Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Coming soon

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Without risking becoming one of those tiresome people who recounts how busy he’s been by providing a litany of tasks and appointments, let’s just confirm the assumption that there’s been a lot going on. Among other things, I’ve given a number of talks in California that I hope to be writing about here soon. (We’ll see.) And in addition to doing a lot of speaking, I’ve been doing a lot of (non-blog) writing.

Looking ahead:

I’ll be in New Jersey and New York May 4 – May 10, so I’m hoping to catch up with some friends and colleagues.

May 10 – May 12, I’ll be in Lake Tahoe on business.

May 18 – 21, I’ll be in bucolic Hays, Kansas for my good friend James Smith’s long-overdue wedding to a delightful and beautiful woman who will actually have him. James has been in more of my plays than any other actor (eight of them? 10?), and now he’ll be acting the role of a responsible grown-up. I’ve never been to Hays, Kansas or, I think Kansas itself. A good friend who is also a very good playwright, Ross Tedford Kendall, is also from Kansas, and when I told him I’d be visiting Hays, he just laughed long and hard. That caught my attention. But hey, where I’m from isn’t exactly a metropolis either.

On June 3, my new play “Triptych” will be opening in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. More to come about that. (Including a link to secure tickets.) The play went through several different working titles, including “Pyramid,” “Triangle,” “Triptych” and “How We Know You,” before my director convinced me to call it “Triptych.” I would say I’m hoping for the best, as one always does with a production, but I’m blessed with three honest-to-God great actors, all of whom I’ve worked with before, and a talented director who understands my work and my sensibility. If you’re in LA in June, I hope you’ll come see it.

Musical legacy

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

We don’t always recognize the people who’ve made a significant impact on our lives. Sometimes it’s the engineers we can’t name who built the roads and bridges we drive; sometimes it’s the people who created the systems we use; sometimes it’s the person who designed, say, the handy squeezable ketchup or mustard bottle. Sometimes it’s artists, and sometimes it’s the business people behind the artists. Usually, those business people behind the artists get a (deservedly) bad reputation.

Which made it all the sweeter today to read about a tribute to Robert Hurwitz, who just retired as the head of Nonesuch Records.

During his 33 years heading up Nonesuch, Hurwitz helped helm the careers of John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, Randy Newman and many others. All of those names, and several others in his professional legacy, can be found in my music collection. It’s nice to see a “suit” get some credit for having taste, and for helping the masses share in that taste. Although I’d never heard of him before, it turns out that for decades Robert Hurwitz has helped to curate my listening.

Thank you, sir. Enjoy your retirement.

The perfectly decorated home…

Friday, March 10th, 2017

…If you’re a mollusk.

Take a look.

Preparation pays off

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

In preparation for International Women’s Day, I was born to a woman, I married a woman, I sired a woman, I helped get more than one woman elected, I selected many woman friends, and I got a woman business partner. I have huge respect for this woman thing, and I am all in on it.

“It’s not all binary.”

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard all day. Or longer.

It was said by one of the other speakers at the Innovation Expo in Napa Valley where I was also a presenter today.

His point: Not everything is yes or no; black or white; Democrat or Republican. Most things — most answers — most choices — lie along a spectrum. Yes sometimes; no other times; sometimes, something in the middle.

The worst thing going on in the country is the binary camps. It’s like we’re all caught in the middle of the Coke vs. Pepsi war we saw twenty years ago, and 7-Up is nowhere to be seen.

It leads to something like this:

I have a friend who is a solid, thoughtful, caring person who also voted for Trump. (As did many of my other friends — and relatives — around the country.) In addition to a lot of other community service this friend does, he’s also part of the ski patrol — you know, those guys who rescue you when you’ve had a bad mishap on the slopes. He’s a life saver. Last month I saw this friend at an event and he was pretty sore because one of his closest friends — a friend whose life, he said, he’d once held in his hands — unfriended him on Facebook because of their differing political views.

That’s pretty bad. I wish it hadn’t happened.

For the record, as you’ve gleaned, I loathe Donald Trump. And it’s not a recent thing — I’ve detested him for 35 years, for reasons that were made abundantly clear throughout last year’s presidential campaign. But people vote for the people they vote for for a variety of reasons, and sometimes that reason is because they’re voting for some of a candidate’s issues (and not others), and sometimes that reason is because they don’t like the other choice, and so they settle. (I didn’t like the person I ultimately felt forced to vote for either.) But I’m doing my best not to lose any friends (or relatives!) because they voted for the other candidate. Even though my fear is that this particular president is a threat to the republic.

Earlier today, in a break between sessions, I got caught up in a Facebook exchange with a friend who lives in Kansas. One of her friends was responding to my friend’s outrage about Kellyanne Conway sitting on her bare feet on a couch in the White House. The exchange got silly in a nasty way, and then this person I don’t know called me out as a “liberal,” which I take it meant pejoratively, and here was my response:

“A couple of misunderstandings on your part that perhaps I can help with. And I’m going to share them with care and respect, because I can see you’re a friend of Jodi’s, and I have to tell you, I love Jodi, and also because I’m doing my best to have respectful conversations with people online. First, the easy part: when you say ‘the liberals lost…’ you are assuming that I’m a liberal. You shouldn’t assume. I’m a common-sense centrist. When I look at what Republicans theoretically represented at one point, most of that would have fit me just fine. Secondly, ‘liberals’ — whomever they are — are not upset because they ‘lost.’ They are upset because they a) don’t like what Trump REPRESENTS (that seems to be: misogyny; racism; authoritarianism; disrespect for the judiciary; mocking the handicapped; and boy could I go on); and b) they are concerned that the election was STOLEN because of Russian interference; and c) they are concerned that Trump is IN THE POCKET of the Russians. So it’s not about losing an ELECTION — we’ve all lost elections — it’s about LOSING THE COUNTRY. That’s why, no matter one’s political inclinations, EVERYONE should seek a full investigation of Russian influence. Because, as Americans, we should all wish for the good of the nation. I wish you a good night.”

