He loved it. It didn’t matter if it was good. He loved it. More than that, he loved the intention of it. He loved what we were all attempting to do. He loved all of it. He loved being a part of it. And I’ll say again. He didn’t care if it was good or bad. Not really. Even though that was his job. He just wanted to be there. And you felt it in his writing. He loved being part of the process.
When I was younger, he made me think I was good. Sometimes I even was, but it meant so much if Jon thought so. But even when I wasn’t, he never wrote about me as if I wasn’t trying my best. As if any of us weren’t trying our very best to do something great. He understood that shows that weren’t worth 4 Ns were still worthy of intelligent discussion.
Jon didn’t draw a line between critics and artists, and while many would debate that stance, in a landscape of criticism often fraught with ‘us vs. them,’ Jon’s reviews were something different. He gave a shit. “Yeah but what did NOW say?” That’s the one we cared about. “Besides, people actually read NOW.” Was he as objective as some? No. Thank god. How pleasant to understand that critics love the thing as much as we do. I think he believed that we were all working towards the same end, that we were working on making theatre better, together. We were, too.
Jon was as active in furthering our community as any artist. Someone should name a theatre after him. He was part of every production. I attribute an early sense of “maybe I can keep doing this” to Jon, not because of what he wrote, but because he came and talked to me after the show. He wanted to know me. Hell, he invited me to parties. And they were good! Jon believed in me. He believed in believing, and that’s what the thing is about. I can’t thank him enough.
There were nights we’d hear that Ouzounian was out there but if Kaplan was out there too, we’d know there was at least someone there wanting us to do well. I never cared what he was going to write. I just liked knowing he was there.