The world went a little more nuts than usual in 2012. And, in a year that brought Hurricane Sandy, senseless acts of gun violence, another proposed apocalypse, and the impending fiscal cliff--it's hard to find the silver lining when you've got a shit storm perpetually coming at you. But never mind staying positive, sometimes the question is how do you stay sane? Drinking helps. As does writing and traveling. And, thankfully, I got to do these things quite frequently in 2012.
It was a good year for writing, actually. On stage, 2012 was the year of the one-act play. I wrote and staged four: Crazy at Heart, Smiles to Saturn and Midnight Musings (as part of Acts of Love in the 2012 Planet Connections Theater Festivity with my playwright buddy Gabrielle Fox), and You Gotta Have Faith (or We'll Disown You) at Arthouse Productions in Jersey City. Though it might seem like less work than a full-length production, staging a successful one-act can be a challenge. You have less time to set-up the story, characters, and convince the audience to take the ride with you. Thankfully, each production went well, and each play was special to me in different and unique ways.
Crazy at Heart, for example, was a screwball comedy about a man and his therapist that also featured painfully funny truths about dating and relationships--and the audience ate it up. I'd never heard an audience laugh so loud at one of my shows, and I took away the notion that I'm way funnier than I give myself credit for. With Smiles to Saturn, a play about a man with autism and the frailty of sibling relationships, I realized that I don't need to create over-the-top drama to tell a provocative story. One person told me after the show, "that was so sweet, I didn't think you'd be the one to write it." In Midnight Musings, about a woman confronting the ghosts of relationships past, present and future during a sleepless night, I also took on the role of director. I'd always been opposed to this, but I really enjoyed the experience, and a critic even said, "everything about this gem--the acting, the writing, the directing--is perfect." That was a huge compliment, and it's the classic tale of how stepping outside of your comfort zone can amount to a huge payoff, both personally and professionally. And finally, You Gotta Have Faith, showed me how much my writing has truly matured. I tackled some big issues here, including being an atheist in today's society, but used my trademark sarcasm and monologue story-telling. It was the first play I've written where I wasn't afraid to offend people. And I loved it.
Offstage, my full-length plays continued to shine. Recovery and The Other Day were both published on Indie Theater Now, the iTunes for independent theater. I also became a participant in Visible Ink, a writing therapy program administered through Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. Established in 2008, Visible Ink offers patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering the opportunity to work individually with an experienced writer, editor, or teacher on a writing project of their choice, which need not be disease related. Through this program, I met a great mentor and friend, and we've taken Recovery to new levels--to the point where two Off-Broadway theater companies have requested to read the entire script.
Of course, I wasn't writing all the time. I was easily distracted with trips to Maine, Oregon and Washington. When you can say you visited two Portlands in one year, then it's been a good year! Plus, there's my job at the law firm, where I continue to be a file-bitch, and love it.
So, if there's one thing I can say about 2012 it's that, no matter what, the world did not end, and I like to think and possibly hope that this year has put down the foundation for 2013 to be a highly, creative and successful year.
I was recently asked to come up with a six word memoir that would sum up my life. I wrote, "I keep kissing the damn frogs!"
It's true that I go on a lot of dates. First dates. Not really seconds, and hardly ever thirds.
My last date was no exception. He was a minister. And, given my religious beliefs (I don't believe in religion), I knew going out with him wasn't such a good idea.
I was almost expecting to have an argument with him--a heated theological debate that would ignite Sam and Diane style hatred turned passion. Instead, I got 22 minutes of the most self-indulgent shit I've ever heard, such as:
Me: What did you do for Thanksgiving?
Him: Well, since I'm a minister, I served meals to needy people.
Me: What are you up this weekend?
Him: Taking some homeless kids to the movies. That's how most ministers spend their weekends.
Me: Do you want another cup of coffee?
Him: I shouldn't. That would be like gluttony. And, you know, I'm a minister...
Yes, and holy shit, please stop talking now! He reminded me of this girl I knew in college, who had an "eating disorder" and would bring it up every five minutes:
"Guys, I can't go to class today because I have an eating disorder?"
"Hey, can you pick up my mail today? I'd do it, but I have an eating disorder."
"Has anyone seen my keys? I'm too tired to look for them because I have an eating disorder."
So, as it became increasingly clear that the minister and I had zero chemistry, and I as sat there thinking of what I needed to buy at Target rather than listening to him talk, I searched for ways to end the date. Sick pet? Dinner with friends? Devil worship? But, he beat me to the punch.
"I have to get to the gym," he said.
"Really? You're not tired after spending all that energy on the less fortunate?"
At this point, the minister recognized my higher power--sarcasm--and left the coffeeshop. And, while I usually get bummed if a date doesn't work out, I wasn't about to loose any sleep over this one, because I realized I wasn't judging him for being a minister, I was judging him for being an asshole. But maybe next time, I'll opt for a rabbi instead.
Mark Jason Williams
I find trouble wherever I go