Playwright Doric Wilson died on Saturday. He is perhaps most well-known as a principal member of the Caffe Cino and he later went on to co-found TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), which, as far as I know, was the first openly Lesbian & Gay theatre company anywhere ever. If I'm wrong about that, someone please set me straight. (pun intended)
Doric and I had an interesting relationship. We were both fond of each other's work. And yet, there was always a bit of distance between us. When I founded Extra Criticum in 2008, Doric was one of the first artists I contacted to invite to become a contributor. What ensued was, in retrospect, emblematic of one of the essential traits of this man. He only knew how to be one thing: an outsider, looking in.
When I joined the staff of the Dramatists Guild, I mentioned it to Doric in passing and his immediate reply was as follows: "In 1979 I woke up to the sad reality that the DG was never going to do anything at all for me and I wallked away and I never looked back."
In fact, someone once told me that Doric resented the fact that some particularly mean-spirited queens had grown fond of referring to him as nothing more than "Edward Albee's ex." This should have infuriated any playwright for its dismissal of his own artistic contributions, but with Doric, the reaction was ten-fold. When I once ran into Doric at a Dramatists Guild gala, his first words to me, blurted out, almost defensively, were: "The only reason I'm here is 'cause you're honoring Lanford. I'm here to support Lanford. That's all."
After Doric's initial enthusiasm for what we were trying to create here at Extra Criticum, other contributors starting coming on board. And after a few weeks, I realized that it had been a while since I'd heard from Doric and he had not yet posted anything. I sent him a note asking if he needed any technical assistance with logging in and posting.
He replied that he had a brilliant post he was working on and that he wasn't quite ready to post it but that he would any day now.
A couple weeks later, I ran into Doric at a reading. "I've almost got that post for you!" he shouted at me before we could even hug.
After a few more months of this, I sent Doric a note. In it I said that I was sad that he hadn't found the time to contribute, that I felt like his point of view was unique and that the site was lacking for his absence. His reply was not what I'd have expected.
He sent me a torrent of anger in the body of a lengthy email, outlining his physical maladies, including the heart condition which we had all been aware of since forever, it seemed. And he ended his note with something along the lines of this: "If and when I do post, you will be the first to know, but I cannot be pushed, Roland. For godsakes, you cannot understand, being young and in good health, what it's like for me. For the truth of it is, I never know if this very keystroke might be my last."
Well, after my initial embarrassment for having pushed a dying man to expend his last bits of vitality on something as inconsequential as a blog, my feelings morphed. Slowly at first, but, I am only a bit ashamed to admit that that turn of phrase "I never know if this might be my last keystroke" began to make me laugh. And whenever I saw Doric, I couldn't help but chuckle at the over-the-top sturm und drang of it. I mean, it was pure opera.
And, in a way, that was pure Doric.
But what I came to realize (slowly), was that Doric's inability to participate had little to do with us and much more to do with him. For there was something in his DNA that thrived on being shunned, rejected and ignored. He had come to define himself and his art that way. And so in the end I feel, he simply didn't quite know how to process being invited in to a small community... one that he had not himself built from the ground up.
I'm grateful to have known him in the small way that I did. And I'm expecially grateful for all his hard work, the result of which is TOSOS, which still thrives as one of the most interesting incubators for LGBT theatre in town. Thanks, Doric. We'll miss you. Really.