Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If Tony Kushner can't make a living at this, what chance do I have?

I can't help but love the always insightful scribblings of America's most influential theatre critic. No, not Ben Brantley of the New York Times. He's merely the most influential theatre critic on Broadway.

No, I'm talking about Terry Teachout of the The Wall Street Journal. He covers not just Broadway or New York, but the vast reach of our country's regional stages from Provincetown to La Jolla.

So it was with with considerable relish that I read his latest Sightings column, in which he commented on a recent interview with Tony Kushner in Time Out New York.

Turns out that Mr. Kushner, who wrote the groundbreaking Angels in America, can't live on the money he makes from plays. He makes the bulk of his income writing for movies.

Which led Teachout to ask, why does anyone still write plays?

For Teachout, the answer was simple. It enables the solitary writer to get out from behind his keyboard and collaborate with the nicest--and, I would add, most fascinating--people around.

Theatre also gives the writer an experience no novel or magazine article can emulate: the immediate and visceral response of your audience.

I concur. I have never felt as fulfilled or--let's just say it--happy as when I heard an auditorium full of normally cynical high school students laughing their earbuds off during one of my plays.

But there's something more. I write because I have to write. Money doesn't enter into it. And the voices that come to me, demanding to be heard, are ones that belong on a stage.

I don't know if I'll ever make much money from these ghostlike voices. But I do know one thing.

If I didn't write them down, I'd go crazy.