I read Josh Cotter’s “Skyscrapers of the Midwest” comics in early 2008. (You can buy the collected version here.) After reading the book several times, I started thinking about making it into a play. Theatre and comics don’t seem to have a lot in common on the surface, but I actually think the needs and strengths of the mediums are very similar. Most importantly, in my opinion, to both mediums (at least as I enjoy them) is a strong sense of connection and intimacy.
When you read a comic like Skyscrapers, you get really, really close to the moment of creation. It’s almost as if the artist has simply drawn the page and passed it across the table to you. There’s almost nothing that comes between you and the artists’ intentions.
And Josh’s art takes full advantage of this closeness, pushing the vulnerability of the characters and the artist in the process to an almost uncomfortable level. It’s not a book you can read with unemotional detachment, especially if you have any notion of the kind of childhood isolation that Cotter’s writing about.
The best theatre works the same way. In fact, in the theatre, you’re actually present at the moment of creation, you’re even a participant in the process. Sure, there’s a lot of preparation in rehearsal, a lot of technical work done ahead of time to get the performance ready (That’s true for comics too, just ask Josh about his sketchbooks.) but “theatre” doesn’t happen until the audience arrives and the artists do their thing, and the art is what happens in the space between the actor saying his lines and the audience receiving them. How much more intimate a creative process could there be?
So, that’s what was in my head when I tracked Mr. Cotter down on the internet and emailed him out of the blue to see if he’d be interested in seeing his book as a play. I don’t know what possessed him to say yes, but he did. And he’s been really open and supportive ever since. What happens next? We’re pretty curious too.