A play is a hypothesis of thought surrounding a philosophy – the good, the bad, advantages, disadvantages, gains and losses – so by the time I am finished writing one, it feels as if I’ve written several. This is certainly the case with my 2014 play, “Featherstone”, slated to make its debut on 11/07/2014.
“Featherstone” is about a rather bitter psychologist and his receptionist son and their interactions with a married couple who have become disenchanted with each other. Dr. Featherstone himself is disenchanted, but mainly with people who have allowed themselves to become disenchanted. The play is an examination of choice, both the choices we own and the ones rather foisted upon us by society, including but not limited to social media, friends, family, in-laws, colleagues and acquaintances. The key question in the piece is: do we choose who we love?
Of course, the material is very personal to me, as I went through a dreadful divorce which still has a distant but present deadening echo in my life. However, my perspective was only one in the labyrinth of perspectives possessed by the aforementioned friends, family, in-laws, colleagues and acquaintances, to say nothing of the woman I chose to marry once upon a time. Thus, “Featherstone” is a deep dive into the motives, rationales and reactions of all parties concerned. It would be too easy to do a “look at this bad thing that happened to me” piece of work, but I detest work of that type. Despite protestations or innocent shrugs, no person is merely a protagonist in their life; no person is merely an antagonist. It takes two to strangle.
So what about it: do we choose who we love? Although I personally lean towards the affirmative, there are compelling reasons for both responses. A compelling reason FOR: feelings are the one thing we can control or manage in our lives. Who hasn’t been advised that we might feel anything based on a situation, but it is up to us how we ultimately react? This, to me, suggests we are ultimately in control of these things called feelings. A compelling reason AGAINST: feelings are strongly associated with experiences, especially of a younger age. Who hasn’t been told that we learn the vast majority of emotional responses to situations by the time we are five years old? Thus, it could be arguable that what we experience at 30 is directly tied to these hidden or forgotten events, which may lead us, quite rightly, to conclude “I cannot help how I feel.”
The reason I lean towards the affirmative is not a gut feeling but an intellectual approach. By actively choosing who and what I love, I can manage the predictable variations in those gut feelings. In my own marriage, even when I was fully aware there was trouble, I harnessed my faculties to choose, daily, the person I was with. That person I was married to actively went with her gut, which, near the end of our marriage, led to the brilliant line, “If I leave, I betray you; if I stay, I betray me.” As poetic as that comment was, it was simply hurtful. At the end of the day, even if I am slightly detached on the emotional front, I prefer it to the damage that might be wrought at the hands of emotions with its largely unseen and unexamined roots.
“Featherstone” and its four primary characters run the gamut of our engagement with love, from choice to gut, to desperation to disgust, to fear to expectation and allows breathing room for all.
It is my hope that my latest hypothesis for the stage will inspire some good food for thought, perhaps even more than my previous works “Venus Envy” and “The Observatory,” which were almost as well known for their talkback sessions as they were for themselves.
“Featherstone” runs Fridays-Saturdays-Sundays from November 7 – 23, 2014.
The Charnel House, 3421 W Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647