JERK is a new play developed by Critical Point Theatre,
written by Andrew Terrance Kaberline, and directed by Dylan James Amick.
Running from August 24th through September 2nd, at The Hive, in Brooklyn New York
You can purchase tickets for JERK here
And you can donate to our production, here
I look at my watch, then out the subway car window, then back to my watch. I’m not used to this line, an above ground one, and everything I see, I see for the first time. I’m trying not to be late.
When I get to my stop, I walk down to the street. I don’t have the slightest idea what direction I should walk in. I take out my phone and type in the address, but I try to make it look like I’m just checking my email or something, make it look like I know what I’m doing. I feel like everyone is looking at me, totally aware that I’ve never been to this particular part of Brooklyn before, and that’s silly, of course.
I follow my blue dot avatar until I walk past the theatre, down to the Dairy Queen on the corner, and then come back. I thought I’d be late but I’m the first one here. I can’t go inside all alone. That’s too uncomfortable. I’d rather be late than alone.
After a few anxious minutes floating on the sidewalk, Dylan and Will arrive, and we go inside. The space has a drum kit on the stage. There’s a catwalk set up currently above the concrete floor. It’s dark inside even though it’s bright outside. There are leftover pieces from fashion shows and band practices. There’s a mannequin with no arms. It’s the perfect place, but during all of this, I am focusing most on how stressed I allow myself to become when deciding whether to stand in a circle with the owners, or sit. It feels like life or death to me. For them, I’m sure they don’t remember it.
When Dylan, and Will, and I walk out later, we rave about how this is the place that needs to host JERK (The second of my Tape plays, after Fears). It’s a victorious venue tour, and as we walk and talk, smoke rises above the buildings only a few blocks from us, and as firetrucks whiz by blaring their sirens, we continue with our conversation about measurements and lighting rigs, pausing to let the sound of the emergency die down so we can be heard.
I believe the common perception of me, both from those who are very close to me and those who are acquaintances, is that I am very very calm. I recently was taking a shower, and a mouse got in the tub with me, and I didn’t scream or jump or make any fuss about it. That’s how I think people see me. What I find interesting, and what I feel other people might miss about me, is that the aforementioned minimal moments raise my blood pressure. I can’t remember much about the venue tour for the long awaited on-stage debut of the best thing I’ve ever written, but I can remember the minutia and discomfort of my trip there. This is precisely what JERK is about.
What JERK is now is not what it was when I first conceived it. Now, JERK is a play about being too tied to the past.
James claims to be a sex addict. Elizabeth isn’t so sure. What they do know is that neither one of them is alright. What appears to be a play about the contemptuous relationship between a patient and his doctor, devolves into madness after a sudden change in everyone’s circumstances, ending in a nightmarish frenzy of self-medicating. JERK is a psychological drama about the state of monogamy in burgeoning adults. A nightmare that lies somewhere between an expressionistic dream sequence, and a series of worn out memories.
The first time I can remember thinking about the idea for this play was in the fall of 2012, in a twin bed in Blacksburg. This was not long after the rash of celebrity men having infidelity sex scandals, and then chalking it up to be sex addicts. You’re probably thinking of Tiger Woods when I say that, but that fateful incident was in 2009, and opened the flood gates for those kinds of episodes from men in the public eye.
It seemed like a convenient excuse for constant and gross infidelity, but then they would be whisked away to treatment facilities and inpatient programs, so I assumed it was a real condition, and left it at that. It was only a little bit later that I learned that sex addiction doesn’t appear in the DSM-IV, and its existence is entirely in question depending on which medical professional you ask. I found this fascinating, and still do, and decided to write a play about it.
It was a quick first draft for me, and just like FEARS, the first draft stunk. It was nonsensical, a little sexist, and utterly unstageable.
I realized that the argument about the validity of sex addiction wasn’t interesting enough to sustain a full length play. I sought out to add more themes that plague my fellow millennials, into the mix; online dating, the globalization of hook up culture, changing social mores, the death of monogamy as we once knew it – and that helped, but the script was still missing something.
I was lucky to witness many different casts read this play at many different intervals in many different settings. There were readings in studios, apartments, a church.
Each time we did this, I would take away things that no longer interested me, and replace them with more stuff, and that’s when I stumbled onto what drives this show.
For most of the very very long preproduction process of JERK, Critical Point Theatre was focused on creating pieces about the internet. We had many creative rehearsals where we would talk at length about anonymity on the internet, and I believe that’s what led me to make a lamp the real main character of JERK. A lamp that I cannot say much more about without spoiling the show.
The anxiety I spoke to in the opening of this blog was internal, invisible. When we’re at home alone we move differently. We make weird noises and pick our noses.
In the case of most of the JERK characters, when they’re alone they masturbate. It’s a very personal act. One that we don’t want anyone else to see. So what happens when it doesn’t just fade away, but when we’re forced to take a long look at these types of solitary moments, and why we do them?
This is a show about sex, but it is not sexy. There’s infidelity, injury, and abuse. It’s also funny, and cruel, and the mood is influenced heavily by a series of paintings by a guy who Ansel Adams regularly called “the Anti-Christ.” It’ll take you on a ride, I promise. But the show is also not directly tied to my own experiences.
There’s almost nothing from my own life that pops up in this show.
A statement which I think deserves repeating.
I didn’t write what I knew. In this case, I did a lot of research, I talked with a lot of people about odd memories. I read a lot about those camps where people would try to turn gay men straight through pretty brutal conditioning.
I am proud of this show. I’ll say again, that it’s the best thing that I’ve ever written, while also being the most difficult to write.
What I did provide this script, what still makes it relatable to the deepest regions of my being, is my ever steadfast ability to remember in detail the most embarrassing, shameful moments of my life in exact detail, and my gross discomfort when thinking about them for more than fifteen seconds.
The two main characters in JERK have things they would rather forget. Feelings they wish they couldn’t access. Someone greater won’t let them. So they’re going to have to face their anxiety out in the open, with all the lights on,
But don’t worry, all you have to do is watch.
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JERK is coming to Brooklyn
Aug. 24th. Join our party.