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"A splendid mix of intellectualism and seething, dangerous rage...Sander Hicks is the sort of angry young man who can scream about financial scandals and have it be moving."
—Worcester InCity Times

The Breaking Manager: 3 Plays
"Elegant self-empowerment and energy."
—Allen Ginsberg


 

 

 

 

Sander Hicks Graduation Tribute

Speech Delivered 10/8/03
by Todd London, Artistic Director, New Dramatists

I want to take this opportunity to talk about Sander, to pay tribute to his time and work and growth here. I’m tempted to shave my head, run around the room and bang out a neo-punk ballad in praise of him, but I can’t do it in the way Sander can, so it would just make me feel old, which is how Sander has often made me feel. Old and envious, of his youth, his brash artistic confidence, his raw talent, the size of his personality. The only satisfaction I personally take in seeing him graduate is that it proves time is passing and even Sander won’t stay young forever. That’s the satisfaction of envy; There’s a more generous satisfaction that comes from liking the guy so damn much: the satisfaction of knowing we’ll hear about everything you encounter from here on, ‘cause he’ll tell us–in plays, in songs, in who knows what’s to come. Sander’s ongoing autobiography will continue his creative energy is inexhaustible, not because he’s young, but because putting his ideas and words into the world is breath to him, the pumping of blood.

Sander is a big guy with a big presence, and he’s had a huge impact here, made his mark in so many ways. He’s held numerous readings and events in the space, taken part in our Composer-Librettists Studio, the inaugural season of our new play lab, PlayTime; he’s helped out with our Writers’ Benefits, usually behind the bar or at the piano, rabble-roused at writer meetings, and, most memorably, gone with us for five summers on our retreat with the Lake Placid Institute of the Arts, where he’s something of a legend, and not just for smashing the propeller off a motor boat in the fog.

I have a particular fondness for Sander, a particular debt of gratitude that I don’t think he knows about but that I’ll reveal to you now, though it’s somewhat embarrassing to do so. I began working here in 1996, a month after Sander began his residency, and someone on staff hastily threw a party to welcome me. The pathetic fact is that almost no one came to the party and that included the playwrights here. Specifically, only two writers showed up, one, Murray Mednick, happened to be staying in the building on one of his periodic trips from L.A. The other playwright who showed up for the new guy, was Sander. He came to welcome me, and I’ll never forget it.

And I’ll never forget something else that happened that evening. Sander and Murray started talking. Murray, approaching 60, was our oldest writer at the time, and Sander, at an obscene 23 or 4, was our youngest. Murray had been one of the pioneers of Off Off Broadway in the ‘60s, and Sander was this wild kid, fresh out of the New School, cutting his own path on the Lower East Side, publishing radical writers, poets and lyricists as part of a press he began while working at Kinko’s, writing his wild plays and packing them into a van with some friends to mount at colleges and parking lots and bars across the country. Bookends of the past forty years, Sander and Murray may have had as much in common as any two playwrights at New Dramatists, and they showed me, because they were all the community I got that night, the power and reach of this community.

Sander’s work is like the last verse of the Hokey Pokey: you put your whole self in and you shake it all about: and this whole self for Sander, aka Sealove, as he appears barely disguised in most of his plays, is a lot. There’s the stuff of family life as he moves from the suburbs of Virginia to life in NYC, and when he returns home. There’s the deeply personal, as he transitions from adolescence to young adulthood and, especially, in the later Sarcoxie and Sealove, as he becomes a central player in an excrutiating, almost unimaginable episode of American power politics. There’s economics: Marx, neo-Marx, post-neo Marx, market capitalism, management theory, World trade and motivational speaking. There’s politics, new left, old left, right-wing market-driven, self-interest-driven, personal, and office politics. There’s philosophy, Hegel, as interpreted differently by everyone who’s never read him and some who have, and Kierkegaard, and Werner Erhard and Punk. There’s god everywhere, the god of the gospels, the god of Nietzche, the Catholic god, lost god and found god. "Kick Ass," they sing in church in SEALOVE, MANAGER, "God is kick ass/When you say God/I say kick ass!" It’s all shook up and all expressed in the unique, clipped, vivacious, intellectual lyricism of Hicksian prose.

Sander is Kick Ass. No other way to describe him. He came here raw and fresh and is leaving a lot wiser, but just as raw and nearly as fresh. "To be audacious with tact," Cocteau said, "You have to know how far to go too far." Sander makes me think of those words, because he’s always on the edge of too far and yet manages to be both tactful and respectful in his audacity. He’s been our Millenial Alpha puppy, running rampant through the house, leaving promotional materials behind. Now what he’s leaving behind is a one of a kind body of work, a lot of affection, and the imprint of his energy and originality. Sander, on behalf of everybody here, the writers, the staff, the board, thank you for the gift your boundless creative energy and your singular voice. Here’s hoping that the whole self you bring to everything you do will always feel like a wholeness of self and a wish that as you journey to the farthest edge of too far, you’ll fly.

 

Todd London, Artistic Director, New Dramatists

 


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