Last Monday, experimental playwright Jim Neu passed away from lung cancer at age 66.
In 2001, while house managing at Performance Space 122, I met Jim during the run of his Aerobia, an experimental play created in collaboration with choreographer Douglas Dunn. I am embarrassed to admit now that, at the time, I wasn’t much interested in the piece. I had just moved to New York, and I had a lot of ideas about what *should* be happening in experimental performance. I wasn’t a good listener. I wasn’t interested in slowing down and hearing what more experienced artists had to teach me. I had the answers, and I wanted to tell the world. Even so, Jim’s supremely clever writing, apparently effortless grace, and sneakily wry delivery have stuck with me. I can still hear him in my head, and I have come to appreciate the lessons he had to offer – lessons about pacing, timing, and patience.
At Jim’s funeral on Friday, his wife Carol Mullins, also a friend and colleague, made a point to mention that Jim actively chose to work a non-arts job to support himself and his art, so that he could “write the plays he wanted to write,” rather than chase grants. Another lesson. One of the greatest contemporary experimental playwrights worked a day job his entire life, with grace and without bitterness. And, he kept making art.
Pacing, timing, patience.
I will try to live up to the example, or, as Neu put it in Aerobia:
I can do it
I can do it
I know I can do it
other people do it
sometimes, when they do it, they don’t remind me of me
there’s a lot of confidence out there
when it’s time to do something, sometimes I’m underconnected
it’s not the same as not knowing what I’m doing
but sometimes it feels like I know it later
I wonder what that looks like
I wonder if wondering what it looks like makes it look like it more
Thanks, Jim. We will miss you.