Grow up!

By Burt Prelutsky

A few years ago, I wrote my first play. It was my take on “The Taming of the Shrew,” in which I cleverly moved the action from 16th-century Italy to 19th-century Texas. It was very funny. It was, quite frankly, a comic masterpiece. But you’ll have to take my word for that because I could never find a home for it. God knows it wasn’t for lack of trying.

There was nary a theatre in America I didn’t approach. But I kept getting rejected, even by those people who read the play and claimed to enjoy it. It seems that because I had nine speaking roles in “The Taming of the West,” and because it wasn’t a musical, they all claimed it was too expensive to mount.

The only works they would even consider were three or four character dramas with a single set. By the time I had received my 10th rejection, it occurred to me that what they were all seeking was what I had come to think of as crybaby plays. If I had written some boring show in which a middle-aged transvestite got to spend two acts screaming at his elderly parents because they’d denied him a three-way mirror when he was a teenager, I bet I would have had to use a stick to beat off producers eager to stage “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go.”

While mulling over my misfortune at having wasted all that time writing a never-to-be-produced laugh riot, it suddenly hit me that it’s not merely our stages, but much of society that has fallen into this crybaby mode.

Some days it seems as if everybody is a victim. It’s not just the obvious groups, either. Oh, sure, blacks and Hispanics have turned it into something of an art form. But give women half a chance and they’ll chew your ear off with their endless complaints – you’d think they were all living in Soviet gulags, instead of dwelling in the sort of comfort and luxury unknown to Catherine the Great.

My fellow Jews, many of whom see an anti-Semite every time they spot someone wearing a cross, and spend half their time sniffing the air for a whiff of an upcoming pogrom, carry on as if they’re dress extras in “Fiddler on the Roof.” One almost expects some of them to suddenly start yelling “The Cossacks are coming! The Cossacks are coming!”

Or listen long enough to people like Sens. Kerry, Kennedy, Boxer and Byrd, and you could get the idea that working stiffs in America are being ground under by their bosses. When the Democratic honchos get a full head of steam – which, by the way, is usually what their heads are full of – you would think they had all studied at the feet of Leon Trotsky. What’s truly odd about them is that, like their Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, they are all multimillionaires, and yet they spend every waking hour condemning the super rich. They are prime examples of people having their cake, eating their cake, and complaining that other people seem to have cake.

But nearly everybody in this country seems to revel in being a victim, and I can’t imagine why. A cheap play for sympathy? Who wants it? Who needs it? Besides, sympathy quickly morphs into pity, and who in his right mind wants to be pitied? You might as well carry a sign announcing you’re a complete loser. And a bore, to boot.

We often divide each other into optimists and pessimists, depending upon whether we see the glass as half full or half empty. It’s not really such a good test, depending, as it does, on how thirsty the person is. It’s better to concentrate on how people view their lives. If you concentrate on the part that’s full, not only will you be happier, but everybody around you will be happier because they won’t have to put up with your constant grousing. If, on the other hand, you’re the sort who concentrates on the part that’s empty, I have three words for you: Get over it!

Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, your various complaints are mere quibbles, rarely rising even to the level of legitimate gripes. It’s nothing more than whining, and you folks really ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

I, on the other hand, wrote a truly magnificent play, the comedy that Shakespeare could only dream of writing, and I couldn’t even get some outfit called The Self Family Arts Center of South Carolina to stage the damn thing!