We (my mom and fellow colleague) will be in DC in November.
Hope you’ll join us!
On Tuesday night, I hauled myself down to Boston to attend the 27th Anniversary Eliott Norton Awards.Â To be honest, I was dreading the evening.Â I normally avoid these things as a best-practice step to staying sane.Â But, you know, re-entering the theatre scene after a mom-hood absence means pounding the pavement.Â So I strapped on my heels, called me up a date (my lovely friend and fabulous ex-co-worker Ms. Rafson) and off I went.
It was actually quite lovely with the exception of the somewhat excruciating thank you speech from Al Pacino on behalf of the late Paul Benedict.Â (Mr. Benedict being one of those actors I can identify by sight but didn’t know his name nor his connection to Boston.)Â Mr. Pacino, however, freely admitted he was a rather shy speaker and then continued to prove this ineptitude, but, you know, the entire audience was drooling into their open programs anyways so it didn’t matter.Â And he told a really good joke.
There were some musical selections, some heart-felt speeches, some lousy speeches, some faked speeches, some inspiring speeches…and a lot of tossing around of the word “community.”
It’s a word we like to use a lot in theatre.Â It’s a word that comes up even more when we’re faced with the cuts in grants, giving, and butts-in-seats.Â But, what does it really mean?
Community, according Mr. on-line Miriam Webster:
1: a unified body of individuals: as a: state, commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area ; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a large community> c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons> e: a group linked by a common policy f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community> g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society
Well, that’s dry isn’t it?Â It entirely lacks the connotation:Â support, enthusiasm, critical dialogue, empathy.
With all of the squeals of glee, back slapping, and zealous hugging, we all seemed to exhibit a very clear sense of this connoted community. But how much of this was real and how much for show?Â We were, after all, there to impress ourselves with our showmanship, go ga-ga over a few outfits, coo to each other a bit, and pay homage to a group of individuals who, no matter what they say about supporting the arts, can still make or break a show.
Maybe, the reason I have a hard time with this concept and our interpretation, is that I’m a teacher and I’d much rather see everyone soar than only a few of us rocket to the moon.
The point I’m trying to make is…we toss around the word Community with love, compassion, and thrill.Â But I think it’s time to steady the word in our hands, present it with reverence, and then embrace it into our hearts. No more tossing and hoping it will land on its feet on its own.Â Let’s give it some wings.
Late last night, I sat staring at my screen attempting to re-write the Mission of GAN-e-meed Theatre Project, a baby of a theatre I am spear-heading to give women actresses, playwrights, directors and designers a larger voice in theatre, life and the arts.
It started out as a spring-board for actress-proposed theatre. But as I thought about my true goals and the possibilities I realized I needed to include more than just actresses. Like the rest of this country (and the world) women are under-represented. We make up more than half of the stage actors and although I don’t have statistics on directors and playwrights, I am sure there must be just as many.
Now is a very good time for GAN-e-meed Theatre Project to be hitting the skies.
And…here it is.Â The result of a lot of research, brain-storming and re-working.Â Not bad.
When working on a production as a director, I find myself infinitely excited by the potential of the artists around me. Together, we will create visual and visceral aesthetic, but first comes a working aesthetic: a pulsing, floating, flexible, beautiful collaboration. This, in turn, breeds creativity, excitement, enthusiasm and trust, steadily becoming a process not just to create a play, but to reveal a new truth within each collaborator. If I do my job well, every artist will have a moment of truth, myself included. I will never know when and I am not always privy to each, nor should I be, but I know I am heading in the right direction when epiphanies start happening.
At the heart of every dramatic piece are the words. Theatre is telling a story. Were I to strip away the lights, the fancy costumes, and the scenes, and stand before you with the script in my hand, the words should hold you captive and play out a scene in your minds eye. The rest is just icing on the cake. Needed, wanted, loved, and revered icing, but without the foundation of poetry and prose, I find little to work with that has meaning for me.
Once I find the words, I move beyond simple story telling, looking for silence, stillness and negative space. Used with aplomb, these hidden gems create the energy-filled tension that pulses, unwinds, or explodes. Silence, stillness and negative space create the fourth dimension that we all crave in a story. Theatre is not real life. Bodies can move as we see them in our dreams, in other dimensions, and non-linearly. By using bodies the way we use them in our dreams, they become something more, and the story becomes something more.
Because I believe theatre can use the unreal to more deftly explore the real, I love to mix times and mediums into a new kind of world. Our thoughts are not projected on a screen; we do not freeze in time with our neighbors; Ancient Grecians did not wear biker jackets, but by placing the unreal into the real, I can highlight moments, exaggerate ideas, pluck out multifaceted truths, place them before an audience, and make them listen.
Oddly enough, my favorite moment in a production is not the play itself. At the end of the first performance, I love to squeeze into a corner in the lobby and watch the artists greet their families, friends, and fans. Their pride is my pride. In the end, they made the audience take note, listen, and think. They provided the bricks; I just lovingly slapped in the mortar to bind it all together.
I find it daunting to write an artist’s statement.Â It means tackling the unconquerable task of identifying WHY I do theatre.
This is what the world asks you as an actress:
Why do you do theatre?
Out of my lips always came a weak “um…..because I love it.” And the pale catch phrase rang in my ears, but rarely crossed my lips, “it’s in my blood.”
WHY do I do theatre?Â Because I can’t not do theatre.Â I’ve tried.Â Believe me I’ve tried.Â As a young actress, I found myself hurling back and forth between ecstatic joy and darkest misery.Â And I’m not talking young adult blues.Â This was so clearly linked to my life in the theatre that it pained me simply to attempt to identify the exact cause.Â Because identifying WHY I hated what I loved meant that I would have to walk away from this thing coursing through my veins. I would have to drain the very life from my body, entering hell in the search for joy.
As it turns out, it wasn’t really all that dramatic, or traumatic:Â I just don’t love acting all that much.Â I love the sense of pretend, the freedom from my everyday fears, the ‘other-worldliness’–for lack of a better word.Â But I love telling the whole story much more than just one character’s story.Â And I only discovered this when I tried out directing.
Which brings me back to the WHY because, as it turns out, an artist’s statement is not about the WHY.Â It’s about the HOW and the WHAT and the WAY.
I did a little poking about and although most how-to resources are written for the visual artist, they’re still quite helpful because the tips all include identifying material and color.Â I have never considered my directing work as a whole based on tangible materials.Â I’ve been tackling it in terms of people, stories, literature, and relationships.Â In short, the intangible.Â But when broken down into tangible materials, it becomes space, crowds, rough, smooth, silky, red, yellow, blue, white, distance, length, height, wood, metal…you get the idea.Â Which, in turn translates into the story.
The HOW is enough to imply the WHY.Â No one cares about WHY once you’ve passed adolescence.
And this is my current task: to put on my grown-up shoes and go beyond the unanswerable WHY to the very attainable HOW.