Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The League of Independent Theaters and, From Yesterday, a New York Story

You'll doubtless want to spend a little time, when not glued to this blog, visiting John Clancy's blog, for he might -- might -- post the draft statement of purpose of the League of Independent Theaters that was drafted today. I'm a little unclear as to what of the meeting is publishable on this blog and what is not, but as he posted a super-early draft of the SOP, I figure it isn't a secret that this organization is forming.

I'm an old cynic and professionally frustrated in I don't know how many ways. And I've sat in on gazillions of meetings for a project here and a project there that ultimately get aloft as far as my feet when I walk. Today's meeting, however, partly due to the constellation of individuals at the table, gives me some serious hope. I will write more but want to yabber a bit with John Clancy first.

Meanwhile, I had dinner last night with my friend, actor-writer Paul Haber. It was something of a nutty night. I was headed uptown on the A train to a gala for the Abingdon Theatre Company, being held at Tavern on the Green. I recently wrote a story on the company and its artistic director, the terrific Jan Buttram and to my astonishment, she invited me and a plus-one as her guest. With Kenny busy sunning himself on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (bitch -- though he did call me today), I figured I'd take Paul.

Well, we had moved about two feet out of the subway station at 42nd Street when it seemed the emergency brake had been pulled. People go flying hither and yon, and trust me, neither hither nor yon were thrilled by the crush of bodies in the front car at rush hour. We sit. We sit, we sit, and we sit. I make the tiniest half-turn where I'm standing, which was about all I was really able to do. And this woman to my left catches my eye and says, "I'm claustrophobic. If they don't open the doors soon I'm going to scream and cry."

I assured her -- well, the one ear without an earphone in it -- that everything was going to be fine. As fine, I suppose, as we might hope from the good workers of the Transit Authority. On the speakers, the conductor suggests there's a police action. Soon, we realize the motorman has gotten out of his area and begun to make his way through the crowded first car to the back of it, which is where I'm standing. I believe in good samaritanship (samaritanism? samaritanity?), so I said to the man as he was squeezing by, "Hi, is there any possibility we could have the doors opened -- this lady here is a little claustrophobic." Grunts, groans, squeals, yelps, moans and a little bit of spittle followed, but I went with the impression that he heard me and was going to get the doors open. He took a key and unlocked one of the advertising panels, revealing the odd innards of the car, which was pretty cool. He closed the panel up, began squeezing back toward his part of the car, and I asked again. The walkie-talkie goes on -- the conductor says something, then he says something, and clearly they're not communicating properly or even agreeing what the problem is. Except the woman to my left is my problem at the moment and -- shit! he's walking away.

Despite what certain youngish theatre critics who would prefer to keep me out of professional organizations may think, I'm not an asshole. Yet I had to say something, so I muttered something about this guy not giving a shit about what I asked him on behalf of this increasingly agitated woman. He blurts, "There's a police action." The moment was like asking someone for the time and receiving -- sarcastically -- "fuschia" as a reply.

"I speak English!" interrupted Claustrophobic Claudia, which, being the A train, caused a huge explosion of laughter, going up and down the car like a wave. The motorman replied, "So do I. And I can tell you the same thing in several other languages, too." To which Claustrophobic Claudia said, "So can I."

Eventually the train moves, but it's getting very late. I'm not excellent at punctuality, but I do try, and last night I would have been early. Oh, well. Finally we arrive at 59th Street, which is where I'm getting off and where my new neurotic best friend is getting off. The doors open and we begin to make our way through. "The thing is," she says out loud, presumably to me although it could just as soon have been to anyone, "I'm on my way to a meditation."

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