Playwright Behind Z Scenes: Real life biking and The Making of a Great Moment

8 Things from my own bike riding that made it into
The Making of a Great Moment

By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Playwright in Residence

I don’t think Mona and Terry, the characters in The Making of a Great Moment, would be riding bicycles on stage if I hadn’t been training for AIDS/Lifecycle (a 545 mile bike ride down California, raising money to fight HIV) while I was writing the first draft.  It was my first time doing serious road cycling and it was intense and amazing!  And it felt like the perfect addition to a crazy play about two actors willing to do anything for what they love. 

Here are a few of my riding experiences that made it into the show:

1) Bonking
The Making of a Great Moment opens with Mona and Terry setting up for their show after a long bike ride and almost killing each other.  While I never wanted to kill anybody while riding, there were definitely a few moments where I felt like I was starting to lose my mind.  I would have to pull over and chug more water and some form of sugar.  Which brings me to…

2) The miracle of eating weird sugar goo!
When your mind is bonking, there is a miracle cure: SUGAR!  Gummy bears and jelly beans are rebranded “energy blocs” and “power beans.”  And they have these packets of gelatinous sugary goo you can suck down like a baby.  And it’s OK! It’s healthy! You’re on a bicycle!

3) Lots of verbal announcing of road hazards and what you are doing on the bicycle.
My fellow riders on the AIDS/Lifecycle are some of the safest and friendliest cyclists on the planet and are always vigilant and sharing potential dangers up and down the line of cyclists.  “Car Back!” “Gravel” and “Glass” are some of the most popular things you hear repeated.  Somehow these warnings can be heard fairly well despite…

4) The inability to really hear someone else while biking.
When riding single file, it can feel a little lonely and you might want to start a conversation with the person riding in front of or behind you.  However, single word warnings aside, it’s quite likely you won’t be able to hear anything they’re going to say. It’s easier to talk when riding by side by side, but when riding on ALC they are very serious about…

5) The dangers of riding two abreast.
Riding two abreast on AIDS/Lifecycle is verboten because there are just too many riders and it makes it hard to pass someone safely (though it’s the best way for biker bros to discuss investment banking, or so I’ve observed while riding in Marin.)  This safety rule made its way into the play and it’s dis-obeyal leads to dramatic consequences. Such as getting…

6) Flat tires
Flats are an inevitable part of the experience of a sport where your connection to the road is a nickel-wide piece of rubber with an inflatable tube behind it.  I had a lot flats this year while training, including five in one single day. That was a long day.  But, I did become expert in changing tires!  In the play, Mona and Terry are not experts.   

7) Unique body discomfort
In a nutshell, riding all day can do quite a number on your taint. You can wear padded shorts, have a seat with a hole in the middle, and lather yourself up with anti-chaffing cream, but that taint’s still gonna hurt.  This is just one of many strained and sore body parts cyclists are willing to endure for their love of riding. Which leads me to

8) Doing something because you are passionate about doing it, even though no-one else seems to understand why you’re doing it.
Cyclists, and AIDS/Lifecyclists are willing to tolerate pain, soreness, a little numbness because they love and care about what they are doing.  Riding is an exquisite way to take in the country.  AIDS/Lifecycle is a phenomenal way to raise money for an vital cause.  It’s worth that pain in the taint.

And that’s what doing theater can be like too, or any creative pursuit.  Artists are willing to endure aches and pains and deprivation (and occasionally some humiliation) because they are passionate about what they are doing.  For some, they believe it matters.  And for others, they just love doing it.  And that makes any danger, any soreness or sacrifice absolutely worth it because, well, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing. 

Join us for Bike Night at Z Space Thursday, August 10th in partnership with AIDS/Lifecycle and SF Bike Coalition TICKETS HERE

The Making of a Great Moment runs in Z Below through August 26th. Get tickets here.