Vs. Theatre Club

“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” —Tyler Durden in the film Fight Club

“Maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” —The Narrator in Fight Club

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” -Groucho Marx

It’s not enough to love theatre and want to make theatre. Just as important is to go SEE theatre. It’s live. Ephemeral. Here today. Gone tomorrow. You gotta be there.

It’s also a community of artists. One that supports each other and the art they make.

Theatre has always struggled for audience. But now more than ever. According to this 2022 LAT article, “We’re driving straight up the cliff’: Theater is back, but recovery proves perilous”, audience levels are down 50% from 2019, pre-pandemic levels, ticket revenue is only one-third of where it was, and costs are way up.

So we’ve started Vs. Theatre Club.

What is Vs. Theatre Club you ask?

The first rule of Vs. Theatre Club is…

(Just kidding.)

Vs. Theatre Club is a new Vs. Studio initiative. We gather together. We see plays together. That’s it.

On average, it’ll be one play a month.

We had our first outing in January. Our second is tonight to see THE FIRST DEEP BREATH at the Geffen Playhouse.

If you want to be part of Vs. Theatre Club (all are welcome) and/or have suggestions on how to make it better, email me at jclark@vstheatre.org.

Regardless of your interest in joining a club, do me a favor and go see a play this month. And if you dig it, tell people about it.

When Prompted

“When I sit down to write in the morning, I literally have no expectations for myself or for the day’s work. My only goal is to put in three or four hours with my fingers punching the keys. I don’t judge myself on quality. I don’t hold myself accountable for quantity. The only questions I ask are, Did I show up? Did I try my best?” -Steven Pressfield, book Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be

Sometimes you just need a little prompt to sit your butt down in the chair and write. A good prompt can lead to an unexpected torrent of words and flow.

Paul Stein who fearlessly guides our Vs. Studio Writing & Solo Performance Workshop is a master of prompts. It’s awesome to see the smiles on everyone’s faces when they realize just how much writing they did on day one. Let alone the finished pieces that emerge on Week 5. (We just completed a Level One and a Tuesday Night Reading of in process work. It was awesome! If you want to learn more and/or be put on the wait list for the next workshop, email me at jclark@vstheatre.org. You will love it.)

And if you’re looking for a good prompt, think of 10, 20, 50…100 things you’ve ever loved in your life. (I got this one from Ted Hope which you can read Here).


“Filmmaking is not, or shouldn’t be, a strictly goal-oriented exercise. I’ve always preferred the process to the proof. This belief goes all the way back to grade school, when I realized that every time I took a test, I was no longer learning. It wasn’t about education but was about proving your stature. When artists experiment, when they work without a net, the work becomes more alive. Such a method can also allow the audience to engage with the art on another level, because there is the additional question of whether the author can ultimately pull it all off.” -Ted Hope (founder of Good Machine Films) from his book Hope For Film

It doesn’t matter how passionate you were.

It doesn’t matter that you had great intentions.

It doesn’t matter how hard you worked on it.

It doesn’t matter that you didn’t have enough time.

It doesn’t matter that you didn’t have enough money.

It doesn’t matter that you weren’t able to get the right people.

When it comes to your project, what matters is the end result. That’s what you’ll be judged on.

But also realize you have a choice in the matter. You can choose that their judgment doesn’t matter. That all you care about is the process. That the value lies in the attempt.

Just ensure you make a choice before getting started.

Ordinary Hard Work

“Hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but without you don’t stand a chance.” -Pat Riley

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

Hard work isn’t a badge of honor to be displayed for all to see.

It doesn’t guarantee success.

And it’s not an input/output function. Meaning the more you do, the more you get.

It’s pretty mundane. Ordinary. Just something you do when you love the thing you’re doing.

