An Open Letter To The Outdoor Community Theater Back Home…
Dear Outdoor Community Theater Back Home That Keeps Sending Me Facebook Invitations to Plays I Don’t Want to See,
I have fond memories of you from a few years ago. You were so popular (still are, in fact), people from all over New Jersey would line up hours before one of your shows just to buy tickets. Once we all parked our cars in the lot next to the theater, we were stuck there for the rest of the day. After all, it was only a matter of time before someone parked behind us, then had someone park behind them, and so on. We had no choice but to bring picnic baskets and spend the day in the park, or walk over to the nearby mall to kill a few hours until the show started, and we did so with big smiles on our faces. I have to admit — you are a huge slice of Americana, the perfect setting for the sun to set on the cheeks of thousands of children as they sit outside and eat ice pops. In fact, my entire family was so enamored by you, we went from lowly patrons to employees. My two sisters spent summers working in the costume and prop shops in the afternoons, then worked the wings as stagehands at night.
And I mean, you’ve probably forgotten by now, but one summer not too long ago, I was a performer.
Let me refresh your memory, because I assume my headshot is nowhere to be found in the theater anymore: you decided you wanted to put on a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and needed two Asian guys to play Chinese-speaking henchmen. I was performing a bit in college and was talked into auditioning by a friend of mine. At your final callbacks for the roles, you ended up with me, a Taiwanese guy named Jeff, and a short Jewish guy whose eyes were as big as egg yolks. You were stuck with me, and you knew it, but we ended up having a blast. Our show together was widely recognized as the best one you put on that summer and for quite a while, you had me thinking I could be an actor for a living someday.
Then, as you probably expected I would, I soon found out there aren’t many roles for Chinese guys who flirt with being 5’9 only in certain types of shoes. I’ve since moved to New York City and hold no grudges, but you really did have me going for a little while. And in retrospect, your alumni are pretty impressive. Plenty of the performers I acted alongside are now on Broadway, on national tours, on television. Your infamous “theater pet” graduated from Princeton and ended up on The Amazing Race and Spiderman, The Musical (don’t get me started on that shit). Hell, even I went on to get an MFA, albeit in creative writing.
I’m sure all of us would say that our experiences with you, however extensive or limited they might have been, played a big part in motivating us to dream big. But that’s the thing: I have bigger fish to fry now. Not to be a dick or anything, but I’m knee-deep in research for a book I have no book deal for, I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in a neighborhood I can barely afford, and I spend most of my free time wondering how the hell I am going to pay my credit card bill. I haven’t had a friend appear in one of your shows in years, and can see a Broadway play for not a whole lot more than what you charge. What on earth makes you think I am getting on an hour-long train to see a Broadway quality show?
That said, please accept this as a formal request to be taken off the mailing list you’ve created via your Facebook page. I would just unfriend you, but you’d never notice. And besides, it’s been a while. Just wanted to let you know that, contrary to whatever rumors might be circulating around town, I have not died.
One last thing – you’re doing Annie this summer? For fuck’s sake, have some dignity.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.