Dear Mr. Albee,

In my early twenties, I wrote this letter to Edward Albee, my favorite playwright, thanking him for writing, and though the letter itself now feels puerile in ways,  I am certain that I still could not come up with better words to describe how much his plays meant to me. I can’t believe he won’t pen any more insightful, incisive, utterly absurd plays. His plays truly changed my life, and I’m so grateful. Rest easy, sir.

When I was sixteen, my high school English teacher gave me a copy of The Zoo Story. At first, it baffled me – I felt a heart-wrenching empathy, but I didn’t understand it. I devoured a number of your other works, trying to reconcile these emotions. When I had the chance to see Peter and Jerry at Second Stage Theater as a 20 year old, I thought I started to understand.

At the time, I was an undergraduate in a film and theater studies program, and I clearly remember a class in which we discussed the early work of Todd Haynes. In an interview, he spoke about the role of “deviance” in his films. He talked of exploring what threatens people’s sense of normalcy, and this struck me as a lens through which I could view your work. Sitting front row center at Second Stage, I watched Jerry threaten to bring the conventional structure of Peter’s world crashing to the ground.

I think that is when I understood why I love your plays so much. In them I see that the surface absurdities are masking pathos and earnestness, reveling in the ridiculous that which threatens the comfort of our world’s established social constructs. Of course, I can’t presume I understand what your intentions were while writing, but I don’t believe that my interpretations are invalid. This is my lengthy way of saying that your work has profoundly affected my attitude toward and general perspective of the human condition, and I could never effectively express my gratitude to you for helping me grow in the ways I have.

Ever since reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, I’ve firmly believed that the work of an artist is the work of a hero. Campbell’s hero looks deep within himself, identifies the demons of dream and myth that we avoid because they threaten our security and comfort, and in tackling them, he discovers his true self. Upon resurfacing, the hero becomes something better, and then helps the world become better as well. I think it takes courage for an artist to find and destroy such demons and create from the ashes something that will elicit truth through the reaction to it. To then also have the greater courage to share that creation so the world can experience and react to it, makes the artist an undeniable hero.

Thank you, Mr. Albee, for being a hero.

Most sincerely,

Excerpt: Domestic Correspondant III

…I’m currently drinking cran grape juice from a coffee mug (because I drink everything but coffee from mugs) and the design is sketches of fanciful insects. It’s Andy Warhol (who I will NEVER not love) and says “Happy Bug Day” on it. Inside the mug, a line of fine type runs below the lip w/the quote, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” Lately, that feels so difficult. It feels hard to let anything at all thrill me, and it’s the worst. It’s the classic knowing vs feeling thing. I know that Shakespeare wasn’t lying when he said you can find good in everything, and I know Henry Miller was right in saying every moment is golden to him who has the vision to see it as such…I know these things and believe them faithfully, but gosh, it feels overwhelmingly hard these days…

The world feels pretty empty and terrible right now. Really fucking terrible, to be honest. Still, I know that in the darkness, there are so many fighting the good fight to fill the world w/love and beauty again. And truly, I feel blessed (no hashtag) to know so many creatives, academics, educators, doctors, innovators, and just genuinely good and joyful people who perhaps don’t even know the value of their mere existence and the way they live and love. So many people I love are so very generous with themselves, w/their love and talents and various forms of brilliance. Even if I do nothing else, I think I would be happy if only I can help these people understand their self-worth, that they are doing something incredible, and they are loved. I think that would be enough.

Excerpt: Domestic Correspondant II

…On the whole, I’ve never had a problem with being unusual. When I was very young, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t what everyone else thought was normal, and later I liked it. I once wore the labels “weird” and “nerdy” as badges of pride, but I really don’t see the point anymore in using such classifications as marks of distinction. I guess it sounds pretty arrogant to essentially say that I think it’s silly to subscribe to labels, but I really do. If I read a lot of books, take classes for fun, and am generally interested in learning, I don’t need to attach myself to the connotations, or the denotations, either, of the word “nerd.” I’m just me, doing my thing regardless of what category I might be pigeonholed into.

I think it’s particularly difficult for people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. It’s not always so easy as picking “white,” “male,” “middle class” off a checklist, or even “Asian” and “four year college” for me. I have difficulty determining to what extent I identify as a “person of color,” as a “feminist,” as a “writer” or “critic.” I generally find comfort and stability in the naming of things, but not myself. Perhaps it’s reductive, but why do I need to differentiate between myself and others in so many ways? I of course understand the need for finding common ground, but do we have to establish so many fences to do so? The more we pen ourselves in, the harder it is to get out. Why isn’t it enough to say I am me and you are you, why do we have to shelter ourselves under the umbrellas of stereotypes?

Excerpt: Domestic Correspondant

…sometimes I’d prefer to have people I admire exist in my mind with the image I choose. Mostly I want to know all about everyone interested and talented, but it can be nice seeing someone only through the lens of their work… That’s one of the risks…yeah? Of course everyone has their flaws, and refusing to see them is like denying a person the permission to be him or herself around you. Where’s the value in that?

For me, the best art is accessible and authentic, and that’s how I like people, too. It’s how I try to be — I don’t want fragments of people, I want them whole, I want all of them. Sometimes I think, being yourself while conveying to others that it’s safe for them to be themselves around you, is incredibly daunting and hard, but is it really so challenging? I suppose it’s easier said than done, even if it shouldn’t be that way. But I mean, trust begets trust, yeah? Give of yourself openly, show that you trust that you can be yourself, and isn’t that act generally reciprocated? I really don’t think it takes much.

I may not seem it — I don’t even know any more — but I’m pretty shy, and I used to have a very hard time feeling safe being myself 100% with new people. It’s made me try more consciously to put others at ease, as that, in turn, relaxes me. I still retreat into myself often, when I meet people I already admire and like and want to know and be known to. It makes me appreciate people…even more for so graciously putting people in a space where they feel comfortable, and for making [themselves] approachable…it’s this that makes [you] a person whose acquaintance I’m happy to have made.

Excerpt: Foreign Correspondant

…I’m going to a benefit at my favorite bar on Sunday for a girl who broke her neck zip lining and is now paralyzed. She’s only 25, and she was a dance instructor. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.

I also can’t imagine how my friend with the 2 young kids feels. She and her family just moved back to our hometown, and she’s…having trouble. She’s also 25. It truly amazes me, how different people’s journeys are, ya know? Everyone has a story, and that story is constantly changing. This one girl is learning to feed herself again [as she regains movement in her arms], my other friend is trying to raise 2 kids…you’re across the world…and here I am wandering around trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life…

There’s a screenwriting book I really like that talks about this element of a script that they call “stasis = death.” The idea is that you put your protagonist in a situation where something absolutely needs to change for the character. This happens near the beginning. The character can sense that the change is coming, and then essentially, the rest of the story is about the change itself and the struggle involved. A person’s life isn’t a single plot line, but many running at the same time, and those stories aren’t all at the same plot point. All these pieces are part of the big picture, yeah? Well, I feel right now that most of my plot lines, and therefore my life as a whole, are at “stasis = death” moments. I mad absolutely need some change in my life, and I’m doing my best to make that happen.