Vocation and Vacation

“People look for retreats for themselves in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in their own mind…So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“People enjoy their food, take pleasure being with their families, spend weekends working in their gardens, delight in the doings of the neighborhood. And even though the next country is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking, they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it.” -Excerpt from Verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu (Stephen Mitchell translation)

“Wherever you go, there you are.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”
“Yes, every once in a while.”
“Do you know that in abou thirty- five more years we’ll be dead?”
“What the hell, Robert,” I said. “What the hell.”
“I’m serious.”
“It’s one thing I don’t worry about,” I said.
“You ought to.”
“I’ve had plenty to worry about one time or other. I’m through worrying.”
“Well, I want to go to South America.”
“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
-Robert and Jake conversation in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

When you’re lit up by something, when you’re on fire with passion and purpose, when you’re truly living out your vocation, you may not need or ever want to take a vacation.

P.S. – “I’m on vacation!”

Being President

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama

“When people lead, the leaders will follow.” -Mahatma Ghandi

A common childhood dream–or at least I hope it still is–is to one day become president.

If that’s your dream (or whatever your dream is), please don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. Go for it.

In your moments of self doubt, remind yourself that being president is still just a job. Like any job, someone’s gotta do it. Why not you?

The Two Wolves Inside Us

“And in every one of us, there’s a war going on. It’s a civil war. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care where you live, there is a civil war going on in your life. And every time you set out to be good, there’s something pulling on you, telling you to be evil. It’s going on in your life. Every time you set out to love, something keeps pulling on you, trying to get you to hate. Every time you set out to be kind and say nice things about people, something is pulling on you to be jealous and envious and to spread evil gossip about them. There’s a civil war going on. There is a schizophrenia, as the psychologists or the psychiatrists would call it, going on within all of us. And there are times that all of us know somehow that there is a Mr. Hyde and a Dr. Jekyll in us…There’s a tension at the heart of human nature. And whenever we set out to dream our dreams and to build our temples, we must be honest enough to recognize it.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The commandment that prohibits desiring the goods of one’s neighbor attempts to resolve the number one problem of every human community: internal violence.” -Rene Girard

The “Story of the Two Wolves” is an ancient tale that’s been a part of the Native American tradition for generations. Although the exact origin is unknown, historians typically attribute the tale to the Cherokee or the Lenape people.

The story features two characters, a grandfather and his grandson, and a conversation that goes like this…

“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man says to his grandson. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”

The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man replies. “The one you feed.”

Evaluating Art

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” -Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) in the film Dead Poets Society (screenplay by N.H. Kleinbaum)

Can we evaluate art? Objectively? Should we even try? And what’s the criteria?

Either way, what truly matters is how it affected YOU. (Even Captain Keating would agree, I think.)

One of my favorite things in life is watching movies with my kids. And nothing’s better than showing them a movie I loved and they dig it too.

Recently, my younger son Truman and I watched Dead Poets Society (a film in my pantheon). He dug it and I could also tell it affected him. This was our car-ride conversation the next day….

Truman: “Dad. I’m giving Dead Poets 5 stars on Letterboxd.”

Me: “Wow. 5 stars. Nice…How many movies do you give 5 stars to?”

Truman: “Very few.”

Me: “What’s your criteria for 5 stars?”

Truman: “Three things…It has to be entertaining. It has to hold my attention the whole time. And it needs to change my perspective.”



Me smiling with pride and awe.

Yeah, he’s a lot smarter than me.

P.S. – “Rip it out!” This scene.

P.P.S. – “Interesting.”


I see the words on a rocking horse of time
I see the birds in the rain…

I’ll ride the wave where it takes me…

How I’ve opened up, release me
Release me, release me, ah, release me
-Pearl Jam, song “Release”

“Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.” –Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu (Stephen Mitchell translation)

“Make me an instrument of you peace…grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love…” –The Peace Prayer Of Saint Francis

What happens if you release…

…the need to be right?

…the need to be thanked?

…the need to be praised?

…the need to be remembered?

…the need to feel good?

…the need to make lots of money?

…the need to have power?

…the need to feel secure?

…the need to be certain?

…the need to be assured?

…the need to feel loved?

What are you left with? What would you do?

Do that.