I am, as I write this, on board the Puritan, the Amtrak train which runs from Penn Station up through Poughkeepsie to Albany. There I’ll disembark at the Rensselaer Station, pick up my little Prius—which really does get 50 miles to the gallon, for those who wonder—and then I will drive back to Dorset, Vermont, where it’s not so unbelievably hot you can’t walk down the street without freaking out.
My family owns a little farmhouse in Dorset, which we bought four years ago because the summer in New York is too hot. We were poking around and thinking about someplace to go, where it wouldn’t be so hot, and we looked at a lot of houses closer to the city. We had friends who had homes in Columbia County and out on Long Island, and we would go visit them and think, How About Here? But nothing really seemed right. The ocean was nice out on Long Island but there was too much sand at the beach. Columbia County was nice but there were so many New Yorkers there.
Then we went up to Dorset to visit our friends Bill and Donna. We sat in their crazy big back yard and ate tomatoes that Donna grew there. We walked through forests of trees and ferns and wildflowers. Our kids spent hours wading in the creek and building dams. We read little green plaques about Ethan Allen and how Vermont used to be a republic. We went to a tavern that was built before the Revolutionary War!
Next thing you knew we owned a little farmhouse that looks like a magician might live there, on the bank of a small creek, at the end of a long road. It’s kind of hard to get to, frankly; it takes about four-and-a-half hours to drive up from Brooklyn. But in the summer, it’s cool and breezy. In the winter, there’s still snow. In autumn, the colors of the trees will blow your mind. And, there’s a fantastic little theater, which does four shows every summer. Which, ironically, is why I spent the weekend in hot New York.
I just started rehearsals for my play, The Novelist , which is going to be presented at the Dorset Theatre Festival the last two weeks of August. Jeremy Cohen, the new artistic director of the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis is directing. The guy is amazing and so are my actors: Michael Cristofer, Kathryn Grody, Stephen Barker Turner, Liam Craig, Mary Bacon and Jen Ikeda have already started to tear it up, in a little rehearsal hall on 14th Street. Because Michael’s TV schedule runs into next week—he’s on the new AMC show, "Rubicon"—we had to hold the first rehearsals in New York.
So I came in on Friday afternoon, where, during our first rehearsal, everyone was talking about how the humidity was supposed to be 105% on Saturday. (Stephen wondered if that meant that it would be raining up.) After we rehearsed from six to ten, I went home and turned on the air conditioning in my bedroom, where I rewrote until about two in the morning. Then I got up, walked up to the farmer’s marker in Grand Army Plaza so I could buy one of those huge heirloom tomatoes that completely redefine what a tomato can be, went home, ate my tomato, went to rehearsal, came home and rewrote some more, ate the rest of the tomato, went to the theater, stood on a subway platform where the temperature was probably 120 degrees, got home, turned on the air conditioning in my bedroom and rewrote some more, went to rehearsal, then got on the train back to Vermont.
It was an amazing weekend. The heat was finally a minor distraction, just the moat you had to swim through to get to the bizarrely white rehearsal room within which we found ourselves. (Someone observed, it was the kind of place you would do a demented adaptation of Chekhov.) Every actor in our cast is both brilliant and brilliantly attuned; it is, in fact, a perfect cast, the kind of cast you rarely get to see in New York because there are so many forces pulling at production here. Everybody has to learn their lines in days, since we’re only rehearsing for two weeks. I had to do the rewrites immediately because there’s no time later on to put them in. The work was fast and furious. In addition to love and betrayal and broken hearts there was a lot of cursing and profane humor so you can’t really say it was holy in there, but you can’t actually say that it wasn’t either. It was the kind of work that reminds you why you wanted to do this in the first place. My director is great, and my cast is awesome.
Right now, outside the windows of my air-conditioned train, the Hudson River is sliding by. The world looks serene, sunny and hot. Come up to Vermont! It’s cooler up here. And the theater is really good.