Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another Reason, Another Season

...for making theatre.

How could anyone describe the start of a new theatre job? (I ask myself as I sit here and try to think that very thing...)

Anyone who's done it knows the feeling, although they might never have thought about it beyond the first blast of enthusiasm that quickly wears down to day-to-day work ethic. Whether it's one show that you'll be taking on a national tour for three months or a year, or a season of musicals of Shakespeare in one location, there's a certain...stuff. It manifests so slowly and broadly we don't see it, but we know when it's there.

It's like looking at a white piece of paper, if you're an artist, or a blank screen and blinking cursor if you're a writer. Not only does the stage begin empty, the great canvas of each actor, director, designer and determined member of the crew, but the project itself becomes a blank slate.

It seems impossible that in just a few weeks walking around this great, steel set will feel just as familiar as walking around my own house. It seems impossible that I'll know every location of every hazard backstage so well I can navigate it in the dark - as will most of the crew. Sorry actors, most of you still haven't mastered this. But we know why. You have to go out front and face down the bright lights and expectant audience. We see in the dark - you tell the story. It's give and take.

Even more than the physical presence of the set and the daunting schedule that makes it look as if we'll be dog-tired every (although you hit a miraculous stride on tour) - it seems more impossible that all these people wandering around will become familiar to me. Intimately familiar, and with each other as well. (Some more than others, in every way.) Saying it's like a family is almost as worn out as saying 'the show must go on.' But it's true. We find our brothers and sisters, our annoying siblings, our mentors. Enmities rise and fade, because we're a family - except that we more or less chose to come together.

There is an even bigger, invisible canvas stretched out here. It's a chunk of our lives. It's a very specific way we've chosen and trained to spend our time - to create a sacred creative space, present a story, and go on our way again. But behind that sacred space onstage in the theatre is a band of people. They're the real canvas: the way we'll come together. The way we'll clash, and cry. Presenting the most dramatic moments in the lives of a fictional person can wear someone down. Dragging around and erecting a ton of steel and lights each day can wear someone down.

But when those lights come up and the actors set foot on that stage and are no longer Mikel, Marie and Jen but Jem, Scout and Atticus Finch... that's what keeps us together. Maybe we'll be the moment that changes some person's life forever, because they came to our show, and had a couple of hours to sit quietly and live through someone else's eyes. A differen audience every night. A different chance to say what we came to say to willing, expectant ears. With that kind of opportunity, there's little room left for squabbling and It's always said that you don't have to like everyone - but you have to be courteous. You have to remember why we're all here. That we chose to be. That, at some point in time we all wanted - desperately - to be doing this.

You have to remember that - or when you're sitting looking at all the people and the vans and the huge scenery and the long, long drives and days....

Well, it looks just a little bit crazy. But we're used to it. We've done it before - and we'll do it again, because when we find that magic Stuff, whatever it is for each person, it's most addictive thing in the world.


Lauren said...

Always so profound. You make me remember why I even started all this nonsense in the first place. It's easy to forget when you're out of it for a while and all you see everyday are people who just need to ask "is this on sale?" I hope you guys have a great tour. And if you get anywhere close to here you let me know!

Jess said...

Aw thanks. I have the occasional profound moment when I remember why we're here. Ya' have to, otherwise statements like 'Can the gavel be darker?' make your work seem very odd. ;)