Monday, January 12, 2015

I'd Like to Thank the Stucademy

Stuart Bousel wrote 5000 words last Monday explaining why he wasn't going to post his Stuart Excellence in Bay Area Theater Awards, a.k.a. SEBATAs, a.k.a. "Stueys," this year. So it was a surprise when, round midnight last night (trust Stuart to post his awards at the witching hour), a post went up on the Theater Pub blog announcing the 14 Stuey winners—including me!

My "Best Breakthrough" Stuey recognizes my successfully self-producing Pleiades last August. "I was blown away by how organized and focused Marissa was, how determined she was to do it as best she could even the first time out," Stuart wrote. "Marissa strategized and planned, gathered information, raised funds, and was just in general super smart about it all. Was anyone surprised? Not really. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take one more moment to tell her she did an amazing job. Everyone looking to produce a show in 2015: call Marissa. She knows what she’s doing."

Inspired by last night's Golden Globes and by Stuart's own honesty in always speaking what's on his mind, I wrote an acceptance speech and posted it to Facebook this morning.

In my dreams, this is what I'm wearing to accept my Stuey Award.
Marchesa, Fall 2014.
"And the 2014 Stuey for Best Breakthrough goes to... Marissa Skudlarek, Pleiades."

(Applause. I get up from my seat, glide to the podium. At least I'd like to think I glide. The last time I wore high heels and a long gown, at the TBA Awards, I tripped and fell halfway down a flight of stairs and bruised my ankle. [Fortunately, no one witnessed it.] My friend Maura said this made me the Bay Area Jennifer Lawrence and that made me feel a little better, 'cause who doesn't want to be JLaw, but it's been two months and my ankle is still slightly tender. But this is all a daydream in which I'm wearing a gown that probably costs as much as my whole production of Pleiades so yeah, I glide, OK?)

"Gentlemen and la—wait, the Stuey Awards committee consists of only one gentleman—I gratefully accept the Stuey for Best Breakthrough. Of course, I think it’s kind of funny that in the citation for the award, I am praised for, basically, being a perfectionist and having my shit together—wait, can I say ‘shit’ here, or will I get bleeped?—when I often feel like my perfectionism is detrimental and that I don’t have my shit together at all. Like Stuart says, awards are kind of weird. And there’s a certain existential terror, too, in the idea of ‘Oh my God, if I’ve broken through, now I have to keep doing this.’ But honestly, all neurosis aside, I agree with our illustrious host and one-man awards committee that the Internet has gotten kind of awful recently, full of criticism and judgment and not the good kind of criticism and judgment, the place where you can always, always find someone who’ll tell you why you’re doing it wrong. And in a tough environment, in a tough year, I am genuinely touched that someone is willing to say in public that he thinks I’m basically headed in the right direction. That many of us in this room are headed in the right direction. And maybe this thought, and this award, will help me pick myself up faster in moments when I’m bogged down by neurosis and self-doubt. And in the meantime, yes, if you want to talk about best practices for self-producing, drop me a line and we’ll plan a coffee date. Awards have only as much power as we give them, but if this award can make me more personally hopeful or result in more knowledge about self-production being circulated in our community, then its power will be harnessed to a good cause. Thank you again."

(And I glide offstage.)

A couple of thoughts that I'd like to add tonight:

It's a little odd to get this award from Stuart, because his theater company, No Nude Men, was the nominal producer of Pleiades. It wasn't a financial arrangement. Instead, Stuart granted me the prestige of the NNM brand, with its 10+ years of history in the Bay Area; we had a few producer-y chats over coffee; and he let me text/email him with Silly Newbie Producer Questions as they came up. So I feel like a lot of my achievements as a producer simply involved asking good questions and listening to the advice of someone who's produced indie theater here for over a decade. Maybe that's rarer than it seems (Stuart would know), and maybe it's also a bit nepotistic. Fear of appearing nepotistic or biased, in fact, was one of the reasons that Stuart almost didn't post his awards this year. But hey, they are his awards, this is show business, and both he and I are people who overanalyze our actions, so who am I to quibble?

One thing I haven't overanalyzed, though, is the experience of producing Pleiades. Right after it closed, I became overwhelmed by a health crisis and a breakup, in quick succession. So I didn't really get a chance to take pride in my achievement, or to sort out my feelings about the show separately from everything else that was happening in my life. The wounds from my surgery and my breakup have now healed, and I've integrated those events into my self-narrative—but I haven't fully integrated Pleiades. (I haven't even been able to bring myself to open the script on my computer and incorporate the tiny changes that I made in rehearsals.) So winning a Stuey, having my efforts recognized, feels like an anchor, grounding me more firmly in sanity, reality, accomplishment. Yes. I wrote and produced a play. People noticed. And I shouldn't allow anything else to overshadow that.

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