Sometimes as artists, it is hard for us to separate our work from ourselves. It would seem that this would be a more common case for actors, but ANY person in the theatre world can experience this - directors, designers, producers, etc. It can be nerve-wracking waiting to hear feedback about a project that you pour your heart and soul into. However, waiting to hear this feedback can be ten times as nerve-wracking when the words are yours as well. And I'm not talking about words for fictional characters - I'm talking about words that came straight from your personal history - your story, splayed out on stage for everyone to see. This was the case with the premier of play. this past Tuesday.
Our evening was divided into three sections, which featured 8 actors and 2 directors. The Real Family was a stand-alone ten minute play in which a young man discovers that his adoptive parents are actually his real parents. Dearly Beloved details the story of Morrie, who deals with major, deep seated commitment issues and his relationship with his best friend and his fiancee. (Dearly Beloved is part of full length play that The CoLab plans on workshopping and producing in the future - stay tuned for news!) And then we come to Growing Up.
First, let me explain our process. (That's what we're about right!?) In Growing Up, I like to think of myself as more of a leader or a "guider" as opposed to a director. While I had the framework for our show's vision, it was really the ensemble that that filled in all of the blanks. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. We started our rehearsal process by using a number of Viewpoints exercises. For the first several rehearsals, we did not use voice in the rehearsal room. As I discovered, this put all 7 actors on the same page. Voice sometimes creates levels of hierarchy - some people are just more vocal than others (I'm certainly one of them). The silence allowed my actors to all experience the same rehearsal and it allowed me to simply watch what compelled me as a director at any given time. As we continued the process, the ensemble answers various personal questions, similar to journal entries. They brought these answers into rehearsal and we used them to add voice to our work. While the actors did not share every answer with each other, they did share them all with me. As I went through their answers (I read approximately 80 questions), I highlighted things that stuck out to me as powerful and relatable thoughts about growing up. The next step was to pare down these thoughts to their core statements and arrange them into a script. Our script had three sections - childhood, love and loss, and what I would call "the realization of how our pasts shape our futures." This "script" was not necessarily a cohesive string of statements, but the ensemble did a phenomenal job of making these thoughts make sense.
Watching the final product, it was phenomenal to see the audience relating to these thoughts. They related because these thoughts were truthful and universal. I am 100% thrilled with how the evening went. All I wanted was for everyone to have fun - both onstage and off. And they did. As much as I LOVED watching the ensemble on stage, I also really enjoyed watching the audience react. At the line, "Middle school is the hazing for real life" they even applauded in agreement because they could see reflections of themselves on stage. This whole process has been so rewarding for me - I can see reflections of both myself and the ensemble in the work and these reflections are universal. We are all so similar in so many ways and this was a beautiful way of bringing so many people (and a standing room only crowd I might add!) together over one shared THEATRICAL experience.
I'd love to hear your feedback about the show if you saw it. Feel free to comment with any questions, etc. and I will happily respond. Again, a heartfelt thanks to all who came out. We're excited to move onto "what's next." :)