Saturday, July 26, 2008

PARADE at The Neighborhood Playhouse and Why It is Important To Me

During our childhood, we are socially conditioned to name someone our best friend. As we grow, we learn that we can have more than one best friend. As we grow, further, we can put them into categories; my best friend from high school, my best friend from college, my best friend at work, my best friend from rehab, my best friend who is a male or a female... They are all our best friends, each one occupying a different role, a different place, in our lives. I met my best friend, Brady Schwind, when I was in my early twenties and he was ten years old. I did not pursue a friendship with him because of the age disparity. When I was 29, I moved to New York and met the, now grown up, Brady again and we formed a relationship so special that it is, genuinely, unlike any other friendship I have ever known. We call each other "my split apart" because we know each other so well that we (often - and I mean often) will speak at the exact same moment, using the exact same words to form the exact same thought. We feel each other's presence, always; we are never not attached, even when geography separates us and to much time passes. In all these years that we have been friends, Brady has paid me two of the greatest compliments of my life.

Brady is a writer. Well. He is many things. One of the things he is is a writer. A year or so ago, he gave me a play he had written about Sarah Bernhardt and Alphonse Mucha. I knew who Mucha was, I knew a couple of his paintings from school and the internet and just general knowledge. I knew nothing about the man. Brady and I share most of (many of) our artistic creations with each other. We are some of our most (personally) important sounding boards. I love being one of his sounding boards. I am a champion of his artwork and have referred to him, publically, as one of the few geniuses I know. I sat down to read his play about the famed French actress and the painter about whom I knew nothing and, about a third into the play, I set down the script and said "well I'll be Goddamned." I took the script to Pat. "I want you to listen to this monologue that Alphonse Mucha has in Brady's play," and I read it aloud. Pat waited a moment and said "wow. He got it perfect. Every word of it. It's you."

He was right. The monologue the artist was saying was exactly me. The themes he upon which he was expounding (the plight, the life, the joy of an artist) were right out of my psyche. The speech patterns, the choice of words, the sentence structure, the eloquence was right off of my tongue. When I finished reading the play and was breaking it down for Brady, the first thing I did was ask "when you created the Mucha character..... did you base him on me?"



Brady's response, the mere fact of it all, made me think of that moment in the movie AS GOOD AS IT GETS when Helen Hunt says "that's maybe the best compliment of my life." This was right up there with Pat loving me, the trust my friends put in me, Conchata Ferrell asking me why on earth I quit acting and Judi Dench saying she was blown away by my work.

Brady is, currently, the artistic director of a theater in California called THE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYHOUSE. They just opened the musical PARADE; it is the area premiere of this piece. Brady directed it and, at one point, he called me to ask if I would photograph it. His usual photographer for the theater is actually IN the play and couldn't shoot it. I told Brady I would LOVE to but because of travel and scheduling and other difficulties, it was not to be. The play has been given rave reviews by (I believe) every theater critic in the area. I left Brady a congratulatory phone message this week. Today he called me back and left me a message. In that message he said how sad he was that it didn't work out for me to come out west to shoot the show. "But guess who took the pictures? ME! I did them; and the entire time I was thinking 'how woudl Stephen shoot this? what would Stephen do?' -- So you were with me, spiritually!" Naturally, I was curious, so I went and looked at the photos on the website.

I am a modest man much of the time. I am, at least, realistic. I know when I've done good work and not; I know when I look good and don't. I see the truth. One of the immodest fragments of self knowledge which I possess is that I know how good I am at shooting shows. Whether it is a publicity still or in performance, I have the knack. I think it is because I love the performances and performers and I love the art of shooting them. I've shot a lot of shows and I'm good at it. I have a style, though I wouldn't call it a stamp. I went to Brady's theater's website and looked at his photos (some of which I lifted from the site to show the readers of my blog) and I cried a little. It's important (I believe) that people know you. It's important when you see that people know you. Once, at a party, AJ and Annalisa did a little disertation for me about myself and I was thrilled to see that they knew me. Once, I posted a trivia question on MySpace asking my friends if anyone could guess what the ONE movie was that I put in my Ipod; Jimmy Nelson replied "Under The Tuscan Sun". These are only two of the times when I felt validated because someone (other than my husband) really knows me. Today, tonight, half an hour ago, I looked at Brady's pictures, the ones he shot while wondering 'what would Stephen do?' and I knew. I know. He knows me. He knows my work. One is enough; both is overwhelming. Overwhelming but not surprising. After all, he IS my split apart.


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