Robert Durst, THE JINX, and Storytelling
We are all storytellers. Some people's stories are true, and some aren't.
As an artist, I tell stories in a variety of ways. Depending on the project, I will position myself in a theater on the near or far side of the curtain. At other times I will sit in front of or behind a camera, or on different sides of an audition table. Sometimes, I'm hunched over and writing at a table, or moving my body across the floor, alone in a studio late into the night. All of this to tell a good story. I whip up my own stories from scratch, and I also interpret the stories of others, or help other storytellers fulfill their vision. Some stories I tell for a paycheck, and some simply because they need to be told, but there is always a yearning to get at the bottom of things. Regardless of form or role, in the realm of the artist, storytelling is about telling the truth, and it is told in the service of others.
There is another kind of storytelling that has more to do with lying. This kind we humans all become adept at to varying degrees, regardless of the other roles we play in life. It doesn't require years of intense work, developing a high capacity for introspection or empathy or a craft. It comes to all of us sort of naturally in the process of trying to survive in this world. We lie to ourselves, the people close to us, or those far away who we will never meet. Whether pronounced from a podium, exclaimed from the homepage of some media outlet, or whispered into our own ear, much of the pain we experience in life as we know it is caused by this kind of storytelling. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but untruth can hurt more. The finest of these tales, it could be said, are the result of a craft of another kind, and are almost always told in service of the storyteller.
I recently played a role in The Jinx, the HBO docudrama miniseries by the respected storytelling team of Andrew Jarecki and Mark Smerling which is currently getting a lot of attention. Or should I say the subject, Robert Durst, is getting all the attention. This was one of those stories I contributed to for a paycheck, playing the small part of Seymour Durst, patriarch of the Durst real estate empire. Seymour was a fascinating man who achieved and contributed much during his lifetime, and I have since become compelled to explore how I might tell more of this man's story, but that is another story.
The Jinx, as most of the world knows by now, is about one of Seymour's four children, Robert, who has been accused of three murders, but was never found guilty. As new information has come to light in the telling of this very dark drama which aired its final episode a week ago, it appears even more likely Robert Durst does not tell stories in the service of others. Thanks to Jarecki's and Smerling's years of hard work and yearning for a good yarn, this other kind of presumably
highly crafty storytelling may be revealed for what it is. Time will now do the telling. May it bring some healing to the many who have been deeply affected.