Theatre tradition runs rife with jokes, sayings and funny stories about actors and playwrights, and their divergent natures.
Question: How many playwrights does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: The light bulb doesn’t need any changes.
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Question: What’s the difference between a working Seattle actor and a large pepperoni pizza?
Answer: A large pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.
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“The average actor craves approval; the above average playwright craves disapproval.”
These clichés occasionally harbor a smidgeon of truth, but persist as mostly empty stereotypes. However, I do hold one difference between playwrights and other theatre artists to be true and fundamental: we tend to have a keener long-term view of the theatrical environment. This only makes sense. Our work cycle runs to years, whereas most other theatre artists live tactically, month to month; at most, season to season. Playwrights simply scan a farther horizon. (So no, I was not using my psychic powers when I predicted earlier than most the demise of the Intiman as we know it.)
All this is to say my eagle eyes tell me that ACT just made an exquisite choice by appointing John Langs to the position of Associate Artistic Director, and thereby giving him and his family a reason to make Seattle their permanent home. (You can read a detailed run down of John’s new duties here.) Unlike other hotshot directors who have been recruited from afar to fill similar roles at Seattle Big Houses, Langs is no elitist carpet bagger. His roots run deep here in Seattle, at Big Houses and small, with him directing work by writers running a gamut from Shakespeare to, well, me.
Seattle actors love Langs, and he loves them. Seattle playwrights respect Langs, and he respects them. (A dual-facing fact I wish were true for more Seattle Big House administrators.) I won’t tell you John Langs can single-handedly drag Seattle theatre to excellence—he can’t; but he is the piece that perfectly fits a missing part of the puzzle here. Langs has shepherded more excellent new plays to world premiere than any other director I know. He gets why new work is so vital to Seattle’s health as a World Class theatre town. He also gets how nurturing it can help his own career in a way that staging the latest New Yorker-approved off-Broadway hit never could.
ACT’s choice is a win for everyone. Langs will grow his already formidable career here instead of elsewhere, and he will grow his fellow Seattle artists with him. For John, Seattle isn’t a stepping stone. It’s the destination.
Confidential to John: carve an hour out of your swamped schedule and let me be one of the first of many to buy you a congratulatory cocktail so I can properly say:
“Welcome, welcome, a thousand times, welcome.
Now… get to work!”