Process: Here for It, #264

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

Well, okay, so here's what's happening. I've just finished my first week of rehearsal in Baltimore for The Folks at Home after last week doing the first week of rehearsal in Philadelphia for Backing Track, which means that I have worn all of my "in public" clothes and I am completely out of lewks. I have to wear my tux to rehearsal on Tuesday. I have no choice!

Look, I'm having a blast and I'm very grateful but also--IMPORTANT--this is a crisis. We rehearse for six hours every day and, unfortunately, I've worked from home since 2016 so I have literally no outside self-management skills. I have forgotten to pack a lunch for 14 days straight. Lunch is canceled! Lunch tweeted something offensive! I just sit there in a mask, trying to be useful to the whole play-making situation and wondering when the last time I had a glass of water was. (My research assistant says 1987, but we're still going through records.)

It's wonderful. I love making theater more than anything in the world and I remain amazed and dumbfounded when little fictional people with their Aristotelean arcs and their internal conflicts and their punchlines come to life in the minds and bodies of extremely talented actors right in front of me. You know how sometimes you think of a sad weird scenario in your head and you make yourself cry? That's literally me four times a day. Tears just soaking my mask as I mumble "Agh, that's so sad, the pretend thing that I made up. I wonder how it will resolve! I'm just rooting for everyone! Does anyone have a Kind bar???"

Stevie Walker-Webb, the director of The Folks at Home, told me that in the play "everyone becomes a better human by the end," which is a summation that I love. I like to believe it's intentional but, also, why am I not writing more villains? Villainy writ large is a major growth area for me, methinks. That said, few characters have had greater impact on me than Lady Elaine Fairchilde and though she was arguably the villain in the Kingdom of Make Believe, she was also right and I will defend that to the Supreme Court. Did she get better? Yeah, she got better at giving King Friday the blues. Goals, honestly.

Both plays are, in a way, about people who want similar things but don't understand each other. And so they spend a couple of hours putting their private business into the agora. This is how conflict happens. Sometimes those differing points of view spill out into rehearsal, in non-contentious ways. The play starts happening in the room; this is the process. Which is wonderful but also I feel like the king of chaos.

Creating a play is like learning another language. Mostly I'm just trying to stay out of the way. I don't want to say the wrong thing; the directors--Stevie, and Becky Wright, and Zandra Espinoza--they're fluent. They're genius guides and doulas and wizards. I'm the version of me who had to wander around Brazil with my Google Translate trying figure out how to order lunch. (I got so embarrassed about my lack of ability that I literally did not each lunch most days in Brazil. Do I just not like lunch??)

I love process. I love a thing becoming out of nothing. I am even fascinated by the very thorough and effective COVID safety procedures around each production. In one of the productions, they take daily temperature readings when you come into rehearsal every day. I asked the COVID safety manager what happens with them and he said that he puts them in a spreadsheet. He asked if I'd like to see mine and I said "at the end," like it was a surprise. I love data. I wish we had a culture where we did a full diagnostic every day. I guess some people do do a full diagnostic every day. Is that mindfulness? Fascinating.

I don't know what I would do with this sheet of temperatures. I'm a man in his 40s so of course I am perilously susceptible to the kind of lunacy that makes me think I can hack my body or something. Wrestle the god of death. I don't think that's going to happen. But perhaps I will give the god of death an Excel spreadsheet detailing how warm I was internally while rehearsing a romantic comedy and a family comedy about the American Dream and wondering what I was going to do for dinner. That'll show him!

This week on Previously On...

New York Fashion Week!

Choose Your Fighter: NY Fashion Week Front Rows
Choose Your Fighter: NY Fashion Week Front Rows

Let's hang out!

All three productions will be streaming, either after the run or livestreaming slect performances!

Backing Track
A comedy about community, falling in love in a world falling apart, the magic of mixtapes, and more.
March 3 - April 10, 2022
Arden Theatre

Brenson Thomas and Danielle Lenee, two of the stars of Backing Track. Photo: Wide Eyed Studios

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.
March 17 - April 10, 2022
Baltimore Center Stage

Crying on Television
A comedy about transformation, sidekicks, and the impossibility of making adult friends.
May 31 - June 26, 2022
Everyman Theatre

Random thing on the internet

Did you know that there's a Wordle version where you play four games at once? I am addicted.

that's so sad, the pretend thing that I made up,

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!