Open, play, conclude!
Happy Monday! I'm starting my day and week with these words to be considered from Czech-born British playwright Tom Stoppard…
“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.”
How do these words strike you? Do you agree? Do you disagree?
For me, the last week feels a wee bit like a blur from rehearsals and other administrivia in the last moments of directing an educational production of Steven Dietz' This Random World. We had less than 30 hours, start to finish. But flesh formed over the skeleton last week, and it all came together.
Something that excites me about live theatre is the opportunity to witness multiple communities in action…
There is, for instance, the community of characters living in the world of the play. How are they getting along? There is the community of actors and artists bringing the performance about... How are they working together? What is there to appreciate, or learn from their collaboration? And there is also the essential community of playgoers watching. How do they relate to one another, and to the first two communities?
In the case of This Random World, the community on stage was an ensemble of eight. Six of them were teen actors I’ve been privileged to collaborate with as an acting instructor over the past few years, because of MPA. They were joined by two adult performers, whose generosity of spirit and collaborative practices make them solid mentor-figures to work alongside acting students. It's been exciting, for me, to watch this ensemble take form. There's a kind of creative cross-pollination that has been moving to witness.
Actors are acrobats of imagination, expression, and emotion. A challenging aspect of directing teen actors, for me, is finding material which lives up to them. They are no longer children. Nor are they the same thing as adults. They are people in between, evolving and becoming every day… Asking them to perform as piglets in a nursery rhyme wouldn’t be appropriate or kind. Asking them to perform as King Lear wouldn’t be appropriate or kind either...
With This Random World, I hope we accessed a middle ground, where the words they say and situations they imagine honored and offered a safe challenge to their intelligence, emotional insightfulness, empathy, and imagination as interpretive artists.
As a script, This Random World, subtitled The Myth of Serendipity, masterfully treads a graceful line through comedy and tenderness, frustration, longing, and loss. We see points of connection in the lives of seemingly unconnected people. Interestingly, it is the dramatisation of missed connections that moves me as something like life, where serendipity is real, but we must also be looking up at the right moment to see it.
Over this pandemic period, the community of MPA students and staff has certainly been impacted by difficulty and loss. It was an honor, for me, to share This Random World’s sly wink at life with them, to help reopen the MPA theatre space.
Three quick days: open, play, conclude. But, through the quick burst of the weekend I was grateful to see participants from The Monday Night Acting Lab community there to help me support my students in the project. I was also grateful to see my family, as it is—among other things—a play about family.
Now it is Monday and today brings in the new cycle of The Monday Night Acting Lab, which runs 7 June to 5 July, 2021.
I can’t wait! See you in class?