On Monday, I rolled into Iowa City, the place where my identity as a writer crystallized. I wrote so much here. 6 plays, tons of shorts. I made so many dear friends here and I lost one of those friends last November to ovarian cancer. When I got here, I took a night walk along the Iowa River and wept, overwhelmed by so many years passing, remembering back to a time when I was so very hopeful.
One of the things that I was reminded of on returning to this place was just how often I took matters into my own hands. I produced. I was produced. But I was active and feisty and engaged in a way that, as we all know, is harder to do when you leave the bubble of graduate school. I’ve had access and attention from theatres and play development companies. Those experiences have been invaluable but as playwrights, once your play has had its moment in the sun, you return to looking for a new home. That search can be harrowing at times.
Old Liberty Tower. Our party's at the top!
Presently I have a home in my collaboration with Lynn Rosen and Susan Bernfield. The three of us have embarked on this adventure to create a pop-up theatre company to produce our plays in rep at the Flea’s new venue in November and December. We’re calling ourselves The Pool, as we’re trying to pool together our resources to make a repertory of productions that honor the hard work we’ve done on our plays.
As we get deeper into the process of organization and fundraising, I’m realizing that The Pool is a perfect name for us. We actually need everyone we’ve met along our journeys to pool their talents and resources with us so that we can realize our vision. So far, I’ve been moved by the outpouring. Last month, my friends Liz Huber, John Ort, and Meg Gorman started a not-for-profit to award project grants to mid-career artists and threw a giant benefit, all because my friend Liz was listening to me worry openly about funding my play. So she brought together her community of colleagues and friends to fundraise and funded a second artist to boot.
My friend Barbara Maranzani, a historian and producer at the History Channel, is this closeted caterer. I’ve known her since I was 17 years old and what I’ve learned about Barb is that if you throw a party, you can bet she’s going to make 75% of the food. Like, one asks themselves if she’s missed her calling as a world-renowned chef. I told her that Susan and Lynn and I were throwing this party to launch our company and I asked her if she’d consider making some food. You would have thought I just awarded her a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was flattered and I was flattered by her reaction. She’s been working on the menu since March (the original date of the party) and she’s settled in on slow roasted pork sliders, beer and brown sugar pulled chicken sliders, mini cocktail franks in filo dough, caprese skewers, and deviled and stuffed baby potatoes.
We’re still in the early stages of our producing process but already I’ve seen such an outpouring of support and love from my collaborators, friends, and family. I think I’m learning that I can’t make my work alone. I need my people. And in seeing my people come together to help, I feel so much less alone in this world both as an artist and as a human being. That sense of hope I felt as a young man in Iowa City has been renewed. I hope, if you can, that you’ll join us on Tuesday night for our Pool Party to raise a glass to our endeavor. I’ll save a slider for you.