I’m staring at fresh-fallen snow as I write this, through windows on three sides of my little office in my new home. It’s always a bit of a stretch to connect these musings to Christmas, but I’ve said very little about the big move so far, and a few words about a work environment might be helpful to some.
There was a time I believed that what I needed in my field of vision, as I wrote, was a large collection of posters and pictures from my past shows. The theory went that it would be easier for me to create new musicals if I could be reminded I’d done it before. Or perhaps – since I worked in the living room – the gallery was there to impress visitors. But there’s something in all of this that hints at mental imbalance. For one thing, I should have enough self-confidence to know I can do this again and again. I was 19 when I began writing my fourth musical; at this point, I’ve lost count. And the framed and unframed memorabilia created a false impression: On the industrial, The Making of “Larry: The Musical”, a huge show poster, complete with Hirschfeld-like caricature, was made up as a prop and then given to me; also, as something of a gag gift, I received a framed CD and Playbill like you might see in a record producer’s den. Both make the show seem far more important an accomplishment than it was. And so my visitors were being misled, in a way, which fills me with chagrin.
In the new house, visitors won’t see any of my show posters unless they visit our basement. And, in order to do that, you have to duck your head, which most people (well, me, mostly, at this point) forget to do. So, emerging from the clonk like a cartoon character eying orbiting stars, they’ll see evidence of my many productions but it will seem, as such things do, like a dream. And it will remain inexplicable – as things in dreams often are – why The Making of “Larry: the Musical” takes up so much space.
You know I’m far prouder of On the Brink, which has a huge poster, in red – all text, no graphic – that fails to convey the feel of that show. I have a black-and-white production still, by Joel Lipton, which does a much better job, but gee, black-and-white, did this show play during Sarah Bernhardt’s time? Or even Sandra Bernhard’s time, which is true but seems just as distant.
In what seems like a wild architectural oddity, there’s a small room jutting out from the living room. You enter through a glass door, and, as I said, there’s nothing but windows on the other three sides. So, virtually no wall space to hang anything on. I quickly claimed this as my office. I can stare out at nothing but nature and picture myself Oscar Hammerstein, who preferred to write his ground-breaking musicals in the fertile grounds of his Bucks Country, Pennsylvania farmhouse. It’s said he used a standing desk, which I can’t quite fathom doing. But the principle remains: instead of being haunted by my pass successes, I’ll see the limitless future through wraparound windows.
Writing this now, I don’t have my new desk (everything here is written in advance, and the desk and chair may be Christmas presents). So, while it’s still in stack formation, I’d like to describe the vertical creation I set up about a year ago in an effort to increase productivity. In the forward corners of the room are two small chests of drawers. Crossing them, I’ve made a bridge of my midi keyboard, fairly wide at five octaves. On either side of that are the legs to the hutch, a wide piece of hard wood. So, that plank-on-pylons hovers about ten inches above the keyboard, which is as accessible as I need it. (I never fiddle with the buttons, one of which makes it sound like a fiddle.) (If you groaned at that last parenthetical sentence, imagine the restraint it took to keep from making a pun about a minty pylon’s flying circus and be glad.) Little, now, is on top of the hutch: the monitor, the computer keyboard, and one of those little clock radios that is also a phone charger. I’m enjoying the lack of clutter: This is all very new to me.
Recently, I was called upon to sight-read and sing the old show tune, This Is All Very New To Me, which, of course, is about finding love for the first time. As actors often do, I used a substitution from my personal life, to make it about home ownership, and living in a suburban town for the first time ever. That little sing-through was a very emotional experience, the wonder of my new life a burst of happiness I never anticipated.
Today marks the first year my daughter will wake up in our new home to see a Christmas tree sheltering a panoply of presents. And, at some point, I’ll be through assembling them, and can then return to my glass box to write something. If I lose heart, I can always run down to the basement, bump my head, and, when my vision eventually returns to focus, see the show posters that will inspire me to bound up those stairs to write and bump my head again.