More than two years ago my longtime friend, filmmaker Dylan Kussman, came to a rehearsal of WRESTLING JERUSALEM (the play) in Los Angeles. It was the first run-through off-book (lines barely memorized) with my director Michael John Garcés, artistic director of Cornerstone Theatre Company, where we were rehearsing for a few weeks thanks to their generosity. Dylan and Michael were the only ones in the room. I've known Dylan for over 20 years so I wasn't nervous about him being there. In fact, I was excited to have someone new to share the play with. I had been working on the text for years, and yet I was just beginning to face the very real task of actually meeting this huge amount of material with heart and presence; with focus and commitment; with passion and compassion. That is to say, I was still very much in rehearsal.
Dylan watched the run-through. I was relieved to just get to the end of the thing without collapsing. Afterwards, we stepped outside onto Traction Ave. in the newly hip Arts District not far from downtown Los Angeles. Michael would give me notes after our break. Dylan and I sat down at a café table on the street. We each ordered a cup of coffee. I was wiped out from the run-through. My throat was dry. I downed a glass of water. Dylan was quiet. We didn't say much at first. Each in our own little world. Finally he looked up at me. "You have something very special here, Bro. Really. I'm not really sure what else to say. Everyone has to see this. Everyone." He had tears in his eyes. That's all he said. I could see him grappling with what he'd just seen. I didn't know if the piece was any good. You never do, with new work, until people see it. Until its fully formed and has time to live in front of an audience. And this was so early in the process, all I could think about was the enormous work I had ahead of me to get it right. To get it performance-ready. Michael and I had so much work to do. A mountain still to climb. But that day something was sparked in Dylan. And like a dog with a bone, he didn't let it go.
Six months later, after Michael and I and our stellar design and production team wrestled this play into full production, Dylan came up to San Francisco for the premiere run at Intersection for the Arts. It was March, 2014. After the performance, he came backstage into the dressing room. He gave me a hug. He sat down. Again, he was quiet. Again, I was wiped out from the performance. Again, I was guzzling a glass of water; catching my breath. After a while he said, "This may sound crazy to you, but I have an idea...."
That idea became this movie.
This movie has had more than two hundred people involved in its creation. Um, 200... From the artists, to the crew, to the financial contributors, to the post-production technicians, it took a whole lot of people a whole lot of care and persistence and spirit to bring this film to completion. I'm humbled by the effort. I'm thrilled by the community we've built. I'm inspired by the prospects of our reach. I'm proud of what we've made.
The goal: to craft a film that would create the opportunity for as many people as possible to consider the message of the piece, be entertained by its story and be moved by the collection of voices that make up the project's humanity. Maybe, just maybe, after seeing this film, you might view the world a little bit differently.
We are all complex. We are all wrestling. We all want to live free.