Wednesday, January 27, 2016

watching and learning, part two

I'm having a ridiculously busy semester.  Though I don't really have any actual classes anymore, my days start at 6:30 and end around 11:00 (sometimes later) and are full, full, full.  Mostly full of rehearsal, I teach undergrads on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we do have the occasional seminar to attend. Then there's all the other stuff to do—finish my thesis, prepare my thesis presentation, submit articles to journals, submit papers to conferences, figure out how I'm going to pay for a PhD. My time is extremely valuable and I don't have a whole lot of it to spend how I please.

But on Wednesdays we finish our morning session at 12:30 and because of the teaching and class schedules, we don't go back until 7:00.  So for two-ish hours every Wednesday afternoon, I get to sit in the playhouse and watch the actors work. It is unbelievably good fortune that I'm allowed to do this, that I have the time to do this, and that this group of actors are as talented as they are hardworking.  

Today I got to sit in on fight call and music call.  I'm obviously excited about the fighting—Chris moves like a dream, the ASC owns gorgeous swords, and I always love to watch other fighters work.  I was super gratified to see that they work the same way I do—focusing on targets, speed, and intention, reinforcing the good while correcting the bad, etc.  I was also gratified to see that everything the fight captain had to say were all the same notes I would have given. 

I don't know anything about music, but this troupe contains some of the finest musicians I've ever heard in real life.  Chris, John, Chad, Aidan, and Holtz all make magic with each instrument they touch. Listening to RenĂ© sing brings me such profound joy. (I still can't believe I got to learn from him for an entire semester—how did we get so lucky?) For half an hour, I just got to listen to these amazing people create the most delicious sounds, and once again, I'm reminded how unspeakably lucky I am to live here, to be able to watch them work, to be in this program, to have nearly unfettered access to this theatre, to make my home in such a wonderful community.  In six months, I'll be gone, and I so badly don't want to leave.  I find such peace and joy in the playhouse.  I've fallen head over heels in love with the space and also the people who fill it.  That room and the people who work there are one of the biggest reasons my 2015 was so amazing, despite the fact that my marriage fell apart and my cat died.  That room and the people who work there are one of the biggest reasons my 2016 is off to such a thrilling start.  That room and the people who work there are one of the biggest reasons I don't want to leave Staunton.  Scratch that—they are the BIGGEST reason.  The theatre is my house of worship.  I feel about that building the same way I feel about the Columbia River, the Pacific Ocean, Star Wars, U2, The Goonies, and Shakespeare—it is an intrinsic part of my soul, and for the rest of my life, whenever I'm away from it, I'll feel a deep and abiding calling.  The words spoken on that stage are a siren song calling me home.

Because Staunton is my home. It is the first place that has ever been mine. Staunton is the place I became a person. How can I ever leave such a place?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

watching and learning

On Monday, I'm starting the final semester of my final master's degree. The last two and a half years have absolutely flown by, and I can't believe it's almost done.  My lease is up in seven months and I'm going to have to leave this town. (Noooo! Say it ain't so!)

In preparation for the show our company is putting up, I've spent this week observing the ASC actors rehearse for the Actors' Renaissance Season (the troupe puts up a season of five shows, with no director or formal design team, with only about three full days of rehearsal for each show).  Since my company is about to do the same process for the fifth show in our season, I'm spending days in the playhouse watching and learning.

I've talked before about how incredibly lucky I am to be living here, working with people I love, and loving the work I do.  I cannot believe the resources and opportunities available to me here.  The most immediate is the fact that I get to see all the plays at the ASC for free, as many times as I want, as often as I want.  During the fall, I sometimes spent four and five nights a week at the playhouse, listening, watching, and learning.

This is the first time I've ever had the chance to watch these actors rehearse.  I was amazed to see their communication with each other, the way they take care of each other onstage, the way they support and reinforce each other's choices.  I got to listen to two main characters discuss the end of one of the problem plays and try to decide how to handle it.  I got to see the evolution of comedic business and watch the senior actors be surprised at finding unanticipated business and challenges in scenes.  I watched them step in and out of character as they worked through scenes. I got to see familiar faces return, I got to see new faces begin to make an impression on me. Most importantly, I got to see a generative, supportive, fun, collaborative group of people create art right in front of my eyes.  I got to see exactly what a company can do when everyone is working for the same goal at their top capacity. It was so inspiring.

I've also spent a lot of time, especially in the last two years, talking about how I no longer want to be a theatre maker.  That still holds true, but the theatre is my house of worship and Shakespeare is my deity of choice.  Being able to while away my days and nights at the theatre, especially this one, feels like a dream.  In six months, when it's all over, I'll wake up and think I imagined the whole thing.

I am so lucky. How is it possible that I am so lucky?