Critical Point Theatre will be performing a staged reading of [Ph][f]reaking on January 21st at 10:00pm at Dixon Place. Tickets are available for purchase now! Just click here
In preparing to write about what it’s like to be Joe, the protagonist of Critical Point Theatre’s play (Ph)Freaking, I spent a good amount of time reviewing photos I’m tagged in on Facebook from my college experience. Like Alice going down a rabbit hole, I found myself digging further into moments with wonder. It became harder and harder to look at a photo and try to remember why I was making the decisions I was making at the time.
And they were bad decisions. All of them. Every single one I made between 19-22, terrible.
That’s hyperbole, of course, but I’m certain that a number of people from my day-to-day real life during those times will confirm my assertion about my decision making.
I stumbled upon a particular photo that made me cringe instantly. This photo below.
I’m still cringing in fact. I had this idea in college that it was really fun for me to take off my shirt and have people write on my body, like I was a human greeting card. That’s permanent marker. And this is an idea that I tested more than once. This was one of the more appropriate photos of my body art.
It makes me hurt, honestly. I should look back at what was a very important four years of my life with a healthy nostalgia, but in reality most of the memories I’ve held onto are the result of shrill embarrassment of who I was as a human being. And not just because I did alcohol induced silliness like being a human greeting card, but rather because I treated people pretty poorly while i was drunk…and while I was sober too.
I’ve been playing around as Joe for the better part of two years now. Since we started working on this show from its smallest seedlings, I’ve been building a character’s backstory through creative rehearsals, readings, and workshop performances. The hardest part of being Joe was, for the longest time, treating him as a protagonist.
Without spoiling too much of the story of the show, Joe is a college student who reacts emotionally to a relationship ending that maybe he thought was more airtight than it really was. Joe loses his hope in this relationship publicly, makes a scene, and has no one to talk to. Cue the internet, where Joe changes his worldview during the night of the play, resulting in questionable decision making, that the audience is invited to explore later in the evening.
The play works if I can make Joe relatable, and part of relatability is likability. I’m generally a pretty likable guy, even at parts of my life when I’ve been a real asshole. But when I look back at Joe, in the context of all the ways I was screwing around and reacting too emotionally to young relationships, there’s nothing to like there. I was having difficulties making Joe a real person because I didn’t like him. Because I didn’t like me at that point in my life.
This leads me back to why I’m so excited to be sharing the work of this play with the world. We get to explore some revisionist history that I find healthy. In the dangerous world of this play, we as artists are allowing the audience to see what history would look like if you didn’t storm out of that party after seeing you ex happily moving on, OR, we allow you to be a glutton for punishment and relive that moment over again. The play is as impressionable as the confused young man at the forefront of it.
I am reaching that age where profile photos on things like my email that I took a few years ago, are eliciting responses from new co-workers like “There is no possible way that the person in that photo is you!”
Its not me. Not anymore. And I’ve been losing my ability to tap into that way of thinking. Playing Joe allows me to hang on to it for a bit longer. It allows me to say goodbye to a chapter of my life where I had no control, with some control this time around.
I’ll pitch our upcoming reading as an opportunity to see who I used to be. Joe is a fictional character played by me, but he is as much a real living person as the guy who used to take playing quarters too seriously, treat social gatherings as a status game, and burn bridges with the people he grew closest with (those are all things I did, by the way).
Joe is not necessarily a bad guy. But he’s certainly got some growing up to do, he’s not confident in his own choices, and he’s quick to play the victim. But if there’s hope for me to turn it around, which I believe I’ve done (except for the burnt bridges. A lesson kids, treat people you love with respect) then there is absolutely hope for Joe. After all, it’s just his first act that is written. His future relies on how the rest of the world guides him.