Yesterday I did the first night ride of the year on my bike. I battled my fear almost the whole time. Every time I heard a car coming up behind me I would briefly turn my head back, hoping that would help them notice me. I would hope the driver was the type of person who considered hitting me enough of a mistake or sin or inconvenience that they’d pass carefully by.
Faith had come over in the morning so Otto could play with Izzy. We watched the two dogs wrestle and I fed Django treats so she wouldn’t keep going over and breaking them up, which was amusing to me but not desirable when you’re trying to help your dog (Otto) recover from the loss of his pack leader so you set up play dates with dogs who actually play (Izzy, who’d been dropped off by Kismet on her way to work). Faith told me she rides her bike everywhere from Spring through Fall. She gave me advice on good bike streets – Damen, Wilson, Leland – and said night riding is her favorite. “Especially in the Fall, when the streets are quiet and the leaves above you are turning color…” It sounds poetic, but then there are the cars.
It’s not that I think the car wants to hurt me, it’s just that it can. It’s about status. A bike object is low status because it can be so easily hurt by a car object . But I can’t think like that. I have to remember that both are controlled by humans, who are equal status. So I rode my bike to the first rehearsal for Boy Small. The director, Emmi Hilger, let me stow my bike on her inside back porch so I didn’t even need to use my lock.
At rehearsal, Emmi had the actors read the script once, then she led a discussion of it. She has an uncanny sense for knowing what to ask and when to say nothing and how to gently guide people into speaking freely. Then she had them read the script again, with all they’d learned or confirmed or discovered. It was humbling. Because I’m already working with Emmi and one of the actors (the amazing Chris Popio) on the WTA piece, I was comfortable speaking just as myself, not trying to be what I think a playwright is supposed to be (silent and enigmatic). By telling what I am seeing in my head, I can learn how much is on the page. And I can learn what else is there that I haven’t even seen, which helps me go forward. I feel like I’ve lucked out in both these pieces, to have actors who are both powerful and nuanced performers and so insightful and articulate about character and all the little moments that connect into a play.
Faith has given me a worksheet she uses in developing a play. It forces you to state things like conflict and premise. Things I often avoid or resent because I want to work in the dark. I don’t want to commit to definites because I’m afraid either I won’t fulfill them or in fulfilling them I’ll miss an opportunity for something better. But the questions stay with me. What is the question the play is asking? How does the central character change? If I can be clear on these they will free me to ride. My power is that if this play fails I can just write another one. Try again, fail again, fail better, as Beckett said.
After rehearsal I rode home. Ainslie is another good street at night. Lots of speed bumps but not many cars. I rode over the bridge at Lawrence behind a guy on his bike, carrying a grocery bag. The only time I actually felt scared was when I realized that I’d just spent the last few moments enjoying the quiet dark and cool air so much that I’d forgotten to worry about speed bumps and cars and ambushes. I tried to make up for it by worrying harder in the moments ahead.