There’s been a lot going on lately, though you wouldn’t know it from this blog. A wonderful production of The Farm wrapped up, I’m in rehearsals with Fresh Ink Theatre for a similarly wonderful (though wildly different, tonally) production of Priscilla Dreams the Answer, and, most importantly, on November 5th I got married to my favorite person. There’ll be much to say about all of that soon, I’m sure.
And then I came back from the honeymoon and immediately froze up on what to blog about. Until I was riding the T this morning, and reading this article by Howard Sherman in Howlround, about “old” new plays and their necessity. It’s a great article, but what’s even more remarkable the follow-up comment by playwright Bill Cain, in regards to his play Stand-Up Tragedy. The whole thing’s worth a read, but this quote in particular hit me like a bolt from the blue:
Stand-Up didn’t just teach me how to write; it also taught me why I should write.
On opening night at the Taper in Los Angeles – a wonderful night – one of the young teachers on whom the main teacher was based – had flown himself out to see the show. I was very nervous to hear how it had affected him. When I found the courage to ask, he didn’t say that he had liked it or not. He said something much simpler. He said, “I didn’t know anybody had seen me.”
When the show opened on Broadway – also a wonderful night at least until the review came out – the boy who was the model for the central student was there and I was terrified of his response. He said something similar. He said, “I’m the hero, aren’t I?” And I said, “Yeah – you always have been.”
They taught me what writing is about.
Letting people know that they have been seen in all their hidden greatness.
It was a big thing to learn.
And a new way to evaluate success and failure of a work that took years to write.
I feel like I talk all the time about theatre’s ability to spark conversation, to inspire, to awe the audience. But there’s so much possible connection and validation in just taking people’s stories seriously and making sure that they know. Cain put it perfectly, and I’ll be thinking about it all day as I work through a few new projects and enjoy what’s been, as of right now, a really wonderful year.
Please be aware that, because of the prequels, this moment is possible in spite of you, not because of you.
If it weren’t so freaking adorable, I’d be mad right now.
Requisite Plug: Opening weekend for The Farm has been a blast. Good friends, old friends, new friends, and an awesome show. Of course, if you’re looking to learn more about it, you can just read this preview in the Boston Globe. Choice quote:
[McGough]’s other works are humorous and often fantastical. “The Farm’’ is a departure, but not as much of one as he thought, McGough says. Working with Gammons and the cast, “We’ve been discovering that it’s a little simpler than the other stuff I’ve written, it’s a little less crazy and out-there, but it’s definitely not realism.’’
Of course, having an audience this weekend was a nice reminder that there’s funny stuff in there, too. We’re all about balance here on The Farm.
Requisite Link to Buy Tickets
They can be yours!
For today’s show-promotion supplement, you have two options. You can watch this adorable short film that won a competition where the theme was “Love Mondays”:
Or, if you’re more into the whole brevity thing, you can just check out this awesome picture of a pug going down a slide, and reacting appropriately:
Somewhere along the line, this blog became very pug-heavy. I see you no problem with that.
And Brad Bird is the man.
You know, in the prologue of the film, there’s a moment when Mr. Incredible positions himself in front of a hurtling train and, for a fleeting second, he winces. “It’s quick, maybe a second long, but it’s a shot to tell everyone that ‘This is going to hurt.’ Those little touches, if you are diligent about them, they get the audience really involved, because that’s the reality that they know. This is blown often with superheroes.
I keep meaning to do a post on all the wonderfulness from the past two weeks (Priscilla winning Best Comedy at the Fringe, getting to work with Mame Hunt for five days, Mark Bly not only getting but actually laughing at a horrible Mercator pun in my script), but I just can’t get off my duff. So instead, I’ll get back in the groove easily, with a perfect illustration of storytelling commitment, courtesy of Doctor Who head writer Stephen Moffat.
You have to be willing to make your audience worry. You’ve got to be willing to put your characters in actual peril, and force them make decisions that are actually difficult. And you’ve got to be willing to stand by it, because the whole point is to make people feel ways about stuff. What would be the point otherwise?
(Of course, putting characters in peril is easier when you can resurrect them the next week, but still. An object lesson.)