Tuesday, January 15, 2008

reprinted with permission

From Jeffrey Sweet on why he's a playwright: I'm not going to speak for all of us. I do this because it's cool to stand at the back of the theatre and listen to hundreds of people laugh at something I thought was funny maybe a year or six years or twenty-five years ago. I do this because I can't run a multi-billion dollar company so I need to find some sphere in which I can run something. I do this -- or did this -- because, since I was lousy at sports, I needed some other way to make girls think I was cool. And it worked -- the lady I've been with for the last 17 years looked me up because she liked my plays and was particularly struck by how sensitively I wrote for women. (Oh, that's a tip -- if you're straight and write well for women, a lot of actresses will indeed want to meet you.) (If you're gay, odds are you write well for women anyway. How's that for a sweeping generalization? ) I do this because the world is chaotic and my experience of the world is also chaotic, so to make this a safer place to myself I take chunks of it and organize it into plays that have shape and coherence. Does this really make the world safer? No. But, as O'Neill has told us, illusion is sometimes necessary to keep functioning. I do this because I have a mostly screwed-up family and I needed to put something where a healthy family should be, and that's turned out to be the community of actors, writers and directors I've gotten to know (except for the hostile, psychotic ones, who remind me too much of my family). I do this because it's a way of tricking myself into finding out what I'm really thinking. I usually don't know when I start a play. By the time I've finished a play, I get to ask, "OK, why did I write this?" And sometimes I come up with responses that are surprising. A little like a burst of fireworks over a battlefield at night. I do this because I want to be fabulously wealthy and see my picture in the paper and meet and get compliments from famous and accomplished people. Obviously I have a firm grasp on reality. Jeff

2 comments:

Callie Kimball said...

it's like he's in my head.

i say a lot of similar things when i teach kids--that i started writing plays because my world was so chaotic with divorce and many different schools. it was a way to create my own reality, control my world.

Adam said...

he is in your head. That's how he understands women.