playwriting salvation

Healthy eating can be distilled to one simple rule— wilderness survival is simple, love can be distilled to one simple rule—

Any time I write a man into a play as the protagonist’s romantic partner, he is always lucid, clear, and simple—simplicity not as a synonym for unintelligent, but for pure. Purity of heart, Augustine says, is about willing one thing. It means willing with an undefiled, undistracted will. A will that is, finally, completely free.

The women I write as their partners are, of course, disasters—they don’t so much wear their hearts on their sleeves as stuffed away inside them, suffocating, bleeding out a trail of bloody mess everywhere they go and all over everything they touch. Much of the play’s action features the women bleeding on everything, and the men cleaning it up behind them, longsuffering and endlessly tender.

I think the men I write are saints.

After writing the most recent iteration, I stared at the pages and wondered—with horror—what deformed fantasy was bubbling up from my subconscious. What am I trying to tell myself? And what sorts of expectations am I placing on others?

I remember writing out the first iteration of these romances my senior year of college and distinctly feeling myself pouring out on the page the yin and yang of love inside me: I was this cold calcified hurricane of a woman, exacting retribution for a hurt she could never quite forgive. I was that irretrievably tender heart that, once wounded, kept bleeding over everything she touched. I was also the gentle husband who stood next to her through tantrums, who was simple, pure and uncomplicated in what he wanted, who listened when he couldn’t understand and had no limit to what he was there to give.

As I write these couples, walking them through storms and seas, I think I write to discover how the gentle lover can win inside of me. I write to try to learn how I can love without self-effacement, how I can forgive, how I can break stony anger into something more full-blooded.

I think I write to discover how conditioned, contingent, patient, healthy love can be unconditional, can become something eternal.

Relationships aren’t archetypes but people. No one is ever simple over time, but needs space to work their tangled way towards simplicity. I write the art I hope life imitates: that all my complicated mess to be met by one who can receive it simply. And that I can meet his choppy waves with the same grace.

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