A week ago I was invited to participate in a silent theatrical environment thingy called PLAY (242 South Broadway, LA 90012), which is the creation of actress (and Damian Chazelle’s partner-fiance) Olivia Hamilton.

I was instantly terrified, of course. I didn’t want to be dismissive or impolite, but Hollywood Elsewhere doesn’t pretend or play or dance around or any of that carefree pre-school stuff. Life is duty, focus, nose to the grindstone, devotion, manning up, late hours, etc. I don’t want to revert to being a five-year-old, but I’m not putting anyone down who might enjoy this. It’s just not me. I’m too grumpy, too deep, too Siddhartha. (Or do I mean Steppenwolf?)

But I didn’t have the courage to level with Olivia and just tell her this. I just kept putting it off. And then six or seven hours before showtime last weekend, I couldn’t stand my cowardice any more so I wrote her a “sorry with apologies” note.

HE to Hamilton: “It just hit me that ‘the silent PLAY‘ begins sometime after 10 pm this evening. Please forgive me, but (a) I’m too afraid of attending in general and (b) I can’t attend something that starts this late. I’m sorry for not reading the particulars until just now. I’m a daily columnist and on too strict of an early-morning wake-up schedule. Plus I’m a coward.

“If there’s any way I can help by posting, say, a video piece about ‘the silent PLAY,’ I’d be happy to do that.

My blood ran cold at the thought of attending this to begin with — socks, silence, play, masks, wigs, etc. But I was going to throw caution to the winds and attend anyway because [Santa Barbara Film Festival director] Roger Durling told me it’s great.” HE Interjection: I’m not exactly “blaming” Durling for getting me into this, but he was definitely the instigator.

“Please forgive me, Olivia. I don’t want to hurt your feelings or not show support as far as I’m emotionally able. Please send me any video clips or essays or anything of that nature, and anything in the way of a first-person review or what-have-you, and I’ll be glad to post it. I really want to help and do what I can short of ‘playing.’ I feel guilty, but I feel even more intimidated and terrified of attending. Not to mention the late hour.

“Love and mercy, Jeffrey Wells, HE”

On Monday Hamilton wrote back:

“Jeffrey! I must admit I was so excited to have you at PLAY and was sad to learn you weren’t coming. But I couldn’t imagine a kinder declining message 🙂 I’ll follow up on your generous offer to spread the word once I make it through this crazy day, but if you find the time and courage, please come [one of our subsequent shows]! My fiancé Damien is a huge fan of yours (reads your blog everyday) and I’m sure he’d enjoy playing with you too. He’s coming to [today’s show], I believe!!

“P.S.: I just reread your message and it made me smile all over again — ‘Life is duty, devotion, focus, work.’ That’s a fascinating perspective, and one that fuels my determination to get you into a PLAY session 🙂

“We just announced an extension of the run for two weekends, and if you would be so kind as to post something to spread the word, I would sincerely appreciate it! Lastly, if you do find you have a desire to dip your toe in the PLAY waters, there’s a 7 PM session Friday [4.20] with your name on it 🙂 I promise you’ll get something out of it. Everything is optional and there’s a big comfy chair you can relax in if you decide you just want to observe.”