or personal Email perhaps. I also still don't have tapes of Artifact or Albee (I'll supply the tapes). I hope that some time and rest and change of pace will heal your wounds.
Dwain -- I appreciate getting your email. That "dark night of the soul" is a terrible thing. I sympathize with how painful it's had to have been for you to mount an excellent production and get no audience, reviews, lose money -- ack! My friends tell me that S.F. is a very hard town for theatre, and to come in as an outsider -- well, I'm really really sorry that you took such a financial bath and such a psychic drubbing.
I don't know if I agree that theatre is dead, everywhere -- but it is an uphill battle to get audiences for risky new works, even in a place you're very familiar with where you have tons of volunteers and a loyal following. I know that. Doing new plays, like you have at Stolen Fire, is an act of devotion -- rather like taking religious vows of poverty. (I know of few people who do it who aren't poor, unless they're living off trust funds in the first place.)
Even though my work keeps getting produced, I go through that "why the F*** am I in this business??" stage every 6 months or so -- it doesn't pay the rent, really.
I have no words of wisdom for you, except to say: I've been there, and I truly wish you well.
Dwain, I wish I could say that the reason I lost approximately 40,000 in my Deferred Savings Plan was because I was willing to take a risk in something adventurous and creative, and different, but unfortunately I can't. Instead, my retirement savings is in a variety of stock portfolios and pow!
I know, it's a paper loss but a loss never the less. If you could know just how proud I am of you Dwain. You have accomplished more than I ever will in a lifetime. When I talk to others about my brother, I get so excited. Here's this guy who is a very proud father, husband, works as a Chemist in a lab, has once been a teacher, travels long distances between job and family to be with them whenever possible, has his own production company of original play writing, has taken one of his most positive productions to San Francisco to show the world what great works are out there to be had, he's one who has acted, directed and is a true artist in his own right. Do you realize how phenomenal that is? Dwain, I could never be any more proud than I am of you right now. I also envy you. I had always wanted to act and get involved in theater or movies, and when given the opportunity to pursue it by trying out for the performing arts HS, I blew it by not finding out the right information about scheduling at PS109. The furthest I got to acting was in QBCC when I took an acting class with Mr. Simon and had to give a 2 minute performance for my final grade. I did the Owl and the Pussycat when the girl first meets Felix. (I don't even remember her name) What a rush, and if I do say so myself, (and so did my teacher), I was really good, but didn't follow through. I am a procrastinator and in many cases, afraid. So life goes on.
Dwain, you have a right to be angry. You have a right to say that others have a disregard of the arts and that it can be a political thing. You also have a right to be proud, we are here. We love you Dwain and know that if anyone can step out and move on and continue to draw from their creative juices to bring to this world more meaning, you can do it.
I love you, Dwain, and if I had not broken my leg, Herb and I would have been two more people wanting to see Land's End. We had talked about flying out there until I fell and work. I then was out of commission for over 2 months. Anyhow, I do love you very much. Keep in touch.
My first reaction to your poignant communication was to share it.
My second reaction was to send you a check in the amount of my royalty. Your wonderful production of my play was more than enough.
My third reaction was to set aside some time to think about what, if anything, can be done about the deplorable state of theatre which has produced such darkness in the light of your life. That reaction will take longer than the others. But you'll be the first to know.
Love and hugs.
I am forwarding this to you because I think it's beautiful and, unhappily, quite true. It's written by the producer of my play, What's It All About, Albee? It was a modest, but totally and extraordinarily faithful production of my play, and I regret most profoundly the loss of this dedicated producer from the scene. I wish I could say to Dwain: "Just hold on a little longer; meritocracy is just around the corner." I'm not sure I can. Could you?
All the best.
It would make me feel good to share with you some conceptions I have come to over the years relating to production of live theatre.
There are basically two levels of production: 1. friends and family 2. the paying public.
At the first level, the best course is to produce plays with large casts. It's also critical to keep production costs down. Rehearse in living rooms. Pay no one you don't absolutely have to. Spend nothing on advertising and promotion.
At the second level, concentrate on two things: (a) the quality of the play and the production and (b) getting reviewed. Only after you have a good review or two should you spend any money on publicity or promotion. The fact is that no one goes to the theatre in response to a review-less ad unless they know someone involved in the production.
Among the many sorrows associated with your present situation, is that your productions were economically produced (thanks to the Center and, I expect, thanks to many other faithful volunteers) and they did get reviewed! And, I might add, by critics who knew what they were talking about. Had that environment followed you to San Francisco, I think things would have worked out very differently.
