The office door is closed. I know what that means. Inside his office, our artistic director is thinking. A weighty matter is under consideration. A momentous decision may be imminent. Possibly it’s the final choices for next year’s season; perhaps he’s framing an appropriate reaction to the lukewarm - better be honest - damning review of our present production; could be he’s improvising a positive spin on a potential deficit. I open the door anyway.
I see Rick’s closely examining a pencil.
“A play,” I say. “About the medical profession.”
Rick says, “Who’s buying that crappy Creamo powder for coffee instead of Half and Half?”
“I’d like to know too,” I say. “It’s about how medicine’s changing.”
“Interesting” says Rick. “I’ll get you some money.”
“I’ll ask about the Creamo” I say, and exit.
I sit at my desk. I type a working title “DOC”. I forget about the Creamo. Rick doesn’t hold it against me.
THIRTY PAGES IN
The office door is open. I know what that means. The artistic director is available.
Clutching thirty pages of script in my hand I say, “Rick? That play you commissioned? About changes in the medical profession? It isn’t.”
“Isn’t what?” says Rick.
“About that. It’s about this workaholic doctor, his alcoholic wife, their grown-up daughter and same daughter as a kid, with kind of an interesting structure and some funny lines although I wouldn’t call it a comedy, it being kind of - tragic. I’m sorry but - could you read these pages and tell me if it’s crap?”
I make a quick exit.
Rick reads. He comes out of his office.
“These characters.” he says. “Isn’t Ev your father’s name, isn’t he a doctor?”
“Bob’s actually your mother’s name.”
“You do have a family friend Oscar and there is a hospital named after your father.”
“Keep writing,” he says, and leaves.
So I do. Keep writing.
I spot our artistic director en route to the jon. I furtively pass him my first draft. I assume he’s read it when he approaches my desk.
“Wow”, says Rick. “Your mother committed suicide and your father –“
“I know, “ I say. “What about the play?”
“First thought, autobiographical.”
“Look, here’s what I’m doing.” I think for a moment. What the hell am I doing?
“O.K.” I say. “What I’m doing is manipulating landmark events in the lives of real people who happen to be my parents and my self.”
“So I’m right,” he says.
“Let me finish. I’m omitting some things, inventing others, it’s all a construct, Rick. I’m looking for meaning in the constructed story that actually living the story didn’t provide.”
“Not biographical,” he says.
“So would you call it parasitical?”
If he thinks I’m buying the beer next time he’s sadly mistaken.
DOC is up and running, and I’m getting several questions for which I’m inadequately prepared.
“Biography,” says He Who Is Charged With Writing a Preview Piece. What does your father think?”
“I’ve no idea,’” I say.
He scribbles “the play is a verboten subject within the playwright’s family.”
Best to nip that in the bud. “My father knows nothing about the play.”
“You haven’t told him?”
I’m confused. “Why would I? Hockey’s his thing, and it’s highly unlikely he’s reading the Entertainment section, so -”
“Will he see it?”
“I’ll get him a comp if he wants.”
I do get him a comp. Now my father’s referring to fictional incidents in the play as if they had actually occurred.
“No Daddy” I say. “That never happened! I made it up!”
It’s annoying. Our family life has become what I’ve written and not what we lived.
Ah, the power of theatre.