We dressed up one day as the U.S. flag

The mixtape was an art form.

Sadly, I don’t make them anymore.  I don’t even have a tape player, and to be honest I don’t listen to CDs very often either.  I do still make mixes, but I have to say, the modern equivalent (the playlist) is just easier.  You don’t have to worry about having an arc to both Side A and Side B.  You don’t have to pause the tape player (instead of pressing stop) to keep from getting that click in the recording.  You don’t have to carefully time out the songs to keep each side to under 45 minutes.  You don’t even have to create your own artwork, since iTunes provides those gorgeous cover art collages.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy making mixed CDs.  I revel in the personalization of the music, the unexpected juxtaposition of different styles, the carefully constructed ebb and flow of an album.  I made them for friends in undergrad, painstakingly choosing songs specific to their tastes and to our relationships.  I still make them now for the plays that I perform, playlists that remind me of the characters and action.  They’re the gifts that give the company on opening nights. When I started writing plays, I knew very little about structure. So I borrowed from what I did know; I made them like mixtapes.

I no longer own a cassette player, yet for some reason, I still hold onto a handful of these mixes.  Among them are a few handcrafted tapes from my friend Dave Beck.

Mike and I recently finished the edit on the interview I did with Dave (“I Can Breathe Underwater”), and in it he mentions the tapes and eventually CDs we’ve made for each other over the years.  I took out these tapes last night, and I realized that the most iconic memories I have of Dave and I are from pictures he used as the cover art for his mixes.  We worked together at Camp Arcadia in northern Michigan for several summers in college, dressed up as an American flag for the July 4th parade, led the beach carnival in grass skirts and bear claw slippers.  For years, we would make each other mixes, sending them through the mail.  Dave introduced me to Beck and I introduced him to Moby.  He got me into Bjork, and I got him into Radiohead.  Or at least I think so.  Eventually, as we became closer friends, our musical taste seemed to merge.  We became so close that I named one mix after the Jeff Buckley song “Dream Brother.”

As I continue to interview my friends for this project, I’m beginning to realize that music has been a common connection with many of them.  And I see now that in creating this project, I’ve started to make them into a mixed tape of my own.