Thursday, July 14, 2016


I'm reviving my play, Waiting for the Podiatrist (2003), for the San Francisco Fringe Festival, opening September 9.  There are many changes:

1.  The title is now Awaiting the Podiatrist.  Although I hated to let go of the witty reference to Beckett's famous play, I could not BEAR being at the end of the alphabet!  You know about the San Francisco Chronicle's alphabetical listings?  Well, sometimes you have to turn the page to get to the W's, and you don't because the last listing on the page you're reading begins with a V, and you just ASSUME -- YOU ASSUME -- that there are no more listings and you just don't turn the page!  And you never find out that the fucking Little Man in the Chair is clapping for Waiting for the Podiatrist! 

Do you know how hard it is for a small grass-roots production to receive a fucking Little Man Clapping from the Critic on High????  No, you don't, do you?  It's very very hard, and hardly anyone saw it because THEY DIDN'T BOTHER TO TURN THE PAGE!

Well.  I didn't realize I would get so exasperated writing this blog.  Perhaps YOU, dear reader, are one of the enlightened who ALWAYS turns the page.  If so, my fervent gratitude and apologies.  

So I sacrificed a brilliant, sly title to alphabetical order.  That's what comes from being a mature artist who wants more attention.  

2.  Podiatrist is no longer two acts that run 110 minutes.  It's one act in 60 minutes. 

In 2003, Act One was about Mom and Alex (who represents me) struggling with the decision on whether to pull the plug on comatose Dad.   And Act Two dealt with Dad's recovery, and Alex convincing Dad that he needed to eat so he had strength for rehabilitation.  

Podiatrist 2003 was kind of a family play, albeit with puppets for parents.  In Act Two, the parents bickered and reminisced, the father wished for death because he didn't want to be a burden to his wife and child, the daughter tried to get her father to eat some chicken Parmesan.  Dad was really the main character of Podiatrist 2003.  

2003 ending:  Dad takes a bite of food (not so easy to do with a puppet -- where does the food end up?).  
2016 ending:  Dad comes out of his coma.  No rehab, no chicken Parmesan, no marital bickering.  

Yes, I do look like my father.  People have told me
that since I was seven years old. 
My father worked very hard his whole life -- six days a week at his own advertising agency until he was 78.  Born poor, he had been the Golden Boy.  Always a success.  He had never had to overcome obstacles.  When he was 83 and in a coma, we all agreed that he would not be interested in the frustrations of rehab.  And when he recovered enough to speak his mind, he told us exactly the same thing and refused to eat.  I thought he was slowly dying.  I didn't know whether to honor his desire to exit this mortal coil or to cajole him to finish his dinner.   I'll never forget when the chaplain, a rabbi, came out of my dad's room after talking to him.  He  said, "I don't see a dying man.  I see an unhappy man." "Well," I thought, "if anyone knows what dying looks like, it's a hospital chaplain.  So Dad's got to face Life!  with a capital 'L'"!  

Podiatrist 2003 was about facing death when you don't want to, and facing life when you don't want to.   

Podiatrist 2016 is a mother/daughter play, very focused on the two of them wrestling with the decision of taking Dad off the ventilator.   This dilemma resonates very differently for me now, because we actually DID take my younger sister Nancy off a ventilator in 2009, so that she could die.   Nancy's husband, George, was the one with the legal power.  Her daughter Rose and I fully supported him.  

Afterwards, I was flooded with feelings of guilt, which I eventually worked through with the help of others.  But now I'm back there again, wondering what Nancy would have wanted, if we did the right thing.  The pushy, determined Alex from the 2003 play seems awfully cold-blooded and self-interested to me now.  And yet, I certainly don't want to write a play that says you should keep comatose loved ones on ventilators indefinitely!

Maybe Podiatrist 2016 is about the impossibility of knowing what is the right decision in extreme circumstances.     

3.  The biggest change since 2003 is that the members of my immediate family -- mother, father and younger sister -- were all alive then.  And now they're gone.  Working on the play reminds me of that, and I miss them.  I feel lonely.  

Not that my family was perfect.  Well, look at this photo.   Nancy WAS the perfect sister. Or I could say we had a perfect relationship -- very loving and honest.  

Which person in this photo is most alive, most joyful, most open?  Nancy lived the last year and a half of her life with such grace.  I was lucky to be her companion on that journey.

Nancy isn't a character in PODIATRIST  because it made dramatic sense for the Daughter to be an only child.  But she shared fully in all the experiences the play is based on, so I felt dishonest for erasing her.  In 2003, I dedicated the play to her, to make amends for her erasure, and to tell the audience about her.  I'm going to dedicate the play to her again.