We’re having a pre-production meeting for “Dead of Winter” today, which is great–it’ll be wonderful to get the ship up and running, and all the pieces are coming together nicely. It also means that’ll no longer be able to pretend that I’m not going to be a producer again.
Don’t get me wrong: I love producing. It’s like hammering together a ship out of balsa wood and seeing if you can get it through the rapids. When it works, it’s immensely satisfying. When it doesn’t…well, it doesn’t. This is more a feeling of inevitability, like knowing you’re really going to see the surgeon or walking into the final exam room. Because the switch flips, and, suddenly, it’s not your life anymore. You belong to the play. When I think of holding down a job, all the plays I have in progress and to market, and just the obligations of paying bills and going to the grocery store, I hear this tremendous sucking sound at the back of my brain, and my eyes pull back in their sockets, and all my energy ebbs from a hole at the bottom of my spine.
Or something like that.
On the other hand, I can look forward to the stuff that makes it worthwhile. One would think those are opening nights, getting good reviews, and counting the final box office, but, really, the small moments remain with you. The ones hanging around outside with the smoking brigade and telling theatre war stories. They’re finding these unexpected moments during rehearsal when everyone rocks back at once and goes “yes!” And they’re even that nth hour during tech week when you’re so goddamned tired that you’re beyond tired (and there’s no fatigue like theatre fatigue, baby, unless maybe it’s having a loved one in the hospital), and, man, you just can’t hack it, and suddenly something funny–or maybe just borderline funny–hits you, and you completely go to pieces with hysterical laughter. The kind where you can’t breathe and you’re begging it to stop and your cast and crew are looking at you like, uh, he’s the guy in charge…we are so screwed.
And then there’s the bar. The post-show bar is a strange and beautiful thing, where people tell each other the damndest, personal, stuff. When I think back on a dozen of my favorite productions, I see my comrades in that vaguely sallow bar light, with cigarettes burning and empty beer glasses flecked with foam. Their arms are around each other. They’re laughing or bitching or some combination of the two. And that’s when I think, Patterson, you’re a very lucky guy.