I don’t like fast-up productions. I like to take my time and make sure everything is as perfect as possible. I like to be over-organized with charts and calendars. I like to not rush, or have stress or adrenaline. In the world of theatre, this seems to make me weird (in film, not so much…you have to plan like crazy for film).
But, when the Boston Playwrights Theatre offered me 4 weeks in March, there were 2 people on full go ahead, so I allowed myself to be convinced that a fast-up production wouldn’t drive me insane. This fits under the category of, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”
HOWEVER! While it has driven me crazy, while there has been stress and adrenaline and I have compulsively organized everything trying to make up for lost time, I have also had this kind of weird surrender. So I’ve watched as things have oddly fallen into place…the hard-working Pattersons coming on for marketing, producing and Assistant Directing, the right cast (my partner, who has never acted, and who is terrified of the stage has somehow ended up in this play, and that felt right while being so irrational it took the limits off all definitions of insanity…but the director loves her and she’s great in the part so…), Julia Short stepping in as director (I love Julia), a sound designer, an actor, a production manager who are so invested in the project for very different reasons. I am wondering after the hell year of 2011 whether this isn’t a gift. I keep feeling like in some energetic cosmos weird thing Don is steering this…giving me what I have wanted, which is to tell this story of what it means to love and be human, and to tell it with people who are actively being good to each other.
I miss Don, but he respected Julia a lot, and the last time he and I directed she was our lead actress. I keep thinking he would be nodding away, happy at her choices, happy with how she sees. Joan Mejia, who was her co-lead, is playing Jesus, so I should maybe ask him if he’s seeing Don hanging around. To top it, Alan, who plays my husband, is an actor I met through Don, when Don brought me on to do acting coaching on a sitcom pilot. A confluence, a coming together…
I do have to admit that I wrote the first draft of the play in a week. I didn’t sleep much, of course. But it was really fun to do the adaptation. I love anything creative–I’m really kind of a one note person, made of little else but creativity–and I love creative challenges, when you have limits and you have to create new ideas to fit them. Screen to stage is like that.
Of course, everything about fast-up is terrifying. Is the play really ready? (I think it is…) Are the decisions correct? Do I have time to settle into my role as an actor?
Or perhaps what is terrifying is this–often theatre production has been very disappointing. Not slams, they’ve gone well and they weren’t something I was doing for myself anyhow. But the two times I’ve produced my own work before this were challenging and disappointing. Often my own fault it turned out that way, or partly my fault. I couldn’t get what I wanted from a play I loved, because I was so new to producing and I did too much (as I always do).
And now here I am. This story, Saint John the Divine in Iowa, is my watershed work. I’ve been a writer all my life, and I could never quite get to singing the song at the center of me until I wrote a memoir in 2006-08. The memoir opened a door out of well-trained crafts person into wildness. I started to really sing in my own voice. So…SJDI is my ultimate song. It’s a song to joy, to healing, to redemption, it’s a belief in love and love’s power, it’s a song to morality and human goodness. It is frightening to me to think that this fast-up production, full of risk, might not sing the song. Of course, I’m risking because I think it will. Obviously. I’m even thinking these weird thoughts about Don…about leaning back into Don’s belief in me and love for me, and letting that carry me through the hard places that are, of course, inevitable. Because it’s taken 30 years to get to sing this. There was dirge in the way, and lament…and while dirge and lament can be beautiful, moving, they tell the story of life’s pain and difficulty, even when there are moments of redemption. We all know that life is painful and difficult. But the song of belief in goodness above all things, however idealistic it might seem, is also beautiful.
And me. Joy is a part of me, along with dirge, lament, cry.
So, the damn play is already funny with these lovely actors. It’s already beautiful. I am settling into letting each moment unfold, I am setting into the temporal nature of theatre, making something that happens and then is gone. Beauty. A play is a tree dropping its leaves. Gold on the ground. Then gone.