This is sad and beautiful at the same time.
From Philip Seymour Hoffman:
1967-2014 BY DAVID BAR KATZ
AMERICAN THEATRE April 2014:
"I saw Phil almost everyday as he was preparing to play Willy Loman. I am both haunted and inspired by what he did to himself for that part. Phil and I once had an argument about who owns a play more, the playwirght or the actor in the leading role. He told me that after a few months it belongs to the actor. I didn't agree with him until seeing him throw himself into DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Reading and rereading it. Scouring through everything Kazan and Miller ever wrote about it. Asking how the children of Jewish immigrants spoke English. Researching what life was like for traveling salesmen of that time.
After he wrote DEATH OF SALESMAN, Arthur Miller walked away. I don't think Phil ever did. Miller went on to write other plays. But that was Phil's last stage role. He couldn't walk away from that play because he etched it into himself so powerfully that its drama and his own were forged together so that when Willy Loman bled, it was with Phil's blood.
He trudged to that theatre every night in dread. Like a prophesy, Phil couldn't escape the death that lay waiting for him in that theatre every night. He didn't want to go. Oh, how he didn't want to go. But every day, month after month, he walked onto the stage of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre so the audience could see the beauty and pain in how a man dies.
My heart broke over and over watching him in that play, but never more so than when I saw the look on his face when he had to stand up there for applause at the end. Phil's commitment to the truth of Loman's existence was more important to him than his own well-being. The fundamental quality of most men is self-preservation. But Phil wasn't most men, and he wasn't most artists. He was the acting equivalent of a perfect line of poetry.
I keep picturing his face lit up by the ball of flame he set off during that reading. His deep unstoppable laugh. And I remember what he told me about those perfect beautiful moments that happen only once in a theatre and then never, ever, ever happen again."
Friday, March 28, 2014
The Definition of "Writer"
Sitting around a dinner table the other night, looking at a platter of cold, congealed, uneaten nachos (and believe me, they deserved to remain uneaten), I listened as one writer, who I don't know very well, talk about how frustrated she was that she didn't have more time to write. And yet, if I did my math right, she has more writing time in a week than I have in a month. I looked around the table: six other writers in all were doing their own personal mathematical equations . . . and sighing, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, avoiding eye contact with each other and longing for a change of subject. I was snapped out of my own daze when someone asked, "When do you write, Gary?" I impulsively said, "August."
The whole energy of the table shifted. Someone laughed; someone blew a raspberry through their lips; someone dropped a piece of bread in their glass of water, but everyone was immediately making comparisons. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? I continued, "I write in August. I rewrite the other eleven months of the year." The table shifted again. Was I joking? Was I telling the truth? A final offer: "It's all I can do. I work full time at the Guild, I teach at NYU, I travel around the country, I have a house that needs constant attention, I have really fun friends that I want to spend time with and a father who's 88 years old and needs me to care for him. It's what I can do. It's all I can do." Was I joking? Was I telling the truth?
The whole energy of the table shifted with an unspoken, "Well, at least I do more than that." But here's what I didn't say: I write every day when I ride the subway and study how a young man can't meet my gaze, but instead studies his fraying shoe lace. I write when I sit in a theatre and watch a beautifully rendered character a skilled playwright has constructed. I write when I make a convincing argument to my father that not eating Wonder Bread might lower his blood sugar. I write when I help dissect a failed relationship with a friend who's been left heart-broken and feels robbed of his youth. I write when I see the first sprigs of green shoot up from the dirt under a mound of half-melted snow. BUT, I sit in front of my computer in August.
There is no singular definition of "writer," there's only the intense desire to write plus the reality of my life. I get to choose whether to see it as addition or subtraction.
Executive Director of Creative Affairs
by Jean Paul Sartre
adapted from the French by Paul Bowles
directed by Linda Ames Key
February 25 – March 30, 2014
Running Time: Approx 100 minutes, no intermission.
Jean Paul Sartre's existential classic tells the story of three strangers crossing paths in the afterlife while awaiting their ultimate fate. Each with their own secrets to tell, each with their own lies to expose, the pressure-cooker spirals into a maelstrom of manipulation, mockery, and malice.