Theatre or Theater? To Re or Not to Re.

How is it spelled?  Theatre or theater?  No one knows.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my time on the stage and working in film and television.  My mom was a stage manager of many plays and I grew up in large-scale musicals and playing lead roles in Shakespeare.  I hated every minute of it and was often so nervous that I shook and quasi-peed my trousers.  In college at Davidson I nearly majored in acting, but after I didn’t get a role I wanted in Streetcar, I kind of gave up on plays and focused on my writing.  I didn’t much like the attention anyway, always being more private.  I mean, I could perform and act but it didn’t make me too happy.  I had some minor roles in Mamet’s The Water Engine at Davidson and acted in Mill Fire at Bread Loaf in 1991.  When I got to University of Houston for my MFA, I happened to meet Edward Albee after his Marriage Play in downtown.  We talked a bit and I later took two of his graduate courses, one a production workshop where he produced my first play, Do Not Miss the Main Attraction, and one a Playwriting class.  I also acted in November, another play he produced in the Albee workshops.  Albee served on my MFA thesis committee and won his third Pulitzer for Three Tall Women on that very day he had to meet to approve my book.  CBS Sunday Morning came and filmed us and he called me at my home in Virginia during break to tell me about when it would air in 1994.  Off and on I would be in a play here and there, acting in Loyalties at Bread Loaf in 2003 and most recently, in 2015, in Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin.  I played a judge and a musician.  This Bread Loaf production was a double-bill with To Kill a Mockingbird.  And recently in Asheville a short play of mine was a finalist in a short-drama competition.  An Intellectual Discussion with the Madonna.  There were other plays.  You do something enough and it kind of becomes a part of  you.  I’m not sure why I resisted the theater.  People assume I’m gregarious but ultimately I like to be alone.  Theater is chaos.  It’s a human mess in every way.  I also got to study with Oskar Eustis from the Public Theater, really one of the best teachers I ever had at Bread Loaf along with Carol MacVey, my acting teacher there as well.  So lately I’ve been trying to figure out my relationship to playwriting.  The play Albee produced later went up in LA for six weeks at the Attic Theatre and was reviewed in LA Times and Dramalogue.  A lot of these productions, whether I wrote them or acted in them, come back to me in a flash of faces.  Maybe I fear the chaos.  Maybe it’s just time to be in another play.

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