See, there’s a (at least to me) unforeseen consequence of reading plays in public: in my two weeks of data gathering this was the second instance of an actor striking up a conversation. That’s a lot for me. Strangers don’t talk to me. In that time, in a city of a million people, the only other person who talked to me was an old Slavic woman at Whole Foods (we where both looking for rye flour). I assume that I’m unapproachable because I appear focused, or upset, or busy, or not to give a shit about people, but for whatever reason nobody in libraries or subways or the post office ever talks to me. When I’m caught reading a play, however, the rules are apparently different.
The first time somebody asked me if I was an actor, in the library elevator (the first time in the period in question that I saw another human being while clutching an arm full of plays) I just said “oh, umm...no” and the doors opened and that was it. Actually I think it might have happened again in the park but I don’t exactly remember.
Well, last week I was reading American Buffalo on my train platform and this guy asked if I was an actor, without really thinking about it I said “no, I’m a writer” what I didn’t foresee because I wasn’t paying attention was that we were not in an elevator where the doors would open and the exchange would reach a natural end, but sitting next to each other, waiting for the same train. I had made eye contact and given a piece of information about myself, so etiquette dictated that I ask him the obvious question and predictably it turned out that he was an actor. So then there was a ten minute wait and we couldn’t exactly ignore that we knew each others professions and that we were in the same field. We exchanged light shop talk and basic biographical information and he gave me his e-mail and said he’d like to read some of my stuff. Then there was a ten minute train ride, and when I got to my stop he reminded me to send him something.
Now, I’m not an idiot and my talent for self deception is good but it’s not quite that good, so I’m pretty sure I was being chatted up. I enjoyed talking to the guy but I don’t think I’m interested in (for lack of a vaguer term) dating him. So, is the right thing to do not to send him my work? Actors are good people to know. Strangers are good people to get to read your work. I don’t know any one or meet anyone and I shouldn’t pass up opportunities for contacts. I’ve been meaning to copyright my submission portfolio (which is just anything I have written that I’d consider submitting to theaters, groups, contests, or grant organizations), so I’ve used the fact that my work is unprotected as further reason not to deal with this. But for all I know this guy was just being friendly, or trying to make a professional contact, it’s good for unemployed actors to know unknown writers, maybe he was looking to get cast in a reading... I’ve never had feel for this stuff, I don’t know how I’ve survived this long with no intuition at all.