Being plucked from obscurity

By Dann Berg

Published or Updated on

Stefanie Cohen, writing about Robert Askins (playwright, Broadway’s “Hand to God") for the Wall Street Journal1:

Mr. Askins wrote “Hand to God” five years ago and it was staged in 2011 at the off-off Broadway Ensemble Studio Theater. The show was critically praised, and producer Kevin McCollum, (“Avenue Q,” “Motown” “Rent,” “In the Heights”) who had been told by a friend to see it, introduced himself to Mr. Askins in the lobby after the show…Within 24 hours, Mr. McCollum was in negotiations to option the piece.

This reminds me of the blade of grass paradox, which shows that events with really low odds (being plucked from a small theater and brought to Broadway) aren’t actually as low as you might think. Imagine standing in a large field of grass, reaching down, and touching a blade. There are millions of blades of grass that you might have touched, so the odds of being one of those blades of grass is extremely slim. Yet, a blade of grass did get touched, which means that there’s a 100 percent chance that one of the blades of grass will be touched.

Stories like Askins’ are inspiring (and “Hand to God” is amazing, so the fast track to Broadway is well deserved) but the resulting inspiration is inherently conflicted. Something like this will never happen to you…unless it does. Which it won’t. The odds are extremely low, but not that low(?). What if Askins is that single blade of grass, which has already been touched?

Then again, what are the odds that someone standing in a field reaches down and touches only one blade of grass?

  1. Life hack: to view the full WSJ article for free, paste the full URL into a Google search and click the link in the search results. ↩︎

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