“Grimly Handsome” is a play. It premiered at the Other Forces festival at Incubator Arts Project in Saint Mark’s Church. I wrote and directed it; Pete, Jenny, and Ben performed it; Ásta, Cooper, Jason, and Barbara designed it; Jess produced it; Henry was the Assistant Director and Stage Manager; and Katie was the Assistant Stage Manager. I wrote “Grimly Handsome” after someone I admire told me that you have to want something specific to make good art. I’m paraphrasing. But he said that there has to be something you’re sure you want. This is a challenge for me in general. I like to write about desire, as I guess everyone does, but I took my friend’s comment as an invitation to write from desire instead of just about it. That wasn’t what he meant, but I found it useful anyway. Also, I tend to align legitimate creativity with negativity: innovation is in swerving away from the obvious thing. But for this piece, I thought, I will try to swerve towards something more than away. I picked something that is actively fascinating to me: the men who sell Christmas trees on the streets of New York, camping out in trailers or vans for weeks, creating a new space that literally didn’t exist until they appeared—a street forest. This apparition is not unlike those dreams where you suddenly discover a secret passage in your bathroom wall. The forest turns out to have been there behind the city (and RIGHT BEHIND YOU) the whole time. That drew in some other themes: serial killers, detective shows and, finally, red pandas. The piece became a triptych of three interlacing stories: the perpetrators, the avengers and the marginal scavenger-haunters. Three of my favorite performers in the world agreed to act the play. They are all not only very smart and funny but are also very beautiful, which turned out to be important, because the piece is also about beauty: about the strange places it lives in, the weird damage it does and the longing to be near it anyway, even just for a second and at whatever cost.