Clare Barron and You Got Older: Exclusive Insights & Commentary
CLARE BARRON, current P73 fellow, and MILO, enthusiastic CultureBot correspondent, at a Prospect Heights bar on a Sunday night that is loudly screening “The Walking Dead.” We are talking about Clare’s play YOU GOT OLDER. This is a severely edited, nigh unrecognizable transcript of our conversation – just the good parts – in media res –
Realizing your special power as a child to take care of your parents
You have the ability to talk to your parents and do something for them that no one else
Not even a spouse
It’s a very particular relationship the parent child relationship
It’s a big responsibility that goes both ways
And we’ve reached the point in our lives when it goes back the other way
For me the sex parts of the play aren’t so much about sex
As much as they are about desperately needing connecting, desperately needing intimacy, desperately needing to get out of your mind, to get out of your body-
It’s like the most epic
I think it’s like the most epic coping mechanism we have
The play is about avoiding
Death and facing it
Avoiding living your life and facing it
It’s about what we don’t say and what we say in a very direct way
Not talking about something and then imagining a very grotesque version of it
What makes me sad is when people are like
That was really gross!
The play came out of a trauma in my life
The burning down of my relationship
The end of my job
Where I felt like I was having to interface with the world but I was like a crazy person in that I was just crying all the time
Like I was just riding on the subway and I would start crying
Humiliatingly exposed to the world
I had this experience that I tried to capture in that bar scene
Where like I would see people – people that I barely knew -and they’d be like
Oh how are you
And you’d be like I don’t want to tell you
No I had the opposite problem I was like I couldn’t not tell you
Because I felt like a liar to humanity
To just say “I’m fine, I’m fine”
Um actually uhhh you know I’m not fine
Even when you write super autobiographical stuff it changes when it’s on the page and then it changes again when it’s performed and embodied by an actor so stuff that was true is almost unidentifiable to me – I forget what’s true
I was working on another play at the time and I wasn’t able to write it
The only thing I feel like I’m able to write about right now is what’s going on in my life -I was super embarrassed to send SoHo Rep a proposal that was like I’m going through a breakup and I just lost my job and my dad is sick can I just write about that?
It was just a moment where it felt like everyone had cancer
Do you believe in Saturn returns? Do you know what that is?
My other plays are actually maybe a little weirder than this play – people keep telling me this is my most [normal] play if you know what I mean
They’re all different and they’re all the same
I think it’s weird that there’s so many nice people in theater
I mean it as the highest compliment
For someone to be kind and generous
It is a small industry with not enough resources that’s highly competitive and we’re all to a certain extent encouraged to be naval gazing because we’re all encouraged to reach into our feelings to write our play
So there’s plenty or opportunity to be mean in theater but that’s not what I encounter I encounter generosity
I got the page 73 fellowship
Which paid me like 10,000 dollars
And then there were some other playwriting things
That were like money in the bank
And then I had some savings
And then I got this amazing acting job
SO the answer to all this is that
I don’t have a job right now
Besides being a playwright which is insane
But it’s about to end
Like I can see the end of my money in the bank
The like 9 months of being an artist
Is about to end
I saw the beautiful play YOU GOT OLDER by 28-year-old Clare Barron, masterfully directed (or “directed the shit out of,” positive connotation, as one anonymous dramaturge put it) by Anne Kauffman (who I recently fetched not-one-but-two diet cokes for in rapid succession while interning) at HERE arts center on Halloween night. Spooooky!! My ‘buddies’ decided last minute they didn’t want to go w/me – the Halloween parade was destined to take over the city and HERE had sent a warning email advising us to arrive early and think on our feet and avoid 6th Ave entirely. I had to enter a ‘police checkpoint’ and show a police officer an email on my phone with a special yellow insignia attachment to even get on the right street. My phone died immediately afterwards. I waited in HERE’s lobby for 20 minutes and read the program three times while drinking $4 beer before sitting recklessly front row center all by myself, smiling. My ticket cost $44.75.
The day before Halloween I saw Father Comes Home From The Wars by Suzan Lori-Parks at The Public, the day before that I saw Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello(l) at BAM, and the day before that I saw Rabbit Hole by David Lindsey-Abaire at Julliard (I sat next to a stage manager friend who whispered the whole time about light cues slightly missed). La de da. Then I saw You Got Older and loved it. Whenever I love an artwork I feel energized but restless: like what do I do now? It’s about a young woman whose father is dying of cancer. She takes care of him, has sex fantasies about a cowboy, and job hunts.
One eloquent young literary manager told me she felt “hugged” and “witnessed” by the play. I can think of no better words. In a landscape saturated by plays that aim or claim to do things like challenge, explore, unpack, and provoke, getting witnessed and hugged is a welcome relief. The play reminds me of a song in its sheer cathartic-ness and earnest vulnerability. I want it on my iPod to listen to before bed. A young lady director friend said something along the lines of: “I just thought it was my life, like the play was my life, like it was about me, exactly.” The only off-Broadway artistic director that I have ever met confessed (not to me but I was listening) that the play’s final moments made him cry.
My parents are either 61 and 63 or 62 and 65 – not sure – I’m so afraid they’ll die – or worse get sick and have a long painful hospital drama – huge sums of money will vanish and won’t save them – I don’t understand health insurance at all – my mom has done my taxes for the last time three times – my parents & my siblings & I are currently undergoing an awkward transition to/from caregiving/caretaking – or behold the terrifying thought that my beloved ma & pa could become, like, demented – or preserved forever as vegetables – meanwhile I’m wading through an unforgiving, labyrinthine medical bureaucracy – millenials are apparently growing up late(?) or something(?) – even if marriage, career and homeownership don’t come, which, for many not-so-youngsters, they seem like they are decidedly not coming, taking care of your ‘rents as they become unable to take care of themselves feels like a recession-proof rite-of-passage into adulthood. You Got Older lovingly dramatizes this: my very personal, very generational nightmare.
Milo Cramer is a playwright in the ’14-’15 SoHo Rep writer/director lab, literary resident at Playwrights Horizons, and cofounder of New Saloon.