Recently, The Public Theater, where Milton and I share a membership, sent us an email that said the following about a playwright we both admire:
Suzan-Lori Parks Invites You to Watch Her Work
This performance piece, a meditation on the artistic process and an actual work session, features Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks working on her newest writing project in the main lobby of The Public Theater. The audience is invited to come and watch her work and/or to share the space and get some of their own writing work done. During the last fifteen minutes of the performance Parks will answer any questions the audience might have regarding their own work and their creative process.
The problem is that S-LP is doing this during the workday proper and my boss Elsbeth’s calendar is already packed with notes about my comings and goings related to all the New York Film Festival screenings I have been attending. I ponder how she might digest a request from me to cut out for a seventy-five minute adventure, excluding travel time, to watch a writer write in a lobby packed with students, retirees, and people that called in phony-sick from work.
As much as I would like to employ the “something came up” tactic, I fear that this could backfire badly:
Me: Elsbeth, something came up. I have an opportunity to network* with a brilliant playwright.
Elsbeth: That’s great. Who?
Me: Suzan-Lori Parks.
Me: She won the Pulitzer for Topdog/Underdog.
Elsbeth: Should I know about this?
Me: You do now Boss!
Elsbeth: When are you going to meet with her?
Me: That’s the thing. I have choices. Today, at noon, tomorrow at three, or Friday morning at eleven.
Elsbeth: I have a better idea. How about you stay chained to your desk, get some work done since I’m paying you, and you don’t go at all?
That’s the type of suggestion I would make to my sidekick, Greg, if he tried to pull this on me, after I had granted him three days worth of favors in the same week, and I also had an eyelash stabbing me in the iris. Greg is straightforward with me when he needs a favor. I could try the straightforward approach with Elsbeth.
Me: Get a load of this, I’ve got an invitation from The Public Theater to watch resident playwright Suzan-Lori Parks write.
Elsbeth: You’re going to watch someone write now?
I instinctively know from that imaginary reaction the conversation will crash land.
Milton is not inclined to barter with his superiors to attend S-LP’s writing session. He even purposely resisted the opportunity to attend a book signing with one of his favorite authors, Michael Cunningham. Milton’s purpose was to stay home and write, although we did spend forty-five minutes on the phone discussing his act of extreme self-sacrifice.
Milton: I really wanted to see him, but we’ve been going out so much lately, I’m not getting any writing done. At this rate, I won’t have anything finished until next year.
Me: I’m torn over missing S-LP. I just think if I laid this on Elsbeth right now, I’ll cross the line with her and she’ll finally detonate.
Milton: I don’t think missing seeing her write is missing much. No one would want to see me write. That’s for sure.
Me: You think? First you open a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass, and check your e-mail. Then, you open Word. You top off your glass of wine and play Bettye LaVette on your iPod. You decide to change the font from Arial to Times New Roman, and write a sentence. You hate the sentence, and then decide what you really hate is writing in Times New Roman. Instead of changing the font back to Arial first, you delete the sentence, save your changes, but then you cannot recall what the sentence was. Frustrated, you pour yourself a third glass of wine and watch a DVD.
Milton: Have you been watching me write?
*This is no more of a networking-type event than I could claim I once had a conversation with baseball hall of fame catcher Gary Carter. Years ago, when I was working as a production assistant on a Pringle’s potato chip commercial featuring then New York Mets catcher, Carter, I was told to fetch a can of Coke for him. I did. When I entered his dressing room and handed it to him, devout Christian Carter said, “God bless you.” Dedicated atheist me asked, “Who sneezed?” Fortunately he laughed at my snark, and I was not fired on the spot.