I’m a far better basketball player than I have any right to be. Growing up, my best friend Josh Koopman–who was taller, faster and stronger–would school me day after day in our one-on-one games. It can sure be humbling to play your absolute best and still not come out on top, but while I didn’t always like getting beat, it stretched me way beyond my meager athletic abilities into a halfway decent player.
I remember thinking about this last year when my science fiction play DEINDE went up at the same space, and around the same time, as The Honeycomb Trilogy by Mac Rogers. Just as Josh could beat me at least three different ways–off the dribble, posting up, shooting threes–it felt as if Mac’s three very different science fiction plays were running a dunk competition while I was over-thinking free throws. I remember viscerally wishing as I walked into Blast Radius, “please be good but not too good.” And of course, nothing but net.
But here’s the thing: the first thing I did was love Mac’s plays. The second thing I did was envy them, and the extraordinary passion and devotion they inspired. The third thing I did? I got better. Each play taught me moves to the basket that I didn’t already know.
Now, I’m at it again, with my play Honey Fist in rep with Johnna Adams’ Sans Merci. I love my play, I love the work Kelly and her team are doing, but I can’t even make it through the stage directions of Sans Merci without weeping from their beauty. She’s just that good. Johnna’s career is also taking off, with her amazing play Gideons’ Knot getting produced all over the country (I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes the Top 10 Most Produced list next year) and Sans Merci has already sold twice as many tickets as Honey Fist and we haven’t even opened the plays!
So I have a hunch I may get dunked on again, but…I noticed some new moves in pages that I wrote for my new writer’s group this week. They felt familiar, and of course they did: I learned them from watching Sans Merci spin mercilessly towards the basket.
And this is why I am so lucky to live in NYC and play with such extraordinary artists. They make me better, and truthfully, if I ever did somehow find myself the best at the game, I’d find a new one to play.