Studio X-hibtion director, Brenna Geffers, talks about the first time she met Noah Haidle.
One very normal, drab winter’s day at the office, I get a phone call. “Hey Brenna, it’s me. Noah.” Oh! Ok…. He says he is calling because he wants to make sure that I know that he is real. That he is not imaginary. Now if you have ever read any of his work or if you know me at all- this statement is not as frivolous as it sounds. It is in fact a pretty important fact to establish. Because the fact of the matter is- no matter how many emails we have exchanged or how many status updates I may get from his facebook page, Mr. Noah Haidle is (or was) mostly imaginary to me. And I liked it that way. Directing a play can be both overwhelmingly social and incredibly lonely. But no matter what, there is always this little secret presence at your side. An aspect that no other person can come between. You and the Play. It is a selfish thing really. In my mind, I am the expert on the play. I know what every words means, what every image resonates with. But to be suddenly met with an actual voice, an actual expert on the play? It sort of interrupts the secret world I built. But none the less- like it or not- there is a person on the other end of the line. After about an hour of talking about classic music, ninjas, Robert De Niro and whether or not heroine jokes can ever be funny, he says he is coming down in the spring to see it. And I hang up. Oh! Ok…… Skipping over the details of him moving twice- to two different coasts. Of him changing his cell number- thus not getting my texts. And skipping over my early spring panic that he wasn’t talking to me anymore. And him calling again randomly with his new cell number. And the flight info and all that jazz.... And so – he arrives. Actual. Luckily for me, he smokes. Marlboro Reds. A Lot. This is first thing we do. The second is to go buy more cigarettes. He buys me a pack. A peace offering. Then there is the small talk. How do you have small talk with the personification of your own aesthetic? And unluckily for me- Noah is not good at small talk. At all. He wouldn’t mind me saying that. Because he really isn’t. But I can assure you- it got better. And we watch the final run of my show. Of his show. Of what is - like it or not- our show. It is the final run before opening the next day so there are only a few other people in the house. And we sit together in the back. And the lights go down. And all I can think is- he will hate it. But if he does- will I care? Should I care? The show begins. It is worth mentioning here that – no matter what else may happen- That Night my cast gives the best performance possible of this show. It is lightening crackling up there. Vicious. Funny. Not a fake or cute or sentimental moment. It was perfect. For me. This was the show I had wanted to create. Maybe it would never exist this sharp, this honest, this immediate again. That’s the funny thing about theater. After the first scene, Noah pokes me. Actually. And he says. “This is beautiful.” And I sigh. We watch the show. He points out things he likes. I get a poke every time something is “kick-ass.” I see him watch his own show too, hearing words that ring out clear. And ones that he no longer likes. I mention to him after he flinches at one line that “that moment normally happens better.” He whispers back that it is his bad art, not mine. And for a moment I get what it must be like to be a writer- wandering into worlds that are your own. And not your own. We watch the rest of the show. And then it is over. We go to a dive bar and play Lady Gaga and Johnny Cash on the jukebox. I walk him home. We talk about time. And parallel universes. And things you might expect from a playwright who writes plays like he does. And other things that are none of your business. The next day is opening night. We go to the Mutter Museum to see the skulls. We eat salads. We invent the next great American Novel. And sing songs. He buys a new suit. We go to the Society of Exile champagne toast. We walk to the theater to see the show. There is nothing either of us can do about Saturn Returns anymore. We are useless to it. It was nice to not be the only useless artist in the room for once on my opening night. And then it is over. So that is what it was like to meet the playwright. It was in some ways really awesome. And in some ways- really not. I compared it to someone – I don’t remember who- that is was like Darth Vader. Do you really want to see the weak, old man behind the mask? I don’t know. But for now- Noah Haidle will go back to being mostly imaginary for me. Just how I like him to be. Cheers, Brenna