2/25/21: It Takes a Lunatic (2019) — Artists are Outsiders, an Inventory #poetry

2/25/21: It Takes a Lunatic (2019) — Artists are Outsiders, an Inventory #poetry

From Ray Kroc to Wynn Handman

Two founders in different worlds

One from Heaven, one from Purgatory

Yesterday was Kroc’s day

a day of separating the art from the chaff

The day of the businessman

Golden nuggets panned from a sewer …

Today considers another way

Wynn Handman is an artist with some entrepreneurial skills

in service of a more divine purpose

than business

Wynn Handman made a better product than business

and nurtured more souls than any church

The practical and the spiritual taken care of

with none of the bullshit

A CEO who didn’t worry about the bottom line. and completely focused on production

A Spiritual Leader unconcerned with his own authority, attentive to his charges’ souls

A Founder of an Institution who was not an institutionalist

In 2002 Wynn Handman closed The American Place Theater

He did not sell it

He did not strategize to keep it going

His thoughts never involved meeting a payroll

and yet he and his theater thrived

and when it was over it was over

But the trace …

theaters leave a trace

We need stories

and we need the biographies of the people who tell them

Today is Wynn Handman day

The day of the new thing …

I need people like Wynn Handman in my life

Sure they are rare

But They exist

He is an upper case example

representative of several lower case lives

“Outsider art” is a redundant phrase

“Community of outsiders” is a contradictory phrase

But contradictions exist …

and redundancies can illuminate.

Some people live in reality

concerned with things like justice and truth

and meaning

and are not so much about success and money …

some people are driven by purpose

instead of ambition …

some people are true to themselves

and in so being

are true to the world …

Some people aspire less to be great

than to foster greatness

Some people are the strong arms of industry

Some special people are the hands of God,

the workers on the frontier of creation …

Some people are models for the future …

Artists are:


idealists who don’t have their idealism calcify to violence




unconcerned with winning


people who open doors for others

people who understand that “styles change but truth doesn’t”

people who see the nuance of every individual

and the universality of all experience …

Artists are non – hierarchical beings

Artists are kind and gentle

who clearly see human equality

Artists main purpose is the fostering of humanity and human beings’ highest potentials

Artists are concerned with those most important things that most people see as unimportant.

Artist have some formative experience

that outwardly may seem quite mundane …

that experience introduces the artist to his or her inner life

and that inner life leads the artist every day thereafter.

This is what makes an artist an outsider.

The artist is not of society

The artist makes odd decisions

he or she is mistaken as a lunatic

but the artist is highly rational

He or she does what makes sense in order to fulfill his or her destiny

on the outer reaches of human consciousness

Artists have to find one another

They have to band together to do their work

Consciousness is a strange thing

It exists within us

and outside of us

and artists connect with one another

with tightropes of consciousness

Precariously balancing themselves

as they gingerly step toward each other

High above the chaos of the circus of everyday life below

Aren’t afraid to fail
Know Sacredness
Are Lucky 
Come into money so that they can keep going.
Well intentioned young people,
And people committed to justice and a better world 

are drawn to artists.

Artists are
Inclusive …
Artists Figure out ways to bypass the critics 
Artists Have a sense of mission
Artists Nurture new voices.
Artists Judge others art by the art itself not the prominence of the writers.
Artists Do what they want to do
Out of the mainstream. 
Artists Don’t fit into mainstream jobs.
The artists job is being oneself.

Personal note — I came up in Second City, a theater conflicted between commerce and art. Commerce ultimately won every day. I would have been better off as a young actor in Wynn Handman’s class who submitted one person plays to his theater. But if I followed that path, I’d have nothing to write about now. Now I need a place to share my processed life, and this documentary about Wynn Handman is a map. Wynn Handman is a 20th century figure, but his work and path are eternal matters. The qualities of Wynn Handman are the qualities of new people who will enter my life, and the best qualities of the people in my life already.

The American Place Theater closed in 2002 or thereabouts, but its soul lives in different people and institutions.

Artists are not for profit, like Handman and The American Place Theater — yet they thrive. Show business is no place for an artist.

The American Place Theater’s first production was produced by Wynn Handman, was written by the poet Robert Lowell, directed by the British satirist Jonathan Miller, and starred the fine actor Frank Langella and the African – American actor Roscoe Lee Browne at a time black actors didn’t work much, and a cast of African -American actors in supporting roles. Poetry, political and social inclusion, intellectual and spiritual fire and beautiful acting! How much more achievement is in this show than merely being a hit …

I am not being romantic in my viewing of this movie — I know this is a real thing, not mere sentiment. I saw that artist part of my teachers and directors at Second City. I have caught glimpses — never sustained — of the art that The American Place did consistently. My whole life has been an Exodus to the Promised Land described in this movie about Wynn Handman.

Nothing stopped Wynn Handman from doing anything that he wanted to do.

Sam Shepard wrote plays and read them in apartments or bars or anywhere he could … that’s what my blog is … that’s where I am … the pandemic is waning and the world is calling me …

An artist doesn’t make choices for the money or the praise …

I never have, but I have suffered too much from criticism

I know now that if you are really doing something you will be criticized

“To speak your mind is subversive by definition, and unsettling by definition, and thought provoking by definition”

“Why have your work assessed by people from the outside … “

The insiders are outside of the outside

If you play the mainstream game, you never do anything …

Action changes things …

Wynn Hnadman accepted himself as an outsider, he “always did”

Me too

When you are creating you can’t be thinking about how it is going over …

Improvisational theater has a tenet of working beyond the approval or disapproval of the audience, but rarely if ever honors that value …

Wynn Handman honored that value

I think the world is turning toward Wynn Handman and away from Second City

Conservatives are crass businessmen like Ray Kroc

Moderates are wishy washy like Second City

wanting to be a positive force — within reason, but profits come first

Progressives are increasingly like Wynn Handman


Challenging — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually

Conservatives and moderates look like louts and fools

Those idealistic young people. and their older counterparts who love justice and mercy and love

who want the best for us all

and every one of us

That is who my writing and talking is for

Our lives are blueprints for those who walk beside us and after us

We are called to be examples

Artists are unique beings who can’t be replicated

Each and particular every artist points to the same thing

Eternity is the glue …

The artist lives in the past, present and future

simultaneously …

Leaps of true faith

always find soft landings …

and don’t mess with Mr. InBetween …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

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