Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'San Francisco and Beyond'

Finally arrived in San Francisco--I had forgotten what a beautiful city it is. Back in the eighties, I came here a couple of summers to The Baby Area Playwrights Conference. They were lovely times, I was full of hope and idealism, believing that theatre had the answers to all my questions. Back home in Phoenix, my wife was filing for divorce because I had decided to leave my career as a gymnastics coach and return to my first love, (the theatre). It was a 'heady' time in my life, but also one filled with strife and turmoil. My career as a coach had taken off, had finally hit that place where my gymnasts were getting into The National Championships. No one at the time understood why I would leave such a promising career and return to theatre. I found the sub-culture of gymnastics to be so sterile. Most of my peers in the coaching field were men and women who were still competing with their egos through the young women and men they coached. I had once thought gymnastics was a more 'artistic' sport, but after hitting three years of nationals, I realized it was to much of a 'jock' mentality for me. I wanted to talk about the 'big' ideas in the world, I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to really live. Thus began an artistic education that was filled with  ignorance, but fueled with enthusiasm. 

The Bay Area Playwright's Conference was so instrumental in my 'transition'. Six weeks of immersion into the theatre world. I stayed in a residency hotel in San Rafael called 'The Panama Hotel'. Every piece of furniture, paintings, and the setting felt like it belonged in a Tennessee Williams play. I was definitely in my element. Every day was filled with new stimulus, 'workshopping' one play after another, listening to 'master playwrights' talk about their craft. When I was finished with the conference, I was a changed person... When I arrived back in Phoenix, I moved out of the house--left my wife of seven years, and begin to live on my brother's couch, giving up everything I had built the subsequent years. As soon as I could, I travelled to NYC for the first time, and had wave after wave of recognition and more stimulus. I came a day or two from 'moving there', but after auditioning for acting roles and doing several plays in a row in Phoenix, I embarked on the road to opening my own theatre company, 'Playwright's Workshop Theatre', which became twelve years of toil and adventure. I lived on very little, took odd jobs to survive and continued to learn the craft of playwriting. 

Flash forward twenty one years, thirty written plays later, here I am, two days away from performing every playwright/actor's white buffalo, the one person play. Still, after all of these years, this morning the butterflies where flying around my stomach, all of the fears across the years still playing havoc on the senses.  Experience is a fortress, but the raw,  'living in the present' unknown is still the master, and so I prepare, hope, and still feel that initial enthusiasm, the same as all those years ago. What will happen? Will I get through the play with out falling down? Will I remember the hour and a half text of monologue and dialogue? Will my audience stay with me? Will the story hold? 

"Its amazing to me how quickly the notion of faith can fall within, how alone and empty I feel, when just a few minutes ago I was arm wrestling with the creator of the universe..." 

Faith, the promise of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen..."  

excerpt from 'Bohemian Cowboy' 


Gerry said...

Glad to see you blogging about your SF experience which should be a remarkable one. I have been thinking this morning about my trip to this fabled city last September and was going to try to put a photo in my blog of me with the Bay bridge in the background. Hope your rehearsal time now will be fruitful and the show will come together as planned. Good luck!

Jeanette Griffin Braithwaite said...

Good luck with the show, Raymond! Would absolutely love to see it sometime! You're my hero!!

Pat Killen said...

I remember the turmoil and the old gymnastic days......Raymond, I am so happy for you ... that you had the guts to follow your dreams! Good luck with the play!! I am sure you will be awesome!
Love ya

DB said...

The answer to all those questions is "yes." Raymond you sure have told my story in your entry. Why would I leave a soft, secure, well paid position as a radio announcer for a major market station and move back to NYC for the insecure, frightening life of an actor? I must have been crazy. Still am. Also lost a marriage in the process. So it was very difficult and so I suffered. So what? I can honestly say, as I appraoch the journey's end, there are NO REGRETS.

So play your white buffalo in San Francisco with love and courage, and take no prisoners.

DB said...

Don't worry...all those spirits who swarmed Thompson Ledge are with you in San Francisco, making dido's around the bridge. Take time to frolic and just enjoy the moment. You will do well.
I'd be scared as hell.....Love!

Marge Ence said...

I have to say that "we" your family sort of go with your highs and lows, hoping that whatever is the answer to your search and dreams are realized. For those of us who have to live the life of security and know we have a house to walk into, know that we have accumulated too much junk, while you have unloaded both valuable and invaluable things that makes you secure but loads you down. Now is the time to the next stairs, wonder how high are your stairs anyway. You are on our minds, wanting whatever it is that you want. Have a great time in SF Love you Aunt Margie