Above: The Rebel Mess (fronted by Hank Wagner) in Kirk Wood Bromley’s The American Revolution in Central Park, 2002 (photo courtesy Inverse Theater)
These past few months have been exceeding strange for me — and not just because of what’s going on in our country (strange though that has indeed been!).
You see, since the end of 2016, I have essentially been re-living the last 20 years of my life. The main reason I have been engaged in this singular activity is because I am manually archiving the reviews I wrote during the earliest days of nytheatre.com (from 1997 through 2004). (Soon — and by that I mean within the next week or so; I’ll announce it when it happens — you will be able to access this material on the nytheater indie archive.)
So my days have been spent re-reading hundreds of reviews that I wrote when I began my theater career… and recalling, often astonishingly vividly, some remarkable work that I have been fortunate enough to be witness to. I’ll read something I have literally not laid eyes upon in 17 or 18 years and think: that was the first time I saw a Gorilla Rep show. Or: that was the first time I saw Susan Louise O’Connor in a play. Or that was when I met Mia Katigbak. Or (see photo at top) that was the hot and noisy July afternoon when we saw The American Revolution in Central Park.
And so on, over and over again, hundreds of times. Flashes of great memories playing in my head; different ones, day after day. I have been lucky. And I am glad and proud to be sharing all of this work. Like the librarian in Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel, I’m able to justify a life by proving another — the other, in this case, being the oh-so vital and vibrant life of NYC indie theater at the turn of the present century.
And layered on top of this endeavor has been one even more singular and un-looked-for. As I reported a few days ago, a play about me (called Martin Denton, Martin Denton, of all things) will be presented at the Kraine in July. So at the same time that I have going over the fruits of my labor on nytheatre.com, I have also been recalling it for playwright Chris Harcum, who interviewed me over the course of many days during the past six or seven months.
More recently, I’ve read a couple of drafts of Martin Denton, Martin Denton. It’s the most meta thing you can imagine. Here I am, a theater reviewer/play publisher by trade, reading a new script in (relatively) raw form. On one level, my training kicks right in, evaluating the work in all the ways I know how. And then on another level, I’m meeting up with a character who has the same name as me — who, for his hour on the stage, will be me. Who is this guy? He feels weirdly familiar and yet way outside me as I strain to regard him with reasonable objectivity. I’ll love a turn of phrase and then realize, oh, I think that’s exactly what I said sometime in my life. And then I’ll love another and think, gee, I should have Chris be my writer all the time because that is said better than anything I could have thought of.
Profound weirdness, my friends.
But the memories of the work are all good.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re just weeks away from having ALL of the nytheatre.com reviews go live on the archive site. And we’re a couple of months away from Martin Denton, Martin Denton‘s opening night. We’re gonna party like it’s 1997 (and ’98… and ’99… and onward) as we celebrate this 20th year of the website that turned into my life’s work. I’m excited that I’m in this new phase of life where I’m not so much re-living as re-experiencing the stuff that jazzed me so much, and looking for new ways to share it with you all over again.