Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Last night was the first rehearsal of "4.48 Psychosis", the Sarah Kane play that I have been pestering the Hunger Artists Theatre Company to let me direct for over a year. I pulled into the parking lot and took a couple of deep breaths, reminding myself that I have good people on my side. That I'm a talented guy who knows what he's doing. That I'm not curing cancer, just putting on a show, and if it fails, the world will continue turning.
As I walked into the theatre, two of the theatre's founding members, who also happen to be two of my best friends, walked out on their way to a social gathering in Los Angeles. They wished me well and left. I walk up to the theatre to see Jessica Topliff, the insanely talented actress who is my one and only cast member, having a smoke outside the front door. We are the only two people there. That's when I fully realized that I am The Director. The one calling the shots. I am naturally someone who not only shies away from any sort of managerial position, but has trouble making decisions on what fast food restaurant Brey and I should eat at. And yet I am the captain of this ship. I say, "Let's do this," and we head into the theatre.
We sit in the front row of the audience, looking at the set for "Twelfth Night". The two shows could not be more different. "Twelfth Night" boasts a large, colorful set, a cast of seventeen (which for that space is enormous), disco musical numbers and the feel of innocence and love. "4.48 Psychosis", on the other hand, is spare and stark, using one actress, one table and two chairs. It is filled with loneliness, desperation and betrayal, both internal and external. Jessica and I are both in the cast of "Twelfth Night" and we note the contrast.
Then, we get to work. Jessica opens up the script and reads it out loud, stopping only for the occasional question. As she read, I remembered why I have chosen to direct this piece, and why I cast Jessica without audition or second thought. She is fearless, diving into the material without hesitation. The piece, often thought brutal and depressing, is in many places beautiful and funny. And like how Laurence Olivier spoke Shakespeare, William H. Macy speaks David Mamet and I speak Jason Lindner, so Jessica's voice the perfect vessel for Sarah Kane's words.
She reaches the end of the script and quietly closes it. I am pleased, both at the realization that Jessica is 80% of the way there and at the thought of pulling the other 20% out of her (I don't want this process to be too easy). For the next couple of hours, we sit and talk about what we want this show to be, what we don't want it to be (no "Goodbye to clocks ticking" in this piece) and what could drive someone to make the journey that the character in this show does.
Then, the conversation turns inward, and we start talking about our personal experiences with the emotions present in the script. We start talking about our ideas of theatre and our motives behind it. And in the midst of the conversation, I come to several observations:
* I do theatre not to earn fame and fortune. What I seek on the stage is a connection to the audience. Too often overpriced tickets, oversized budgets and overinflated egos create a distance between audience and performer, creating instead an "event" that the crowd can only observe. Even in distinguished theatres like the Mark Taper Forum and South Coast Repertory I've been able to have that connection between participant and observer.
* All the years I grew up playing nothing but chorus members in Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre gave me an ensemble mentality. Rather than stealing the spotlight, I try to step back and let others have their moment. That could be what interests me about Hunger Artists. We seem to be a company of chorus members. People that strive to work as an ensemble, rather than a group of scene-stealers.
* My many years of loneliness and awkwardness around women has affected me much more than I let on. The effects of growing up with such a low self-esteem makes me tend to shy away from overly flirtatious women. In fact, when a woman flirts with me, I turn awkward and weird, not because of any desire for her, but because of my bewilderment that she is even bothering.
* I am truly lucky to have Brey in my life. People from time to time have criticized her, saying that she is mean to me simply because she calls me names. However, EVERYBODY calls me names, from my best friends to my own family. It's all in jest, and I never take it seriously. However, those accusations are unfair, mainly because those people do not realize just how much Brey has done for me. She came at a time when my longtime depression toward my loneliness had turned into cold indifference, and she showed me that not only was I a person worth liking, I was a person worth loving (something I had all but given up on at that point).
* I believe that we all have evil in our heads. Inside of us, we all have fucked-up voices that tell us things that we don't want to hear and showing us images we do not want to see. We all find different ways of dealing with these voices. These ways vary from working on cars to playing sports to murdering someone to committing suicide. I believe that this is why I have so many different little talents that I've learned, like piano, juggling, mime, tap dancing, etc. I learned these activities during my lonely teenage years and practiced them just so that I wasn't left alone with those voices.
As I was driving home, it was nice having such a revealing conversation. I suddenly had the urge to make more revelations, come to more conclusions, make more observations. I wanted to know everything about myself. I wanted to learn everything there was to know.
I got home and was talking to Brey. I wished out loud that I could do everything that I need in my life. Cook good meals, do my taxes, work on my car, etc. Brey replied with, "But if you did that, there would be no room to learn anything. And you wouldn't be able to appreciate those other people that do the things that you can't." Once again, she was keeping me in check, one of the many reasons that I'm in love with her.
With the contrast of Jessica helping me explore the clouds and Brey helping to keep me on the ground, I think that "4.48 Psychosis" is going to be a really rewarding process.
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