Encouragement

The weather’s been cold, the news depressing (sequester, anyone?), but there are some bright spots. Truly. Yes, there are more expenses than there is money, but theatre people are incredibly creative – can’t afford a theatre? No problem, invite a bunch of friends to your (or someone else’s) place and put on a show in the living room…or kitchen…or both. I saw a new term the other day – microtheatre. Small, pop-up events.

Other people are doing onsite theatre, writing their own stuff, and creating a vibrant culture that covers us all with a blanket of creativity. It’s really exciting that when you have a vision, a desire, a story to tell, that somehow there’s a way to get it out there.

Some people are using crowdfunding (and that’s amazing – people who don’t even know who you are believe in you enough to contribute). I saw a story about someone who listed all the expenses, like a wedding registry, so you could choose to buy the show a prop…or an instrument…and you knew that what you were contributing would be put to good use.

Last night was the inaugural Critics Circle awards, and a couple hundred people were in a room, looking at each other, reminding one another of the year just past and that there’s more theatre coming up. I told Cindy and Kay today that I’m going to watch more theatre, starting now. It will remind me of how amazing and fun watching a story unfold really is.

Can’t wait to hear about Humana!

Interpretations

When you have a factionalized account of real people, you have a choice. Disappear into the role so completely (makeup, wig, prosthesis) you look like an eerie sort of twin, or choose the characteristics…walk, rhythm of speech, dialect…and make those the basis of your character. Both choices are valid, witness many awards given on both sides of that particular aisle.

But it gets to be problematic when the people watching think you made the wrong choice. Then they’re done. You’re doing it wrong, and that’s the end of it. Which is unfortunate, because they don’t let themselves experience the moment…maybe you don’t buy Meryl Streep as Julia Child, but maybe you do, or you enjoy the performance so much you forget what the real person was like. I’ve worked with Steve Davis for so long now that when I catch a glimpse of Elvis while channel surfing, it feels a little off, somehow.

In Engaging Shaw, we are presenting the words and style of four real people, whose words are alive, not only on the page, but on YouTube (yes, you can find GBS on the Internet). So, the fun and creative magic has been in the choices we made, and the reward is in the audience laughter.

Imaginary Conversations

I have a lot of them, especially about blogging. I write entire passages that never make it from my brain cells to my fingertips. It’s been a month of playing mom, which is something I don’t get to do nearly enough of. Just sitting back and watching.

And then something catches my eye and I think, “oh, yeah…let’s talk about fundraising, or whether in your face theatre actually needs to be in the aisle or seat next to you in order to have an impact, or how to get the next generation (or even the current generation) of people exposed to theatre that makes them want to dive in again and again and see it as the amazing art form it is…”

But it doesn’t get any further along than that. It will, though…just you wait.

Leftovers

Yeah, the fridge is full (thank you Thanksgiving), but I’ve still got leftovers from This Wide Night. Watching those two women on the stage, night after night, trying to make sense of their world has me more sensitive lately. I heard a report on NPR the other day where a dancer in India was teaching men traditional dances and changing lives. Another one where a former felon couldn’t find a job so he created his own company, and is hiring other former prisoners…giving them a second chance.

It made me think about how much of a chance we give people when they make a mistake…about anything. Sure, maybe we need to be careful, but maybe we can accept people, be a little more generous with our expectations. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Plays

We’ve got a stack of them. Plays about drug companies, Strindberg, Faulkner…name it, we’ve got them. And we’re excited about reading them. Tonight was the first night and we’re really getting juiced. There’s something about picking up a new-to-you play, reading it, really seeing it and wanting others to share your vision. We sit around the table with popcorn balls, Billy Goat chips, cheese and crackers, and a slice of pumpkin bread (or two) and start the ball rolling.

It’s really cool when other people agree with you (that’s optimal, right?), but it’s also cool when you’re the one in the room making the pitch…telling people why this is the one that needs to stay on the list.

We’ve got a couple that are just going to sit there for a while…sometimes it’s just not the right time for something. We need to wait…let it cook…let it be there for a while until this is the year for it. We believe in a shared passion…go ahead, talk me into it…I’m ready.

Elephants

If you read the description of This Wide Night, you would think there are only two characters in the play. Lorraine and Marie are big characters who inhabit the stage at West End Players Guild (one more weekend for those of you who haven’t seen it yet – RUN to get tickets…it’s that good…but I digress). They aren’t alone, and the people you don’t see are huge…the elephants in the room. One of them is Ben…Lorraine’s son. You never see him, and you only hear his actual words at one point in the play, but he’s such a powerful presence. And he’s someone different to each of us who’s working on the play. We had a discussion about what kind of person he is, and our takes on him were as far apart as if we’d actually met him somewhere and got together to talk about him. Is he cold, distant, misunderstood…what are the reasons for the choices he makes, and are they defensible in the context of who we know his mother to be?

Then there’s Marie’s boyfriend. We don’t meet him either – but independently Sean and Rachal had already decided on his name…and it was the same name. Is she staying with him (and from the way she describes him you wonder why anyone would), or is she going to break free? What does he/will he do if she does indeed walk away from him.

We also hear about the people who are supposed to be supporting and helping these two women. It has made me think for weeks now, what exactly is helpful to someone just coming out of prison. What does she want (other than winning the lottery, which we all want)? Does a person really “pay her debt to society,” even after the sentence is fulfilled? Do we allow them to truly move on, create a life? These are the kinds of elephants that won’t be leaving, even after we take the walls of the bedsit down.