Sometimes I go to fancy Hollywood parties, and, when well-paid TV writers find out that I'm a playwright, they almost immediately sink in their chair a bit as the weight of inferiority hangs off their shoulders. You see, a lot of people in Hollywood may occasionally mock the theater industry, but they do seem to possess a misplaced reverence for it. "I could never write a play," a TV scribe once told me. "I'm not smart enough."
I cocked my head. "What?!"
I've always been aware, of course, that the general population, not just Hollywood, views theater as the playpen of intellectual elitists. And a lot of the plays and productions that get lauded seem to support that notion.
That's why I've spent a good chunk of my career trying to shift perceptions, subvert expectations, and give theater back to "the people," folks who don't typically go to the theater—youth, minorities, the disenfranchised.
I do get the feeling sometimes that theater people also possess a misplaced reverence—for themselves. The way some of them hold such contempt for Hollywood, for what Broadway has become, for the celebrity power that drives certain play productions, makes me cringe a bit and understand why the "common people" feel the way they feel about theater practitioners. On the positive end, they think we're smart. On the negative end, they think we're snobs.
Whenever I post videos of me and my cat on YouTube, I do wonder if I am unwittingly pissing on the reputation that I have tricked people (in theater and out of theater) into thinking that I have. Would America's literary departments take my new play about racial identity seriously if they knew that I spend part of my week videotaping myself talking to my cat?
Thank god for David Henry Hwang, the Tony Award-winning playwright of M Butterfly. I remembered this morning that he starred in a funny, provocative, and silly 3-minute short by Greg Pak called Asian Pride Porn:
I wonder if Gordon Davidson has seen that.