The Pleasures, Perils, and Purpose of Blogging
From 2006 to 2014 I led an active, occasionally perfunctory, but more often fulfilling regimen as a lead blogger for Theater J, the company I headed up for 18 years. As a mid-decade practitioner of a still evolving form, my blog postings melded personal and professional reflections that intersected with the concerns of our theater. The process of blogging was full of discoveries; I revealed notions to myself that I didn't know I was thinking, while providing a platform for the sharing of updates about the artistic process and a digest for discussions that our thought-provoking art would foster.
Together with contributions from other staff members and the occasional guest post from a lay-leader or resident artist, the blog provided a healthy forum for the exchange of ideas and personal experiences that fed back into the art. The result, one hopes, was the sowing of a closer connection between audience and art; between the reader and the creators.
Occasionally my posts provided fodder for my detractors, over-sharing details of speeches made in out-of-the-way places or visits taken to destinations better-left-unmentioned; experiences that broadened my horizons as a human being, when discretion might have been the order of the day as far as my employer was concerned.
Now discretion hasn't been an operative concept in my vernacular, nor in my career as a playwright or producer, and I've reaped the benefits and suffered the consequences, speaking openly to press and public and making lots of deep relationships (and receiving nice attention from time to time) for all that openness, but also getting reprimanded for not safeguarding institutional communication protocols. With bruised feelings, intensive media coverage of a contentious transition, and desire to turn the page and launch new a chapter with support from friends old and new, I've nurtured the impulse to keep some recent experiences to myself; to stifle articulation of complicated sentiments; to exercise a kind of diplomatic restraint, which has meant a cessation from blogging; no long-form chronicling of the emergence of our extraordinary new venture. Yes, the media's paid attention to Mosaic, but the personal inflection—our own narrative mis en scene—has been largely absent from the blagosphere. Which is a shame, at least for me. Because the launch of Mosaic has been one of the most meaningful, exciting, and dramatic developments of my career, but it's gone largely un-reflected upon, and I want this collective sojourn to be remembered and appreciated and shared—and thus far I've come up short as a reporter.
Perhaps another part of my quietude has been the technological set-back suffered when I lost access to the Wordpress platform and formatting I once had. I didn't know how to start a new blog that could be tied to Mosaic's website on Squarespace. I made one early entry onto my Facebook Notes section from a hotel room in Budapest ("Building a Theater While Traveling (part 1)" but long-form notes mostly go unread on Facebook, and they look terrible -- it's easily the most primitive aspect of Facebook's otherwise attractive interface. So my first entry for 4000 friends on Facebook was orphaned, and I wanted my reflections surrounded by continuity; I want the entries to have company. (So here's a link to it -- because it stands the test of vividness and speaks to a moment when I was still staff-less and flying around the world -- well, I'm still flying, but now psychically anchored by this amazing Mosaic team).
Another fear from not blogging with regularity: Intellectual laziness. For all the activity and heavy-lifting of starting a theater and bringing great people on board, there's a kind of honesty that's only achieved when writing about the process. Interrogating the process of how a company arrives at its mission, for example, can be as compelling as the final draft of the statement itself. And I've skipped that story of the three month process of refinement that's led to the place we are now. Was the word "Jewish" to find itself in our mission? It was there for a first month, but it's been gone ever since, as we've moved to embrace the intercultural nature of our mosaic much more than preference one particular. And what's the difference, while we're on the subject, between "intercultural" and "multicultural" besides a new century's trendiness? (Multicultural was so 1990's, right? And the "inter-ness" of intercultural bespeaks a fusion; an intentionality of bringing different cultures together to make friction and ignite sparks of inspiration.) I wish I'd had documented the mission debate we had at our first meeting of 31 provisional board members, before our board had declared itself an official entity and passed the resolutions and by-laws to make it so. The debates revealed something about who were were and what we were to become.
There have been thrilling milestones each and every month on this journey. Like the day we received an invitation to apply for a $250,000 Challenge Grant from the Reva and David Logan Foundation. And then the day our proposal was officially accepted by the Logan Foundation. And the day we got our first contribution toward that match. And the day, exactly two months later, when we made the match and surpassed our quarter of a million dollar goal! Each day a new signpost.
There's a great story at hand whenever someone's silly and crazy enough to start a new theater company. I'd like this blog to reflect on both the terrifying exhilaration and exciting challenges that lie before us and that have been a constant companion during these first 6 months of Mosaic's existence. I don't want to feel complicit in a culture of self-censorship and I readily admit that I've been doing my own self-suppression, afraid of my own voice; of what I might say or reveal.
There is a lot to be afraid of. That's one thing that I find daunting about this prospect of returning to blog. I might actually say more than I've been saying, and I feel like I've been saying plenty as it is, through the press; in interviews; this has been an eminently chronicled transition from Theater J to Mosaic; a thoroughly detailed description of a dismissal that aroused ire in a lot of quarters, and that bred a feeling of solidarity and kinship amongst a wonderful cohort, both locally, nationally and internationally.
But my dismissal from Theater J was not exactly exhilarating. It was painful and abrupt and it was saddening to lose so much in the way of continuity, familiarity, a sustained engagement with subject matter and context and, of course, audience; supporters; a personal and professional history to hold close to.
I would have liked to maintain access (and a continual link) to the archived editions of our producing history via the dozens of subject categories on the Theater J blog. But references to past TJ productions will now, alas, be few and far between. My hopes of coming up with a new version of Harold Clurman's iconic memoir of The Group Theater, The Fervent Years, will have to wait. My version was to have been called In These Fervid Years, and the great legacy of Theater J would have been the subject and the star.
Instead, I'm letting Theater J go as others over on 16th street take up the mantel, and I'll be directing all energies toward our new Mosaic. This literary release of my own writing hurts, just as the actual move hurt, because I held it all so dear for so long. Those productions received every bit of my heart and soul and the investment was evidenced in that Theater J blog. I'm glad those old postings are still archived and will remain accessible, if hard to find. They speak to a terrific collective achievement.
Today, I toggle to a new perch and platform. With so much good news to share about Mosaic, I approach this first official blog with less swagger and more of a wizened sense of important work being forged through hard times.
The focus from hereon will be one of Looking Forward.
There are things to treasure in starting over; firstly, the capacity and privilege of being able to have the opportunity to reboot. To make art and be supported by hundreds upon hundreds of well-wishers; to experience the fellowship of co-conspirators; co-workers and enablers and fellow dreamers who remind you that you are not in this alone; that working in collaboration allows us to exceed our personal limitations; that change is necessary and reconciliation imperative and honesty--whether when blogging, or playwriting, or performing--is of the utmost importance; and being true to oneself is exhilarating, even as it may come at a cost; it's a price worth paying so that one might be spiritually and artistically free.
Here's to a new chapter as we make history happen together.