PCN Workblog 3: Wet Clay

There's that feeling you get the night before school when you lie in your bed. Or when the handle bars come down on the roller coaster. Or when you cast your line into the black ocean at night, and wait. For me, that feeling has been going for 203 days now, and it will continue for a few more.

As I write this, the second, but never final, draft of the script has been submitted to my cast. Did I mention that I have a cast? It's a strange, odd feeling to attach voices and faces to these roles that I had previously attached to other voices and faces. Ones that I could never cast, like Hugh Laurie or amalgamations of several people I know. At the risk of sounding demeaning, it's like having new toys to play with. But I still have a month before I get to really break them.

The meatiest work begins, and it begins soon. Sometimes,when I'm alone with my mind, I run through the game plan over and over again. Research the insurance. Call the stage hands union. Solicit from Chancellors, Vice Chancellors. Invite faculty. Write press releases. Send contract. Cut checks. Buy props. Solicit from corporations. Create sponsorship packets. Meet with local business.

It's a lot. It's more than anyone has done in the past 20 years of this tradition of a show, I'm pretty sure. Sometimes I wonder if I can do it - just having the capacity to juggle all of these things in my mind alone is daunting. But I know that I have no choice. The only person I would allow to handle all of this is myself. That says nothing about the quality of the team members and workers around me. It says everything about my need for control to things that I have invested so much in.

The thing about these long term projects is that I am a different person now than I am when I started this script 200 days ago. I started picking at the ideas and trying to break plots long before then, in fact. I like to tell people that I've been picking at these ideas for my whole life, which is partially true in a metaphorical/thematic sense, and partially just a cool line to drum up hype and enthusiasm.

But the temptation to change the story drastically is always there. This has been an intellectually defining & formative quarter for me. I feel like I understand the world a lot more than I did before. And I want to reflect that, to inspire or even begin that kind of thinking in the 1300 people who might potentially see this show. As it is, it's alright, it's got some stuff I'm proud of. But there are times I wonder if maybe I should make a sharper turn.

The reason I took up this position is to break PCN. PCN's have problems and they go unaddressed every year. They will probably continue to go unaddressed with rare exception from time to time. No one breaks the traditions and the fallacies and the issues. We tell the same stories, with different casts, different circumstances, but always the same idea surrounding the generational gap.

A few weeks ago I realized I don't care about the generational gap anymore. I am tired of seeing art about it by and large. I am tired of your poems and your stories and your movies about how you don't get along with your parents. I feel for you, I really do, but I think in terms of the big cultural conversation we are having, it's been covered. I think maybe we should just cut our losses and move on to something more interesting.

So I try to break PCN. I tried to tell stories that I didn't see very often and go places we haven't been to. I focused on good stories over joking about accents. But these days, I wonder if I should have tried to break harder. When searching for a theme, I found stirring and contrasting examples of unity and disunity. I didn't want to be polemic, but to show the situations as they are, from all different perspectives and scales. What I realize now is that what I was trying to convey had everything to do with the manufacturing of our culture in the face of historical non-existance. It had everything to do with cultural genocide and disavowal of truth. It's like I've zoomed out this year and see the picture, just a little bit bigger than it was before. And I wonder sometimes if I should do something crazy while I still can.

I probably won't. What I have is still satisfying to me, and I understand that maybe changing the culture happens in small, moderate, easily consumable steps. Maybe I shouldn't slap cultural genocide in the face of 1300 parents and uncles and aunts and friends right away. Maybe save that for the real work I do in my chosen writing career. Until then, I've got a cast, and I can at least promise to help them see the picture their play comes from.

I like that I can say, "their play" now. It's the truth. First it was only in my head, incubating. Then I released it to a handful of people. Now, over two dozen people have seen and ingested what started 200 days ago. It's no longer mine. It belongs to everybody.