Adventures In Quarantine

Fifteen Moments From Three Months Of Quarantine

1. To everyone out there seeing canceled projects or financial hardship ahead due to coronavirus, you are seen and valued. Hang tight. Take care of yourself. Join me for a digital dance party. When the dust settles, know that we will rally around you and lift you up in full force. ♥️

2. A friendly reminder that there is a lot of misinformation on the internet. Unfortunately, the fallout from the 2016 election has yet to cure the uniquely human impulse to click SHARE in half a second flat. Every day I see good, smart people reposting clearly doctored videos of politicians, memes with lies intended to cause aggravated sharing, and secret, alternative or “expert” opinions on coronavirus from sources like “unnamed doctor in Japan.” Before you click SHARE and enjoy that fleeting rush of endorphins, do a little research, fact check, phone a friend if you have to. Your intentions are good. But good intentions don’t save lives. Facts do.

3. I impulsively decided to make vegetarian matzoh ball soup completely from scratch without a recipe for the first time ever at 7 pm this evening. These are the crazy things we can do now. Since this was my first time, I accidentally made, like, 100 servings. I’ll be bringing soup to doctors tomorrow. If anyone in Brooklyn or Manhattan is craving some homemade vegetarian matzoh ball soup, let me know. I’ll leave a container at your door. 🍲

4. This is Dave, five minutes after learning he’ll be starting on COVID service this Monday, three weeks earlier than anticipated, discovering the cheers and applause for essential workers from New Yorkers on their rooftops, their balconies, their windows, and on the street. To Dave and all the essential workers around the world, please know that you are admired and appreciated by us all. #ClapForCarers #ClapBecauseWeCare

Also, this is Dave getting a quarantine haircut.

Also, this is Dave getting wrangled into joining a pop duo.

5. Hey all you cool cats and kittens! 🐯 Home used to be a haven for many of you, the one place where you could shut the world out. Now the world has infiltrated your home, and everyone and everything seems to be vying for your digital attention. This perpetuates anxiety and depression. (Noted by a guy who keeps perfectly calm during emergencies and high-stress situations but gets sweaty palms and heart palpitations when he doesn’t immediately text someone back.) I encourage you, friends, to pivot how you are mindful of your own space and time. Limit screen usage. Make a schedule. Set virtual boundaries. Go easy on yourself. Most of all, take a moment to invent your unique set of rules for living a healthy life at home. 💫

6. I took this photo outside a bar called Mission Dolores in Brooklyn in 2012. It was my first time in Park Slope. I remember feeling like I was so far from home, a world away from the Upper West Side, a galaxy away from the real Mission Dolores in my hometown of San Francisco. A couple months ago, I realized that this bar is on the block where I live now, where I’ve called home for the last two years. And in this moment, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I see rainbows on windows during the day. I hear cheers for essential workers at night. I feel the greatest sense of solidarity I’ve ever known. We’re all in this together. And we’ll all get through it together.
#NewYorkTough #NewYorkStrong

7. On this #EarthDay, I find myself thinking about the Redwoods. My shelter as a child. My high school mascot. The tallest trees on Earth, nearly as old as the dinosaurs, capturers of CO2, refuge for plants and animals, resistant to fire and wind and rot.

How have these towers of wonder withstood the test of time, the wrath of the elements, and still managed to stand taller and stronger and more majestic than anything else on Earth?

Redwood trees live in communal groves where they extend and intertwine their roots with friends and neighbors. Think about that. What a heart expanding reminder during these days of isolation.

Friends, I’d love to know how you extend your roots to your neighbors. What commitments are you making to treat the world better from this day on? How will you show more respect for the animals, for the air, for the trees?

We are guests here. Let’s leave the world a better place for when new guests arrive.

Happy Earth Day. 🦋🌎🌲 #RedwoodYouKnow

8. Happy 50th Birthday to the musical Company. I count my lucky stars for the experiences I had with George Furth on a production at USC’s Bing Theatre and with Stephen Sondheim on a production at the NY Philharmonic. Every few years this show manages to rise (rise, rise) to the top of my mind. It will forever play a huge role in my life. Happy 90th birthday to Mr. Sondheim too. And three cheers for his collaborators and interpreters. I love his world of characters, as if they co-exist in one celestial plane. I love how specific yet universal his stories are, granting all kinds of people profound, individual relationships with the shows as if by magic. I love how his shows are never finished, and how generous he is with letting other artists interpret his work. I love how his music burrows itself under your skin, how the lyrics can simultaneously feel like a philosophy class and a scavenger hunt. What a gift we’ve been given. Like last night’s tribute concert, may we all sign off our Zoom calls for the rest of the month with, “Happy Birthday, Steve.”

