I am determined to write a blog today. Because I said I would.
In the year that will be documented, I intend to bring theater back into my life. I could say it has been absent… but, really, it’s just a very lean helping each year. A healthy dose, certainly. Without too much excessive drama or headaches. But I also haven’t had as much opportunity to stretch creative muscle.
This year supper club has been about Shakespeare. Well, in my mind it’s about Shakespeare. In reality, I think it’s more about my poor guests listening to me drone on with my theories… or stories. But maybe it’s something I can come back to… like, say, when I direct a Shakespeare.
And I think that has been the conclusion of those conversations and the countless evenings during which I have listened to Shakespeare plays planning a dinner menu… when in fact, if I’m really honest, I’m blocking the play and wondering how I could cast it with the circle of actors I know or build a set at a theater that would have me.
Which brings me to the next point.
I’ve been back in Oakham for two and a half years now. Barre Players is ten minutes from my house. Not much is ten minutes from my house. (No, that’s not necessarily true, but that’s not what this is about.) I haven’t lived this close to a theater since I was in Newton… and even then there were stop lights that could turn ten minutes into 25 if I was headed to rehearsal at that magic hour of offices unloading.
Barre Players is my home. I suspect a lot of theater people will get that. No matter how far away we move or go – or even if the theater itself moves and goes – it will always be where I fell in love with the art, found my voice, found the feet to stand on, beat my head against a wall with frustration, cried, bled, sweat, and left a piece of my soul. But that, um, beating my head against the wall part? Yeah, that imprinted in me – well, firstly a vow never to look back. But that also came from the smugness of getting absorbed into the oblivion of the 128 Massachusetts bubble. Then I came back with all the calloused scars of a theater life… the desire just not to waste my time, my life fighting stupid fights that don’t mean anything against the backdrop of children being killed, poverty, institutionalized racism… and things that are in my day to day like jobs that have some very real artistic challenges to solve and family with whom the minutes are so precious why lose them in that vacuum of the theater life?
But did I mention I live in Oakham? I don’t even know if there is a demographic in this town for which I qualify… other than white. I need to find some like minded people. Or leave. And that is still a possibility. But I’m not ready just yet. And those Shakespeare conversations started an itch.
I went to a meeting. I was surprised at the lenses with which I observed things. I’m not going to deny that 128 bubble smugness kept my spine straight… but also my tongue silent. I went to another meeting. I had drinks. I said, yeah, I’ll help out with a show. Publicity. I mean I live on Facebook, so why ever not? (And if you live on Facebook even for 5 minutes, you should like the page. Click that hyperlink and do it now so I get to 500 likes this week.)
It’s funny how going through the back door (?) – maybe it’s more of a side entrance – into theater production through marketing really frames my thought process. Or, maybe you could say everything I am doing at work also contributes to the wheels that are turning… but it is making me think about the positives of theater. What makes people want to give up time with families, with work, with sleep, with Facebook to sit in a seat for three hours to watch an inclusive group of people on a stage playing? A lot of it is sentiment and nostalgia and camaraderie… because of course, half the audience is theater people. So when you market a show, you have to appeal to those emotions. To get at those emotions, I have to feel them myself.
I should note the show I volunteered to market is Aladdin, Jr. Without trying to sound like a martyr, I do want to note how very very much I despise all things Disney. And yet, I find myself on a weekly basis scouring the internet to come up with things to post. My favorite thus far is this silly photo.
But that is a tangent that perhaps I feel the need to iterate and scrub my soul from the guilt of selling out. Or giving in to those sappy teenage emotions of nostalgia. I find myself tuning into WERS every Saturday now and clicking on my Pandora Broadway station. I don’t think I have listened to musicals with such regularity since I was 18. Or since I discovered Shakespeare.
So that brings me back to where I was before. Shakespeare. Directing. And maybe this is where I come to the tie-in to the theme of these 377 days of blogs. I intend to submit a play to direct. At my theater home of Barre Players.
If you believe in that sort of thing, hell might have a sudden accumulation of ice cubes. Or not. Not really. I was just attempting some lame snark at 9:30pm.
Anyway, I’ve been reading through scripts the past week. I have a Shakespeare in mind. I think I have a pretty good mind for it. And it will be an option. If I could make my way to Boston Common in the next ten days, that might confirm my idea. But that might not happen.
What did happen is today I discovered a script with which I fell in love. Brilliant dialogue. And dialogue outside the parameters of decency for a Central Massachusetts stage. Not to mention a plot that may be outside the comfort zone. May be. Maybe the theater audience has grown up just as I have. I am going to have that benefit of the doubt and will keep you posted.
I have a couple other options. I read a few farces, as those are often popular selections. Except farces are formulaic. There are always doors. It’s always more about the choreography of timing than actual directing of character development. Indeed, the characters often lack common intelligence. Most definitely, the women lack common intelligence. Not to mention clothing. But I did find one that made me laugh… enough that I could live with it for a couple weeks. Enough to give up all that free time I’ve come to enjoy? I can’t say that honestly with a full heart.
And that’s when I got to thinking about what is offensive in a play. In language. So this play I love uses some harsh language. Some language of hate (within context). A scene of poetic intimacy. But intimacy that could make some prim and proper matinee audiences squirm. Like I squirm as the formula of a farce plays out with oblivious females taking off their clothes. Or a dated comedy where the characters of color are servants and talk like dat. But that’s quaint offense. Because it’s historic. And pure. Whereas the content I appreciate is vulgar… even though it tells a modern story with heart.
And then I decide... borrowing my favorite motto from Don Draper, if you don't like what people are saying, change the conversation. I am going to change the conversation.
So, no, I’m not going to tell you the plays on my mind. Not now anyway. Besides, this blog is already far too long. But I have concluded in this day in the life approaching 40 that theater is still a great love of my life. Because even in its contemplation of what could be, it makes me think.