In an interesting confluence of events:
I saw Crystal Skillman’s reading of The Sleeping World at Rattlestick this week, on the set of That Pretty Pretty with one of the actors from That Pretty Pretty in it. So, I was watching this deep, sad, funny play about four friends coming together to read the unfinished play of their friend who took his own life the year before. But at the beginning, I show up and I’m in the hotel room from That Pretty Pretty.
And the ghost of Jane Fonda was in the air. And I’m half waiting for jello wrestling to begin. But, the actors are insistent, Crystal’s words are good, and I am lucky enough to have seen a lot of plays, so I know that this is the part where I turn on my imagination. And so I close my eyes and shift my brain and the hotel room melts away and instead, we’re in The Sleeping World. On a cold, snowy night at New Dramatists. And I’m in the world of the play. And I’ll follow them anywhere.
I had to ask my students to do this today as well. We brought a performance to their school. There was but a stool, a desk, a chair, one costume piece and a pair of shoes. And they had to believe we are in Chicago, on Mango Street and Esperanza is about to share her journal and her dreams with us.
They did pretty well for the first theatrical performance for some of them. They were a little squirmy. I think they found it challenging to sit for more than an hour and focus.
The beauty of theater is that it can happen anywhere. With very little. But what we ask of our audiences is hard. To be in the moment. To imagine. To believe. But, when all the magic is in order, we are all there, imagining, together.
I am trying to figure out how to make it easier for people that aren’t regular theater goers. Children and adults. How do we get them to lean in and believe?