9. I’m a GIF.
I’m a lover.
I’m a WASP undercover.
Quarantine. So obscene.
Going crazy in widescreen.

10. Today would have been the Tony Nominee Luncheon, the first flagship event of the Tony Awards season. Over the last couple months, I’ve seen a number of people say that streaming will be the future of theatre. As someone who has split their entire career between live and digital work, I have to respectfully disagree. The digital space can help theatre makers reach a wider audience, of course. Technology can help elevate and deepen theatre and live events, just as live experiences can help market and broaden the appeal of digital content. Live storytelling and digital storytelling help amplify one another. One medium does not negate the other’s intrinsic value, let alone replace it. If there’s one shared quality that runs through the veins of all theatre makers, it’s adaptability. Play stages have become sound stages. Campfires have become coliseums. But don’t for one second think theatre makers will forfeit the urgency and vitality of gathering in-person to share stories. They’ll do the same thing they’ve always done. They’ll adapt. The future of live storytelling is live storytelling. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t made a piece of theatre. #TonyAwards #Broadway

11. This weekend, I finished a full manuscript of the novel I started writing a year and a half ago, started mapping out five years ago, started researching seven years ago, started dreaming about eighteen years ago. This digital stack of words feels both perversely inconsequential and yet still worthy of a moment’s celebration. It feels like a joke, to finish writing a novel in quarantine, but it’s a joke that stings with laughter, with bruises, with distraction, with purpose. I learned so much. I dug holes inside me and filled them with dirt and flowers. I’ve been editing the book as I go, but now I get to edit the manuscript in full. The fun part, I think. I hope. God I hope. I normally don’t talk about unfinished things, but there’s great value in acknowledging markers, and I wouldn’t have climbed this mountain without a wealth of support. I’m crazy thankful for all the friends and family who have participated in this story’s development, aided me in my research, inspired me to keep going, and encouraged me to serve up proud my wild, bloody mess of a heart. There are more mountains to climb, but for a moment, I’ll stop and enjoy the view.

12. America is not broken or upside down. America was designed this way from the beginning. Accept the discomfort. Lean into it. Don’t wait for others to tell you how to help. Do your research. Read the books. Have the conversations. Sign the petitions. Donate to the funds. Get involved. Make the time. Support black businesses. Amplify black voices. Follow black artists. Write to your city or town government. Vote in new leaders come November. Make sure everyone you know will vote in new leaders come November. Imagine a better life for marginalized people. Now listen to them imagine a better life for themselves. Ask how you can help make that a reality. Take care of yourself. Take care of your loved ones. Do what you can from where you are. Start somewhere. Start anywhere. Keep it going. Take it offline. Be an ally in your actions. That makes you an advocate. #BlackLivesMatter

13. Thank you Malynda Hale for having me on this week’s #WeNeedToTalk. I’m in awe of your art and advocacy, always. Thank you Drexel, Farelle, Jill and Amber for sharing your stories, ideas, and resources. We’ll keep the conversation going. It’s not enough for white people to rest on passive allyship. We must listen, and commit to taking action as advocates.

Listen to the We Need To Talk Podcast here:

Apple Podcasts + Spotify Podcasts

Also, this Summer will be the first since All Star Code was founded in 2013 without a live Summer Benefit. For the last seven years, working with these young men has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. They inspire, motivate and amaze everyone they meet. All Star Code envisions a country where all young men of color have access to the tools of success. If you’re interested in sponsoring a student or attending this year’s virtual benefit, you can find more information here.

#BlackLivesMatter #SupportBlackArtists #SupportBlackBusinesses

14. In an alternate timeline, I would have been prepping The Tony Awards gala right now. Instead I’m marching in the streets. I hope theatre makers across the country are using this time to reflect and plan a more inclusive industry for the future.

On the first day of quarantine, I planted California poppy seeds on my roof. Every day I watered them, studied them, tended to their roots. Every day I witnessed color and beauty and growth. Every day I watched in amazement at the elements collaborating. Every day I learned new things and refined my commitment.

The work was not for nothing.
Today, they bloomed. 🌼

15. I’m excited to share with you all a brand new personal website for the first time in many years. 

WHOISMICHAELSCHWARTZ.COM

My favorite part of this streamlined but mighty site is seeing the faces and work of so many other people I’m lucky to love and admire. Every piece of storytelling is forged in communion with others, whether its a team, an audience, or the storytellers who came before us. More than the stories we’ve told, I’m most proud of how we’ve told them. I’m most proud of the collaborators we’ve assembled to join forces in dreaming big. 

