Marc Spitz

I always think of the playwrights we published in the Plays and Playwrights anthologies as members of my extended family. Today my sad duty is to report that one of the members of that family has passed away. Marc Spitz, whose play Shyness Is Nice is in Plays and Playwrights 2002, died last week at the much-too-early age of 47, in NYC.

Marc’s “day job” was as a music journalist; unlike most of the playwrights I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with, he was already a published author when I met him (We Got the Neutron Bomb: An Oral History of Los Angeles Punk Rock came out the year before our book; others followed). Back then he wrote for Spin Magazine, and most recently he was working for Salon, still on the music and pop culture beats. (Here’s his obituary in Rolling Stone, where you can find out more about this aspect of his career.)

I knew Marc almost entirely as a playwright and playmaker, and I had enormous respect for his craft and his remarkable off-kilter way of making the edgy and off-putting utterly hilarious. Tim Haskell of Publicity Outfitters made me see Shyness Is Nice at Westbeth Theatre Center in May, 2001; I’m pretty sure I protested that it wasn’t going to be my kind of thing, but Tim persisted and, of course, was right: Marc’s plays were ENTIRELY my thing. In my review of Shyness, I floundered a bit trying to peg him, comparing him to Monty Python. By the time I published the play, about eight months later–and had gotten to meet Marc, and to know him and his aesthetic–I was better at describing the work:

Shyness Is Nice is…an envelope-pushing comedy with an extraordinarily well-developed sense of the absurd; it’s a post-everything sex-drugs-n-rock-n-roll farce; a hilarious cartoon laughing at and in the face of just about anything you can think of.

I tried not to miss a single one of Marc’s subsequent comedies–at indie theaters all; the work never made it to one of the commercial venues where it deserved to be, sadly. He worked with lots of folks I admire and respect throughout his career; Arthur Aulisi, the consummate indie theater actor, reminded me that he appeared in Marc’s 2009 farce Up for Anything, which was the last of his plays that I wrote about. (Here’s that review in the nytheater indie archive; the earlier ones will be coming to the archive later this year.)

I remember vividly the first time I met Marc, at Wolf’s Restaurant way downtown, just a month or so after 9/11; he had walked all the way from his place in the Village because he was still spooked to take the subway. The first thing I noticed about him was his gentleness, and the next thing was his quiet intellect; I knew I wanted him to be part of the Plays and Playwrights community immediately. He will be greatly missed.