Material for Malcolm Porter

Program-MalcomPorterMaterial for Malcolm Porter
by Matt Herzfeld

Directed by Barry Satchwell Smith*
Music by Jack Ramsey

Featuring: Jessiee Datino, Jake Green, Louis Hobson, and Kristen Vaphides

Material for Malcolm Porter asks the question: “Which comes first, art or life? And does it really matter?” Malcolm is a wry and jaded memoirist in search of his next book when he meets Kathy, an impressionable young woman hungry for love. In his skeptical investigation of the human condition, will Malcolm grow a conscience as he battles unexpected feelings, or will he merely manipulating them to pen his next bestseller?

From the Playwright:

Literary scandals used to be about sex or politics – a writer would push the envelope of decency, or insult a powerful public figure, or criticize the governing order. It’s harder to offend people these days with dirty words, and free speech, at least in theory, protects the right to challenge authority. But there’s still one good, old-fashioned way to bring about a literary scandal – gain someone’s confidence, manipulate their emotions, make them feel like a friend, and do it all with lies.

James Frey knows this. Mike Daisey knows this. But what if there was another way? What if, instead of writing words that don’t correspond to the facts, one forced life to conform? What if one planned and plotted and schemed and always knew, at all times, that they would be writing their life down, so the more interesting they made it, the more risks they took, the more they pushed themselves and others to conflict, the better the story would be? There is no lying in this, no deviation from the complete and full truth. Or is there?

When I was about thirteen years old, I locked myself out of the house. I came home from school and went inside, set my backpack down, took the dog out, and soon realized I’d forgotten to take the key back outside with me. I could see it through the window, sitting there on the kitchen table and taunting me while I waited hopelessly on the porch. No, this wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but I had an important essay to write. My parents wouldn’t be back for a few hours, and I began to panic that I wouldn’t have time to finish my homework. At that time, I was writing a mini-comic book with my friend, full of tiny slice-of-life stories inspired by my hero, Cleveland comic book writer Harvey Pekar (American Splendor). Suddenly, I realized that this would make a perfect story for the comic. Normally, I would have sat on the porch helplessly for two hours, but inspired by the potential of a funny tale, I walked around the house and tried to nudge open the windows. I knocked on my neighbor’s door (no one was home). I removed a bunch of junk in front of the secret passageway to the garage, hoping it would be unlocked (it wasn’t). The goal was not to get inside the house. The goal was to have a lot of action so that my friend had plenty of things to draw in the comic book.

As you might expect, it was not the most interesting short comic ever produced, but that was the first time I became aware of this tendency in me to collect material. I’ve done it many times since, in far more embarrassing situations, in times of extreme emotional distress, and with better storytelling potential. I’ve done it with family and friends and strangers and cute girls. I’ve done it to work up courage. I’ve done it to heal my heart. It’s a typewriter inside of your head, a distancing technique, a voice that says everything will be fine in the end, because it’s all life experience, and it can all be mined. The worst, most disastrous, most violent, most shocking things – they’re all just a story in your book.

About the Playwright:

MATT HERZFELD (Playwright) is pursuing his MFA is Playwriting at The New School for Drama. Credits include: A Boy or a Girl (TinyRhino, The Brooklyn Lyceum);Storm Cell (Reading, Cleveland Public Theatre); And They Danced Until Dawn (Dobama Theatre, Ingenuity Festival). School credits: What I Lost;How Magnificent It Is To Be On the Highest Mountain. Matt also co-hostsPeculiar Streams, a bi-monthly showcase for new theater and music.