C and I watched the PBS production of Company with the New York Philharmonic and Neil Patrick Harris, when was it, last week? I alway say that I don’t like much of Sondheim except Sweeney Todd which I love love love but the rest of it, except for a song here and there, no.
I shouldn’t make pronouncements like that, because I had never seen Company or really even heard much of the music, except I guess I saw the clip of Elaine Stritch singing ”The Ladies Who Lunch” from the Pennebaker documentary and, well, Elaine Stritch, so of course it’s great. And in college the song that everyone wanted to sing was “Being Alive” because we were all obsessed with our own sense of how marvelously we suffered. And it’s a great song.
Anyway, Stephen Colbert? He’s really good. Everyone, really. Patti Lupone is a monster. She chews that shit up and spits it out and give me more.
I’ve probably said this before a few times, but I love actors. How do they do that? It’s what I always wanted to do, did it as a kid and in high school I was in every musical, and I studied acting in college, but somewhere back then I got afraid, got beaten up by my insecurity so I took a turn into directing which led me to painting which led me to songwriting which led me back to theater, and I love what I do, I love writing, I love it to the end of me. But there’s something about acting. Jumping off that ledge night after night knowing that some nights the audience and the other people on stage and the band and the lights are going to catch you and some nights you’re going to fall splat on the pavement. It’s heroic.
So, I love Company. Who knew? (Smoking a bowl beforehand helps, too.)
Also, as I was watching, I was thinking about this new thing where Sondheim is revising the show to make the main character gay, an idea I love. And perfect timing, because if you make that character gay, the story becomes quite explicitly a story about the coming of age of gay men in America. It’s a journey from exclusion to inclusion, from false to true, from promiscuity to marriage. It’s going to be the gay marriage show, mark my words. Being Alive? It’s the ultimate anthem for the gay marriage movement. Let me get married because only in marriage will I become truly human. I mean, c’mon:
Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who'll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive
The other thing that happened recently is that I got a check from TUTS, the regional theater in Houston that produced LIZZIE last month. It was for the writers’ royalties in excess of the advance we were given. I know that sounds kind of legalistic, but what it means is that, in order to get the rights to do the show, the theater had to give us a lump sum of money, a couple thousand dollars (to be split between the 3 writers after our attorney was paid his percentage), and commit to a small percentage of the gross ticket sales, the lump sum being an advance against that percentage.
This is the first time in my career that ticket sales have brought in enough revenue so that the small percentage of writers’ royalties exceeded the amount of the advance. It wasn’t a windfall, but it was enough that I can replace my computer I destroyed last week by pouring a cup of coffee on the keyboard (yes, I know, thank you, shut up). Maybe it doesn’t sound so impressive, but it’s a milestone for me. I am 52 years old and this is the first time I have been paid royalties in excess of the advance.
A cautionary tale for all you youngsters out there embarking on a theater career. You will not make a living. You will be over the moon about the smallest sums of money.