More to come, unless you say stop.
I can't accept that this first level of production is anything except the death rattle of what may have been once theater.
I can't, I won't accept this first level as a viable alternative for the survival of Stolen Fire. WIAA,A? would never have been produced had I limited our vision to"family and friends". And I can't, I really can't not pay people for their commitment to work. Community theaters thrive on such exploitation, giving a decent living to their Executive Director, and producing cream cheese theater.
As for the second level, I can't agree with you more.
Gordon, I've been such a fool. I will somehow see myself clear of this fiasco that I've dealt myself.
Thank you for taking the time to help see me through the darkness.
Yes, please send more.
Hugs and Love,
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
My observations about the first level of production were grounded in what I see is, not what should be. Indeed, I have always paid actors even for living room readings, given them a nice dinner and much too much to drink. I have never understood why the company that rents the lighting instruments should get paid and the actors not.
Please don't take all this blame on yourself. Heroes have a hard time in the theatre. But they survive, and should find solace in the struggle.
Saw a dress rehearsal of "Getting and Spending" at the Helen Hayes Theatre last night. Handsome production, hopeless script and very collegiate acting. Where they got the money they're about to lose is a mystery. But this group will learn and return as must you. You've made a unique contribution to the theatre and the mission statement of Stolen Fire is burning as brightly today as the day it was written. I'm sure I speak for all of us who have benefited from your vision and dedication in saying: take heart!
I'll be posting this on my message boards. You deserve more, but it's the best I can give.
In the Fall of 1994, I finished my first theatrical script in nearly three years. I was, I felt, justifiably proud of my script, and consequently, I immediately put myself to work selling the script via whatever means I could. This meant sending it blind to theaters I could locate in the Dramatists Sourcebook. It was a long and lonely process, and worse, it yielded no productions.
It wasn't until nearly a year later that I decided to pursue another course of action. I bought the computer I'm using right now. The computer I had been using was so old its memory was tallied in kilobytes. I had a modem, which had been state of the art when I first purchased it, but was now a hopelessly inadequate 1200 baud. Something had to be done.
My first visit online very quickly led me to theater message boards where, among the various and sundry banalities, I found a few actual theaters looking for actual scripts. Of the many theaters I sent descriptions of my play to, only one replied with a request for the full script. I sent it off, and soon forgot about it.
If you're not a writer, maybe you don't realize how easy it is to forget about something of this nature. The writer is the modern equivalent of the medieval self-flagellant. To survive we have to become accustomed to the consistent pain that only an inundation of rejection slips can bring about. We strive not so much for success but for simple validation of our skills. It takes a conscious effort to convince ourselves that the absence of validation does not equal the absence of skill. One of the ways we survive this time is by ignoring the times when we strike out.
A month after I e-mailed a copy of my script I received an excited letter from Dwain Edwards, the director of the theater. He adored the play. He wanted to know how long it would take to get an agreement from me to produce it.
I would be understating it to say this was the most important point in my career as a writer. Meeting Dwain was like being introduced to living Muse. On sheer enthusiasm alone he represented everything that should be right about theater.
In the months that followed he became a close friend, a confidante, and an inspiration. He sent flowers on my birthday, and another bouquet when Deus Ex Quanta opened in June the following year. Our relationship continued when I started reading scripts for him. Dwain is possibly the only producer I will ever meet who insisted, from the first day, that he read every script, from beginning to end, and that every script receive a critique (at no charge, even) no matter how good or bad it may be. And he did it all for free because Stolen Fire-- his theatrical company-- would do only unproduced scripts from unknown writers. There would be no well-known scripts to bring the people in, or well-worn musicals to fill the coffers. He worked tirelessly to complete his vision of how theater SHOULD be.
The reason I'm writing this is because of another e-mail Dwain has sent me. Stolen Fire has become economically unfeasible. This saddens me. But what saddens me more is it seems Dwain's spirit has been broken. I can understand; it isn't easy to hold onto a dream for four years only to discover your hands are now empty.
Since that fateful e-mail three years ago I have made a great many strides forward. My scripts are being produced in several places, including other countries. I started a humor column, and I have a book coming out next year. I am in the midst of negotiating an independent film contract for Deus Ex Quanta, the script Dwain saw so much promise in so long ago. I have, in many ways, come into my own as a writer. Dwain Edwards was there to help me take my first step.
Dwain is one of the finest people I know, and I would be remiss if I didn't remind him that his hands are not empty at all. At one time they held my career, and in many ways they still do.
Gene Doucette, October 1998