Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Ivanka and Jared had a bad time at the movies, RBG is invincible, and Beto is going through changes.
I had the distinct pleasure of watching a staged reading of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl at Nashville Repertory Theater last night while sitting two seats away from Sarah Ruhl. I come to Nashville once a month to work with Nashville Rep and a cohort of three other playwrights to develop a new play (each of us is working on our own play; we're not all co-writing in a Google doc, which is a shame because if we were I wouldn't have to keep rewriting the final speech in mine, I would just highlight the section in yellow and put a comment "Fill this in please!" When it comes to group projects I work best in the areas of delegation and taking credit.)
Sarah Ruhl, MacArthur Fellow and very delightful person, is not part of the cohort. She's down for the weekend to listen to drafts of our plays, give us notes, and mentor us, which is a thrill and also fairly intimidating. At intermission of The Clean House, I turned to one of the other playwrights, Lindsay Joelle, and exclaimed, "Oh! THAT'S how you write a play! Everybody clearly wants something!" While I knew this is what plays are about, I feel like I always overcomplicate things when I write. People are like, "Why is the ghost trying to trick the locksmith into opening the safe?" and I think they're saying, "Explain your complex understanding of antebellum phantasms and their relationship to the physical world, talismans, and totems" when really they're saying, "Does she want the thing inside? Does she want the actual safe? Is she hungry? Give me a clue here." Remarkable.
I feel like this is also the way my therapist talks to me. He'll be like, "So, why did you make that clearly disastrous life choice?" and I'll answer, "Well, see, a ghost from slavery times can, in some circumstances, hold physical objects from the modern era if they hold special meaning or perhaps have the potential to retroactively clarify something from their past" when really the answer was "I was hungry."
Which is all a roundabout way of saying isn't it hard to figure out what you really want? Maybe it's not hard for you. Maybe you're Marie Kondo-ing your inner life, throwing away flights of fancy and embracing the goals that bring you joy. Good for you; I will invite you to my psychological Google doc. But I feel like clearly articulating "This is what I want and this is why" is almost antithetical to the way life actually works. You set goals and sometimes you achieve them but a lot of it is negotiation and pivoting and not giving your therapist a straight answer. Which is why plays are interesting, I think. Because people begin a play by saying what they want (apparently! I am a professional playwright and this is new information to me). And then the universe says, "YOU THOUGHT!" and then they either get what they want or they don't eventually. Maybe it's scary to think of life that way. True, some things you can look back on as either a door that opened or a door that closed--college acceptance, marriages proposals, kids, jobs, that time you were haunted by a ghost--but even those clear yes or no moments can continue to change, to circle back on themselves, to either give you what you want more or take it away.
I think of myself as someone who is fairly ambitious, very hopeful, and slightly haunted. But I also find it hard to articulate what I want. Maybe I don't think I deserve to want things, which is not really a referendum on my self-esteem so much as a comment on how big a want really is. In a musical, there's a song usually two songs into the first act in which the lead character stands in the middle of the stage and belts to the rafters about what they want. And it's usually a pretty impressive song, with a lot of vocal acrobatics and high notes and such, because that want has to carry the entire production--the lights, the choreo, the costumes, the other characters, and your attention--for the next two hours. So the propulsion of this want better blow your weave back. In real life (and in drama) wanting something that much is a huge risk. Because if you don't get it, you realize that the drama you're in is a tragedy. And while as an audience member, you can leave the theater. In real life, you have to sit with the loss and then keep going. Or not, I guess. But you probably should keep going.
This was supposed to be a short little humble-brag about hanging out with Sarah Ruhl because I am already late for breakfast and I haven't shaved but it turned into some very basic dramaturgy and something that might be approaching a life philosophy, so I'm going to stop before I say anything deep and ruin my image as a thirst-obsessed snark machine. I think it's important to want something so big it reaches the back of a 2,000-seat theater or to want something so badly that it manages to break the bonds of your mind and your heart and the muscle and sinew and skin and self-consciousness that keep it held close, for fear of coming true and changing everything. I think it's important and I think it's scary (like a ghost!) and that's what I want. I want to want. And also I want breakfast, so I gotta go.
This week, Beto has a beard and also films his teeth-cleaning, AOC has a Chief of Snacks, and RBG is cancer-free. But first, let's go to the movies!
We chose to see Vice because it is our second favorite deadly sin. Shout out to greed, still number one in our hearts! Jared and Secret Service settled into those abhorrent reclining seats even though I warned them that Poor Butts have been in them before. They did not seem to mind. I assumed my regular movie-watching position: standing at attention four feet from the screen. I put on my 3-D glasses. The Secret Service told me that it was not a 3-D movie. I replied, "I think it is clear by now that I only see the things I want to see." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
I feel like I would be remiss in not also mentioning that Saikat is a Harvard grad who worked for Bernie Sanders and was a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur. And also? Very very fine. LET THE RECORD SHOW! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Would all of these be my choice? No. Do I mind seeing Bae-to's toned arms lugging blocks of packed snow? Also no. So, what I'm saying is that for me and for Beto the past few months have been a mixed bag. Nevertheless, I am happy to see your high school prom date who could definitely still get it living his best life out loud. I trust Bae-to to do what's best/hottest for himself, to check in with his spirit, and to continue looking like the lead in a Lifetime Christmas movie about a harried history professor who falls in love with the owner of the town bakery while on sabbatical to write a book about Rutherford B. Hayes. This is the agreement that Bae-to and I have come to and I am happy with it. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Congratulations and thank you to all the American good witches, prayer warriors, the LegalZoom School of Wizardy, and everyone who volunteered to donate a body part to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: your fervent (and sometimes overzealous) best wishes for her health and recovery have been granted. Today, Supreme Court spokesperson Kathleen Arberg announced that the beloved jurist, and the person many Americans have pinned their last remaining hope to, has beaten cancer once again after surgery for two malignant lymph nodes last month. “Her recovery from surgery is on track," Arberg said via statement. "Post-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.” [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Your boy Beto O'Rourke is out here wilding. Yesterday, on his Instagram Stories, he gave the world an up close and personal look at his new beard situation, which critics are calling "fine" and "a beard." Today, he took it a step further and treated the world to an exclusive peak at his incisors. I feel I may need to unsubscribe from this OnlyFans account before it gets more revealing. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Random Thing on the Internet
Best poem I've read all week, "I Have a Time Machine."