Rehearsal Blog: Starting with Ourselves

17Sep10

Last night’s rehearsal started off with soggy actors (and director!) coming in from the rain and the clogged up traffic and ended with our customary “one word” check-out ritual. (We each say one word that speaks to something we’re feeling, thinking about, or something….it’s a way to close our work in the rehearsal room, acknowledge each other, and then get back to the rest of our lives.) In between, we explored some of our own stories relating to forbidden things. I asked them,

“How have you encountered the forbidden in your work as an artist?”

My belief is that, like me, the actors in the ensemble have a particular relationship to this idea of forbidden things. Something in their imaginations or their experiences must have drawn them to this project….

For me, pursuing a life in the theater itself was something that felt forbidden in some way. Maybe it goes back to the Puritanical roots of the American story, roots that somehow manage to continue to exert a powerful gravitational force on our culture. The Puritans forbade all dancing, all theater, believing them to be doorways to the devil and the occupation of loose women and lascivious men. As a nerdy little bookworm who grew up loving books and science, it seemed like following any dreams toward a career in the arts would surely lead to my ruin.

Later, when I finally landed a spot in the theater school of my dreams, the forbidden thing changed shape. Now, I felt like I could never measure up, never be beautiful enough or thin enough or talented enough to have a career in the arts. The looming specter of trying to make a living as an actor seemed to grow bigger every day. More than that, I struggled with the sense that even if I could “make it” in the theater world, I wouldn’t really be doing anything to serve other people and transform the serious problems that threaten us as individuals—and as a whole species. I left New York. I studied psychology but found myself so unhappy that I longed to return to theater. Eventually, I did.

That’s when I discovered community-based arts. In this field I’ve discovered a way to keep asking the questions that matter to me while providing forums for other people to ask their questions too. The process of making the art is the process of coming up with the right questions…sometimes we find answers. Sometimes, the conversations, the art, and the processes themselves have to be enough.

I’m not sure what stories the actors were remembering from their own lives when they made these images you see here. What I am sure of is that we have to begin from our own experience if we’re to create something that will resonate with others. It’s one of those paradoxes of the theater. Specificity is what allows us to create work that feels universal. Attention to the self seems a pre-requisite to being able to make space for another.

We’ve taken the time to check in with ourselves. Tomorrow morning we’re taking it to the streets again. Come find us wandering the streets of Pioneer Square with index cards, cameras, and a slew of intriguing questions for you to ponder…..

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