WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When the smoke finally clears

A little more than a week ago we closed Dearly Beloved. A labor of love and a testament to using resources well and producing something good on the shoulders of a supportive community with limited means. Putting Dearly Beloved up was one of the hardest things I've ever done in theatre. A lot of what I blog about here is what I love about theatre and why I love producing and creating. And Dearly Beloved showed me a whole new set of things that I love and also things I'm good at that I didn't know about. But it also showed me some things I really hate and really struggle with when it comes to producing, in a way that I didn't expect. Not just because producing a show, no matter what your budget, is more work than any sane person wants to do, but because it was mine. My name was going to be all over this thing. And not in the tangential way your name goes in a program as a character or stage manager or crew person, where if things go horribly wrong you file it under "when bad shows happen to good people". This is my company. Our company. What can this show do to our names? What will it say about the kind of theatre I value? Will people like it? Will people COME? For the week before the show I was overwhelmed with these thoughts. Opening weekend was a complete blur of trying to hold myself together, run the show, and not dissolve into a puddle of liquid anxiety.

2 years ago I sat in the Bertucci's in Kenmore Square across from Kenny and Erika. I met Kenny performing together in Holland Productions' Aloha Say the Pretty Girls and Erika I had just met. We sat and ate and talked. Or mainly I talked and ate and they asked questions and listened. I guess it was an interview of sorts...but I wasn't really sure for what. I knew Kenny had some ideas about starting a fringe company and I knew Erika helped him run the Brandeis Theatre Collective in college and was interested in being his creative partner. I really had no idea where I fit in or what they were looking for. But as always I was just happy to talk shop with people I think are interesting. About a month later we all met again and I realized that Kenny and Erika were under the impression we were all starting a theatre company together. They had a name and a company structure all laid out. And their enthusiasm was exciting.

So I went with it.

It's been an interesting two years. I have been completely in awe of how quickly we have grown; amazed at how accomplished I feel doing the work that we've done; incredibly lucky to get to wear all the hats I want and not have to paint myself only in the "actor" or "producer" or "director" box; and proud to put my name on this company next to Kenny and Erika's.

I realize now, after DB's very very successful run and only now starting to feel normal again, that my anxiety was just a manifestation of my two year investment in The CoLab. So much of myself is stamped on our mission, our productions, our outreach, that it's impossible to separate myself from the event. Of course Kenny and Erika are stamped in there too (thank god, because without them I definitely would have liquified over opening weekend...this business surely is not for the faint of heart) and we wouldn't be The CoLab if any one of us were to jump ship. But it is hard to tie so much of your emotion and energy into something that's ultimate success does not lie solely in your hands.

The run of Dearly Beloved was a huge milestone for the company. And the amount of support and turnout we received were better than I ever hoped for. But the entire process of production was monumental for me. It took everything I had and burned it. Slowly at first and then in a huge raging blaze. And now, the smoke has cleared, and I can see so much more about what the last 2 years have meant to me. And what The CoLab means to me. And how to keep up with it and keep learning and changing with it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Lesson from my Grandfather

Learning is a process that is never complete. People are always susceptible to change and that change is inevitable. My hope is just to embrace it and attack it head on, whether successful or not.

I didn’t want this blog to be anything about my thoughts on what acting or theatre should be. My novelty within the entire scene deems those thoughts comical, to me especially. Although I do not consider them insignificant I know they will probably change by the time I am finished writing this blog.

Instead, I want to use this opportunity to share a few lessons that my experiences over the past year have reawakened.

My grandfather, Papa, is ninety years old. He has lived a life that I cannot even begin to fathom. He was a fighter pilot in WWII, was shot down twice (obviously survived), earned nine Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal with twenty gold stars, and countless other medals. He was the cofounder and president of a college, he married the love of his life, has six children, twenty-four grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren, and the list of achievements goes on.

The root of his successes are the relationships he has been able to build throughout his life. He has performed countless acts of generosity that he will never admit to. He treats everyone he meets with the same kindness and genuine interest. One of my earliest memories is going to Papa’s office and into the back door of one of the college kitchens. He would greet everyone from head chef to dishwasher by name and ask them about specific members of their families (unbeknownst to me he also had a habit of giving spontaneous bonuses to these same employees).

He had a tight knit group of over twelve very close friends. He and my grandmother, Nana, are the only surviving members. Sometimes it is hard to understand why these things happen but I think in this case I can offer an explanation. Throughout his life, and to this day, he has attacked every day with incredible zeal. He has managed to discover the perfect recipe for easy-going ambition. He breathes life and lives without regret. One of his favorite quotes, and one that he uses whether making good time to dinner or sinking a ten foot putt, is “Plan your work, work your plan”. While easy to say, this quote is not as easy to put into practice, though he would make it seem otherwise. When things work out for me and more often when they do not, I think of this quote.

It’s easy to lose track of things when going through the day-to-day grind. Having to meet new people on a weekly basis through my newfound theatre adventures has shown me once again that the smallest action or inaction, whether good or bad, affects someone else. Someone is always watching and listening. Understanding that people will be affected by words and deeds is crucial. It is not always possible to understand it completely but just thinking about it feels like a step in the right direction. It seems whenever I have been in an uncomfortable situation, or a situation that involves choosing words carefully, I try thinking to myself “what would Papa do”. This thought has helped me more than I know and I wish it would always come to mind.

In theatre it has become shockingly clear to me that it is essential to become comfortable with those around you. It is not easy. Embracing awkward moments and taking a risk, with the possibility of making that moment more awkward, is something for which I can thank Papa. He is the king when it comes to interrupting uncomfortable silences. Although I can’t pull off some of his jokes yet (server at a restaurant comes to the table and asks if he wants any dessert, he nods to Nana saying “I have my dessert right here”), it is a continuous learning process which I am currently enjoying.

Getting involved in so many new projects all at once (classes, plays, and other shows) has made me understand the importance of these lessons. “WWPD” finds itself in many aspects of my life and it has become even more apparent over the past year. I am so thankful for it. My point, if there is one, is not to try to influence anyone else but to express how grateful I am that these ideas have once again come to light.

Even if the only thing that is taken from this blog is that Patrick has an unnecessarily large family, I hope this can at least add another ingredient to the pot. For me, right now, I don’t know what kind of a product or result will come of these experiences and thoughts. Right now, I’m happy just enjoying the process.

**This post was written by Patrick Poulin who you can see as Julius in Dearly Beloved opening Friday September 9 running through September 17. Tickets: $11.50 online presale, $13.00 cash only at the door. www.brownpapertickets.com