Just before the evening of August 6, 2000, I was coming off a suicidal bender. I’d just spent three years in Los Angeles becoming so humiliated by my own character and feeling so dipped in shit that I’d basically given up anything resembling the future I’d hoped for. As a last-ditch maneuver, I’d accepted a position as the Web Editor-in-Chief of one of the last remaining dot-coms in New York City, moved all my stuff across the country overnight, and crammed it into Lars’ East Village apartment.
The day before the job was to start, I fell down a set of subway stairs and herniated a disk, putting me in bed for a week and then walking only with a cane. On August 5, 2000, Lindsay Bowen asked me to write one of the 24 Hour Plays and I said sure, I wasn’t capable of sleeping anyway. Stuck at 45 Bleecker Street in a humid playhouse, trying to think of a subject, I held aloft my tiny vial of white painkillers, and then it all flooded onto the page.
The show was set for the next evening, and I called a bunch of friends, one of whom was Tessa. I hadn’t seen her in three years, and she wrote back saying she was meeting her sister upstate. Fate had to wait another month.
Anyway, I was confident the script was clever enough, but you never know with these things. I nervously showed up to the performance wondering how on earth Sean, Seth and the rest could possibly memorize a whole 10-minute play in a few hours. I sat next to my mom, and then – they let it rip. It was completely unfair that Sean got to say my words, because nobody on earth makes them sound the way he does, but by the end, there was applause during speeches, and by the last blackout, the place went fucking crazy. There was a roar from the audience.
And in one millisecond, seven years of laboring in embarrassing obscurity, every bad date I’d ever been on, the nights staring at the ceiling, the throbbing pain between L5 and S1 on my back… it all went away. My life, from that moment on, turned a corner. Sure, we all had to go through September 11 and I had to have a nervous breakdown and go on drugs, sure sure, but that tiny little play provided a pivotal moment that changed everything.
I got Lindsay to ask Tessa to direct a 24 Hour Play the next month, and my wife and I have been hanging out ever since, but I always wanted to share that moment with her, and never could.
Until Saturday night, that is. They did a Best Of week of the plays, and were kind enough to include mine, and again, Sean and Seth hit it out of the park exactly as they’d done six years earlier. The original Madeline, who was played by Sarah Clarke (who then went on to be the deliciously evil Nina on the first three seasons of “24”) was replaced by Maggie Hoffman, who brought her own wonderful intensity. At the end, it felt so amazing, not because they’d pulled it off once more, but because my mom was again on my left, and Tessa on my right. Dorky writers rarely get the chance for such redemption, and believe me, I don’t take it lightly.
For our part, we all went out and got hammered until 4am:
back table L to R: Kelly, Tessa, Joy, Brandon. Front table clockwise from left: Jamie, me (with girl drink), Danielle, Michelle, Steve, Scotty, Mac, Ehren, Seth, Maggie, Katie
More on the trip tomorrow, including AIR GUITAR!