Also, in the thread, I agreed with this person that Bill Clinton had disgraced that very same room, the Oval Office, in his dealings with Monica Lewinsky. And, I’ll add, he lied about it under oath.

Not a binary response, for a Democrat.

In the binary-response world, I’d have to stick up for “my” people no matter what, and this other person would have to stick up for his people no matter what.

That’s what we have to get away from.

Because most things in life aren’t binary.

And because facts should matter.

When I was a boy, I kept all the food served to me at dinner nicely isolated in separate areas on my plate, so nothing would touch. I didn’t want the sauce or runnings from one thing seeping into something else. My mother teased me about this once, and I said, “Do you like ketchup?” She assured me that she did. So I said, “Well, you don’t want it in your coffee, do you?” Of course not. So, see: sometimes, in some circumstances, she likes ketchup — but she doesn’t like it in other places.

We all live along a spectrum of choices. At times, even life and death aren’t binary. Medical professionals sometimes debate whether people in certain circumstances on life support are still “alive” or “dead.” As those of us who remember the Terri Schiavo case recall.

Not everything is binary.

Political theatre (of the absurd)

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot” in four months. Six years later, the GOP are still trying to draft their replacement for Obamacare. All they’ve got so far is intermission.

Late Wednesday

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Thanks to everyone who donated to the fund drive to fix Jon’s car and help him get back to work. The goal was $1500. We raised $2270. That alone made it a great day.

Last night I had heard my new play, “How We Know You,” read by actors for the first time, in a first rehearsal for a small invited reading on Saturday night. The cast — two women and a man — are all veteran theatre actors, with many dozens (hundreds?) of credits. Only a truly great actor can be funny and ambiguous in a menacing role without seeming too menacing, which must mean that Dana Schwartz is a truly great actor. Which is certainly my theory. Some people immediately get my plays, and she one of those people. About 12 years ago, we did a reading of my play “Safehouse” at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood.  I knew then that the play doesn’t fully work, but Dana, and Richard Ruyle, and James Smith, were so great in the play that people got confused and thought the play was great. (At least, until it wasn’t.) But watching Dana last night made me think that, yes, I should pull that play out at some point and try to fix it.

I’m in the San Francisco Bay area and Napa Valley today until Friday night. Given how many different places I’m going, and that I’d have to drive to an airport, park, clear TSA, wait, board, rent a car, drive all over the place anyway, and repeat the process in reverse two days later, I decided just to drive. It took me about four hours to get to my first stop. (Google maps had predicted 6 hours, but we’re not going to talk about that, although I will say at some point I noticed I was doing 102 and decided that might be excessive.)

I can testify that from all visual evidence, the drought is definitely over. In the 29 years I’ve lived in this state, and the innumerable road trips I’ve taken, I’ve never seen the center of the state so filled with lakes. Large lakes, populated by waterfowl, neither of which used to be there. As the line from Coleridge goes, “Water, water, everywhere.” The last several years I’ve been up here, the hills were a caked brown. Now they shimmer with green.  One thing that hasn’t changed:  the ferocious bugs that spatter across your windshield as you drive through the grapevine and stick like glue. No amount of squeegeeing gets them off.

Finally, an endorsement. Every once in a while, Fuddruckers lives up to its claim to have the world’s best hamburgers. Tonight was one of those times. Driving was smooth all day until I hit the crush of cars leaving San Jose around 5 (of course). After about an hour in which I made every phone call I could think to make, and listened to the news, and grew tired of every bit of music in my catalog, I figured it’d make more sense to have a beer and something to go with it while waiting out the traffic. My GPS located a Fuddruckers right along the way. I can’t offhand think of another chain in California where you can get a too-large burger cooked just right, plus steak fries, plus a side salad and, thank you Lord, an ice-cold craft beer, for eighteen bucks. I sat down to enjoy it and as a passing thought wondered what Anthony Bourdain would think of it, when I flipped over the copy of the New Yorker I’d brought inside to read with my meal — and there was a profile of Anthony Bourdain. Timing is everything.

Fund drive

Monday, February 27th, 2017


This is what my friend Jon woke up to — someone hit his car late last night and left no information. Sticking him with all the damage.

Jon, who is in his 50s, was unemployed for two years and barely scraping by on little freelance jobs here and here.  Lately he’s found something a little better (although still hourly, and still freelance). His auto insurance covers only liability — not collision — and he works 100 miles away from where he lives… so now he can’t work.

Some of his friends have banded together and set up a GoFundMe page to help Jon get his car fixed. Because he’s seriously out of options. Without the Fund Drive, Jon won’t be able to drive.

If you’ve got an extra twenty bucks… or five bucks… or whatever… that you would otherwise spend at Starbucks or someplace and never miss — you might think about clicking HERE to make a small donation to help him out. Jon is a really good guy — a kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring person — and he needs some help. I promise you you’ll be helping to spread goodness in the world.

Last night, I gave my last four dollars in cash to an older man standing in the cold outside the local supermarket who looked like he really needed it, and who was too embarrassed to ask for it. Sooner or later, every single one of us needs some sort of help — and it always feels good when we’re able to help someone in that situation.

One annoyance fewer

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

I’m sad for the family of Judge (Joseph) Wapner, of “The People’s Court,” who died today.

But maybe now people with poor hearing will stop asking if I’m related to him….




Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

How I just described my new play to my daughter: “Psychological attack, with comedy.”