Thank you to the brilliant actor and web designer Adri for crafting this website with so much talent and skill. If you’re ever in need of a website or pitch deck designer, I can’t recommend her enough. ProximaDesigns.com.

My design inspiration for the site came from the video and electronic stores of my youth, with stacked TV’s in the window beckoning you inside to explore different worlds of magic and wonder. So come in, have a peek around, and let’s continue working together to use storytelling as a catalyst for community building and positive change. 

Adventures In Combating Complacency

And now for something completely different.

I’m going to swear online for the first time today.

Racist Nazi fucks don’t scare me.

You wanna fuck with black people and Jewish people? Good luck with that.

Here’s what does scare me: Complacency. I was out at a bar last night for a birthday party. I was talking to friends about Charlottesville. I then struck up a conversation with a stranger – a finance bro. (Now I don’t mean to belittle “finance bros” at all. But I said it, and now I bet you can visualize him better. I mean he probably dressed up as Patrick Bateman once for Halloween because he thought he was being “ironic.” I digress.)

The guy said he didn’t know what happened yesterday because he doesn’t watch or read the news. When I began to tell him what happened – Yes, Michael, by all means initiate a conversation about politics and Nazism with a stranger in a bar – he said he didn’t want to know.

Now I don’t post much on Facebook these days other than random questions and photos with vague song lyrics from the 90’s as captions. It’s just not a productive place for me. I never post news links and rarely write political posts. People who know me know this is not for lack of political or social engagement in the slightest. I simply prefer to focus my time on taking action offline, every day, with intention, engaging with people face to face.

But this conversation followed last night, which I quickly wrote down after it ended because it scared me so much. I felt the need to share it on social media because I believe there’s an even greater terror on our hands than this small population of racist Nazi fucks (many of whom, fascinatingly, if you check their Twitter handles, claim to be anti-Nazi, but we’ll get into that another time).

The greater terror, to me, is the complacency and apathy of every day Americans.

Our conversation continued:

So you don’t read the news either?

No.

Never catch it on a screen somewhere? Talk to friends about it?

Nope. I don’t want to know about it. I’ve never voted either. (He said PROUDLY.)

Why not?

One vote doesn’t mean anything. My vote can’t do anything. Let me tell you something – most people are scum.

Do tell me. Tell me more.

Most people are scum! And I don’t want anything to do with scum.

These men and women were marching with swastikas yesterday. These are the people who make death threats to synagogues and raid Jewish cemeteries. These are the people killing our black brothers and sisters in the streets.

See, I told you! Scum! But I’m never going to cross paths with any of them. So. They’re not my problem.

What about other people’s problems? What about empathy?

There’s nothing I can do.

There’s so much you can do! Volunteer, donate, call, e-mail, tweet at your representatives, raise your voice, engage, dialogue, march, protest…

Protests don’t do anything. Protests have never accomplished a damn thing. You’re wasting your time. Like I told you, most people are scum. It’s the way of the world.

…….

What kind of work do you do?

Investment banking.

Do you enjoy your work?

Naw. I hate it, honestly.

What would you rather be doing?

I don’t know. So long as I never have to go above 14th Street, I’m good.

—–

I smiled and walked away.

He’s wrong. Most people aren’t scum.

Yes, some people light the world up with their tiki torches from Home Depot while shouting “White Lives Matter,” completely devoid of the true irony that their weapon of choice is an American bastardization of a non-white symbol. (Let’s face it: Their hats were made in China too.)

No, most people aren’t scum. But some are. Some are willing to just standby and watch the world burn.

The amount of pain and wrongs done in the world every day is immeasurable and overwhelming. And yes, people have no legal or even human obligation to look after or take care of their fellow human beings. But that is not who I choose to be.

I choose to be someone who doesn’t turn the world off because it’s painful and overwhelming. I choose to be someone who strives every day to do what they can to learn, listen, and make a positive impact. And I’d say the people I tend to surround myself with have the same viewpoint. Of course, we can’t consume the 24 hour news media. We can’t desensitize ourselves to the point of no return. We have to take care of ourselves and our well-being first. But as someone who dedicates their life to storytelling, to building empathy in individuals and strength in communities, I won’t ever stop trying to get people to open up their hearts and minds and pay attention to the world around them. That’s not just how we’ll grow. It’s how we’ll survive.

Friends, instead of railing against Trump every day from your private Facebook accounts and posting another “But her e-mails” meme, please help me talk to these kinds of people face to face every day as respectfully as possible. Lord knows I’m trying. Listen to them. Challenge them. Engage them. I know it’s difficult. But try. You have to try. Our democracy, our world, our future is at stake.