Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This crazy thing happened at the parking lot outside the theater this week. Hello and welcome to CarTalk, apparently. I love that there's 9,000 theater- and book- and TV-related things going on in my life and I'm like "the public is clamoring for small vehicular dramas". I'm trying to get a gig writing a spinoff of the Fast & Furious movies called Going the Speed Limit & Vaguely Annoyed.
This week I'm doing this utterly bonkers commute where I leave Philly in the morning, drive to Baltimore for rehearsal, then drive back to Philly for evening preview performances. So I'm in the city where my home is but I am never actually at home. I live at the Joe Biden rest stop (of the three rest stops on the route, it's my favorite. I don't care for the Chesapeake House at all. Bad vibes in general. The Chesapeake House rest stop has a Peet's coffee, an Auntie Anne's, a KFC, a lot of negative space, and an Earl of Sandwich. Vibes CHAOTIC. And, honestly, the presence of an Earl of Sandwich shop anywhere always throws me off. Like, I know that the concept is "sandwiches in general", but let's just be honest--that's too broad a category. What kind of sandwiches? Deli? Subs? Wraps? Oh, God, I'm stressed. And who is the Earl?! Will I be meeting royalty today? Look at this mascot and you tell me if you'd trust him with your nutritional needs:
I rebuke all of this, unfortunately.)
Anyway, the car. I arrive in Philly and I pull up to the parking lot. I hop out and wait on the sidewalk for the attendant to take my keys and cash and park the car. The attendant comes over, gets in my car, and then, before he can pull into a space, an SUV comes whipping around the tight corner of the alley and stops right next to my car, blocking it in. The attendant starts honking the horn, which prompts the driver of the SUV--a man who seems to be either a little drunk or a little high or just annoying--to start yelling out his window. Meanwhile, I am late for Tech. Like, can we all focus?
The attendant is like "Can you just get out of the way?" and the SUV driver decides that this is an unreasonable request and starts backing up and then stops, still blocking me in. There's no way of explaining it that makes it comprehensible. Like, he was being a jerk but also did not seem to have full control of his mental faculties. He's yelling something about making a delivery but he never gets out of the car and we're in an alley with only a parking lot in it so this delivery seems to be a hole in the plot that needs revision. And speaking of revision, if we could all devote our energies to getting me into the theater and away from whatever this is, that would be so great.
Then the SUV driver starts threatening the attendant so I start filming, which feels like a wise thing to do but also a completely useless act. The latter part is compounded by the later discovery that I didn't actually hit record, so I just spent 5 minutes holding up my prop phone. Acting! And speaking of acting--I GOTTA GO TO THE PLAY.
My filming drew me into the conflict whereas prior to this the SUV driver had been ignoring me like I was an extra in a movie. Maybe he thought I was part of a mural? Unclear. Anyway, he sees me thinking that I'm filming and he starts yelling at me. He's like "You are also bad!" (I'm paraphrasing). And I was like "Objectively I am not! This is a car conflict. You're experiencing road rage but this isn't even a road. And for all you know I'm a pedestrian. We come from different kingdoms, okay? You need to stay in your lane. This isn't even an entertaining argument. This is dramaturgically weak, nnkay? " That didn't go over well.
So now me and the attendant are both screaming at the SUV driver to just get out of the way. Like, what is the objective here, buddy? At one point, I'm just standing there, holding my phone for no reason, yelling "This is annoying!"
Finally, he gives up on this quixotic argument and starts backing down the alley, which is a deranged choice. I pay the attendant. The SUV driver pulls on to 2nd Street, seemingly out of my life. I walk to the theater at the corner. The SUV driver gets out of his car. At first I don't clock that the SUV driver is heading in my direction because, again, he's not a person who seems to be experiencing a clear sense of purpose. Then I see him and start to wonder if he actually is making a delivery to the theater and I'm just imagining him bursting into rehearsal screaming, incorrectly, about how I am a bad person. And then it seems like he's coming straight to me and I'm like "Oh, God. You are not allowed to kill me--I am in TECH."
As I'm walking up the ramp to the theater, the SUV driver approaches the railing and pulls his phone out and says "Since you took a picture of me, I'm going to take a picture of you." I wanted to reply "Well, you can also just pick up a copy of today's Philadelphia Inquirer; there's two pictures of me in there and I look a hell of a lot better." But I do have a small smidgen of sense.
So I just kept walking. I already had my mask on and, honestly, what was his grand plan? Was he going to put my picture on Facebook and say "This guy said I was annoying?" He wouldn't be the first to have this experience! As I walked into the theater, I made sure to pause and turn slightly next to the poster for the play. I said to him, "Take the picture now; all press is good press! Oh, and did you know you have to hit the shutter button to take a picture? Modern technology. And speaking of TECH..."
Want to see some gorgeous photos of a play?!
Backing Track production photos by Wide Eyed Studios
Director: Rebecca Wright; Associate Director: Alexandra Espinoza; Scenic Design: Chris Haig; Costume Design: Asaki Kuruma; Lighting Design: Natalie Robin; Sound Design: Jordan McCree; Projection Design: Taj Rauch;
Stage Manager: Kate Nelson
A comedy about community, falling in love in a world falling apart, the magic of mixtapes, and more.
March 3 - April 10, 2022
The Folks at Home
A comedy in the style of Norman Lear's groundbreaking 70s sitcoms about a couple, their in-laws, a full house, and the American dream.\
* STREAMING TICKETS NOW ON SALE *
March 17 - April 10, 2022
Baltimore Center Stage
Crying on Television
Living Single meets Noises Off! A comedy about transformation, sidekicks, and the impossibility of making adult friends.
May 31 - June 26, 2022
This week on Previously On
We need to be giving out more Best Supporting Actress Oscars. This is a crisis.
Random Thing on the Internet
My friend Aman started a podcast called Brownish with his friend Shivali about their experiences as Desi Americans. I think it's great!
My new YA novel, Kings of B'more, a contemporary riff on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is out everywhere on May 31, 2022. Pre-order it here or from you favorite indie bookstore, or request it from your local library!