Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Titillating and Informative at the Same Time

It's probably terribly post-modern of me to write about writing, but here goes.

If, as Benjamin Franklin said, you should either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about, where does that leave writing something no one will read?

I spent a fair amount of my day writing a letter that I didn't send, but needed to capture. Thoughts have been swirling around in my head and in order to make them stop, I needed to get them down in words and sentences, which I did.

But the more I thought about it, the more sure I was that no one needed to read them. But, plain and simple, I needed, really needed, to write them.

The words I wrote weren't about being the 282nd person to vote at my polling place or about the sweet old lady outside it who questioned me intently about whether I'd been challenged when I provided my photo ID to vote (I hadn't).

They weren't about taking my hired mouth and a friend to lunch and having him remind me that we should be getting together for more than lunch, say music or art.

And while it was a lovely meal, my words weren't about dinner at Lucy's where my fellow diner told me about a car chase, crash and arrest on Broad Street this afternoon, snarling traffic westward for hours.

Irresistible was the soup of the day, a tomato-based mahi mahi and potato with just a hint of heat, worth slurping up every spoonful. Then I tucked into the lemon-vinaigrette-dressed winter salad of kale, roasted Brussels sprouts and sunflower seeds while hearing tales of familiar faces showing up in commercials and TV shows (so I'll never see them).

Post-dinner, I made my way to the Speakeasy to see 5th Wall Theater's staged reading of "Writer's Weekend: A New Musical," sharing a table with two women, one of whom turned out to be in the show's band.

I'd seen the first reading of the play last Spring and thoroughly enjoyed the story of six people attending a writer's workshop in hopes of fine-tuning their writing skills or, as the only published writer in the bunch put it, "Jump-starting my literary libido."

A four-piece band of two keyboard players, a bassist and drummer accompanied the actors as they sang of their frustrations and hopes for their writing careers, all in various stages. The sci-fi writer was self-published with cartons of her books crowding her basement, the former TV action star wanted to be a playwright but his concept was weak, the newspaper reporter hoped to use his journalism background writing about crime to pen detective stories, the young technical writer was trying to branch out into fiction, the suburban slam poet still had more attitude than talent and the oversexed romance writer had writer's block but a string of best-sellers behind her. Add in the bitter writer who leads the sessions and the potential for snappy dialog was obvious.

Jacqueline Jones narrated the play, sometimes even helping it along when there was overly-long silence. "I think that's a music cue!" she said cheerily to get everyone back on track.

And just in case the audience was unclear on what being a writer means, it was spelled out in song. "A working writer means a writer who gets paid. Who knows, I might even get laid." Don't count on it, friend, it never got me laid.

I couldn't decide which character I found the funniest, the timid technical writer played by Mark Persinger who was seduced by the older woman ("Old is the new black") or the ebony goddess poet played by Carolyn Meade, all attitude and adjectives.

Like last time, there was a lot that made me laugh out loud (editor jokes, older woman comments) including the written-to-be-awful manuscripts the would-be writers shared with their peers ("Rickets: The Musical").

And like with all his staged readings, director B.C. Maupin had made sure we got a lot more than just actors with scripts reading in chairs. Characters made eyes at each other, moved as if to dance, met at a bar and just generally suggested a lot more staging than some readings deliver.

Even though I knew the story, it was interesting to hear the songs come out of different mouths this time - and there were some excellent voices in the cast - and watch how these actors put their spins on the characters I'd met last May.

Seeing "Writer's Weekend" satisfied old Ben Franklin's directive to do something worth writing about. As to the other part of his wisdom, I'd even go so far as to say my earlier, unsent letter was worth reading.

Didn't get paid, didn't get laid, but there's always tomorrow. I'll probably write about that, too.

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