I Wrote a Show to Capture this Moment.
Too bad “this moment” just happens to be one that the entire world seems desperate to escape.
My first full-length play since March 2020 is a solo Zoom show about pandemic isolation, the January 6th insurrection and our increasingly tenuous grip on reality.
What have these past couple years done to us all?
We’ve been through a lot these past couple years. And as is sort of my M.O., I wanted to try and understand why on earth life since March 2020 has been the most lonely of my entire life but still, I find it harder and harder to pick up the phone or answer an email.
Something serious has happened to us — is still happening to us, I’d argue. And it’s seriously fucking with how we handle our relationships with other human beings.
At first, it seems, we all rallied.
In March, 2020 we were suddenly largely thrust into isolation of one form or another.
At first, many of us made a real effort to connect. Everyone it seems has a story from Spring of 2020 of gathering on Zoom with people from college or high school or… The first year of the pandemic was marked by happy reunions… which often had us wondering why we’d lost touch with these people from our past.
In my case, two theatre companies I was a part of more than 25 yrs ago started informal Zoom reunions. In one case — with 5 core members of the experimental opera company I ran in Boston—we met for one hour every week for nearly two years. During these sessions we caught up on our lives but also returned to some of the improvisations we’d been doing in the 1990s when we released a CD with improvised choral music.
2022 has many of us running for the exits. Why?
For almost two years we were finding ways to connect without being in the same room. While we may have been frustrated with all the ways Zoom could never fill our longing for actual human connection, we made do. Human beings are, if nothing else, endlessly resourceful. We found ways to get something out of it, even if we knew it couldn’t satisfy us completely.
But lately, most of my reunions have run dry. And in most cases there wasn’t exactly a formal decision to stop. We just all sort of lost steam.
How about yours?
And a few people who I considered to be among my closest friends have drifted away.
Now, interestingly, there are other folks who I barely talked to pre-pandemic who are now more a constant part of my life.
And I’d really like to better understand what the hell is going on with all of us.
Post-Pandemic Brittle. (Tell me it’s not permanent.)
Part of me suspects that one thing that’s happening is we’re all just a hell of a lot more brittle. Starved of true in-person human connection, we’re also less adept at managing the dips and curves and twirls of navigating all our relationships — friendships, family, and professional.
Other people are unpredictable. Yet we manage not to kill each other, in large part, thanks to our ability to pause, step back and imagine for a moment that we may not have a direct line to all that’s going on in the other person’s life. This ability to remember that we can’t ever fully know what another person might be going through used to be somewhat automatic. Now, it takes a little more conscious thought to kick in.
It may be momentarily frustrating every time we hit a bump in the road we were not expecting. But don’t you think it’s true that in the long run, it’s the bumps in the road that actually make us stronger and more resourceful?
Somehow, though, it seems to me we’ve all lost a little bit of our natural faith in the value of other people and all the inconvenience they bring into our lives.
Lately, whenever I hit a snag in planning or discussing or negotiating anything, I find myself having to consciously set aside an impulse to run away and never look back.
Strange behavior for a person who generally speaking feels lonelier than he has before, wouldn’t you say?
When something confuses me, I write about it.
And when I’m puzzled by something, I usually end up writing and producing a play or a film. My 2008 film We Pedal Uphill was a tapestry film born of my unrelenting desire to understand how the country had fallen into a climate of fear in the months and years immediately following 9/11.
Here’s a link to one of those 13 vignettes:
The January 6th insurrection shook us all up I think no matter what our political leanings. But truthfully for a whole lot longer, many of us have found ourselves staring down friends or relatives from opposite sides of a widening divide. This 21st Century American Chasm divides us into those who believe one set of facts and those who believe another. Into those who believe that one man will save us all and those who believe he may just be the one thing that will finally destroy us.
And there’s increasingly less and less overlap, less and less on which any of us can agree.
I wrote A Nagging Feeling Best Not Ignored to try and understand a bit better what on earth has been happening to us.
Life lived behind a screen is just a little bit… less…
In fact, there’s a poignant moment in the play when the main character is talking about how being present for important events always feels different than experiencing them from behind a screen. Suddenly he stops himself to check in with the audience just to be sure.
There are some events, life events — doesn’t have to even be political but just meaningful events in a person’s life — that are gonna feel… just a little… less when viewed from behind a screen instead of out in the world with the rest of humanity. Right? I mean we all get that, right? We all get that. Is that something we can still agree — ?
At one recent performance one audience member shouted a response:
Which I thought was a perfect answer to a disturbingly sad question.
All my work is as funny as it is deeply disturbing. And who doesn’t hate Zoom?
So, yeah. As is typical of me. I wrote my way into a kind of disturbing 55-min piece. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I decided that in order to best capture the anxiety of this period in human history there was no doubt that the play had to be a zoom play. It’s not just a play performed on Zoom it’s actually written specifically to the idiosyncrasies of the platform. At one point in the show a troll shows up to harass our main character and he does so entirely using the chat.
The play is designed to drop the audience into a 55-min roller coaster ride that leaves people feeling unsure of what to believe and who to trust. It’s funny when it’s so disturbing the only thing left to do is laugh.
Lose your bearings on a Wednesday night in August.
So here’s the thing. I have always preferred my theatre on the disturbing thought-provoking side.
If you’re like me, and the idea of not knowing which end is up for just under one hour excites you, please do check out this show. We’ve just added 4 more performances to the schedule. Here’s a fun promo video with audience praise in the “it was better than CATS” mode.
And here’s a link to the page on our website where you can purchase tickets.
A Nagging Feeling Best Not Ignored - Hear Me Out Monologues
Roland Tec's solo Zoom play borne of one of the most disorienting periods in human history.
Please share your thoughts on this question in the comments.
And if anybody reading this has thoughts about why it might be that we are still sort of pulling apart from each other at the seams, please drop your thoughts in the comments. I’m hungry for understanding.
A Nagging Feeling Best Not Ignored is playing Wednesday nights at 8PM, EDT on Zoom.