A Letter from Michael R. Jackson
A Strange Loop was never supposed to be produced. Or at least that is what I believed over the 18 years it took to get it from its original monologue form to the production that so gloriously ran on the Mainstage at Playwrights Horizons in association with Page 73 this past spring and summer. For years, I toiled away, doubting myself and my place in the American musical theater. While I was busy assuming the show would never be produced, scenes were written, characters were developed, songs were rewritten or discarded, and music stands were raised and lowered as developmental steps were taken in draft after draft after draft.
At the same time, however, Playwrights Horizons was keeping an eye on the piece as it slowly but surely figured out what it wanted to be and how it wanted to express itself. And when I least expected it, Playwrights offered me my professional theatrical debut.
From there began the arduous but rewarding task of working with my cast and creative team to take the show from page to stage. The support we received from Playwrights Horizons was unparalleled and such a welcome reprieve given all of the years I’d been told by the world that my show was too black, queer, and profane to be produced. What’s wonderful is that the support I felt is simply what Playwrights Horizons does with all the artists who come through its doors.
The support we received from Playwrights Horizons was unparalleled.
The life cycle of every musical is unique, but unique musicals often have short life cycles (if they even have one at all). Over the last 30+ years, Playwrights Horizons has bucked that trend by championing and producing boundary- and form-pushing musicals, such as Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George, William Finn and James Lapine’s Falsettos, Todd Almond and Jenny Schwartz’s Iowa, and Kirsten Childs’ The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and Bella: An American Tall Tale. To have joined that lineage at Playwrights is an honor I will treasure for the rest of my career.
Not once did I feel undermined or infantilized as an artist at Playwrights. The marketing team listened very carefully when I talked about how I did and did not want the show promoted. The artistic team gave us space and feedback when we needed it. The general management team kept the ship steady and helped us solve problems when they arose. The box office was unbelievably patient when coordinating tickets during high-stress times.
In short, I have a theater career because Playwrights Horizons is an institution that takes risks with — and for — its artists. For those reasons, not only does Playwrights need your support, it deserves it.
Michael R. Jackson
Librettist, composer, and lyricist, A Strange Loop