It might seem like I’ve been quiet over here, but it’s because I have been going all over the place filling up on plays. After the Long Intermission, I am saying “Yes, and!” to any play I can reasonably manage to get to. Between October 15 and November 13, I saw twelve plays (14 if you count the one-acts separately).
- The Cure at Troy at Quest Players
- The Antipodes at Ramapo College
- Elsewhere at Studio Wayne
- An Evening with Edgar Alan Poe at Valley Playhouse
- The Moors at Bridgewater College
- The Crucible at Eastern Mennonite University
- Rent at James Madison University
- One act competition at Spotswood High School (The Actor’s Nightmare, 146-Point Fire, The Garden)
- The Tempest at the American Shakespeare Center
- Dracula at Rorschach Theatre
- Pericles at the American Shakespeare Center
- All’s Well That Ends Well at Richmond Shakespeare
I love that all of these were so different, and they ran the gamut from extremely old to brand new. I saw Pericles with my whole family, took the children to All’s Well, enjoyed Rent with Silas and some dear friends, and had another friend along for Dracula. I drove to NYC for one, and probably could have biked to another.
In this month, I saw all ages and stages of actors. Elsewhere was a world premiere of a Don Zolidis play; Silas played The Tooth Fairy, among other roles. The cast were all middle and high school students. I saw fifty or so high school students perform in competition at Spotswood. Community members performed Poe, universities were well-represented, and I rounded out the mix with several professional companies. At each of these, I saw some amazing performances. Each of them had moments where the actors’ bodies connected with the text and I could feel their deep presence.
I also could see development in real time. Myles Curry, who played Angel in Rent is somebody I worked with peripherally when he was in middle school. He’s grown into the serious actor I saw glimmers of even then. I’ve seen Sarah Fallon onstage off and on for twenty years. Her Prospero was an absolute masterclass in effective use of Shakespeare’s words to drive and ground acting. I wish I could teach young actors to get there faster, but there are no shortcuts with that kind of craft. I feel honored to have witnessed her journey.
The plays varied widely in style and space, as well. What an incredible thing, where An Evening with Edgar Alan Poe and Rent are somehow different shades of the same art form. How amazing, to get to see Dracula in a historic firehouse, The Crucible in a blackbox, The Moors in a proscenium theater, The Cure at Troy in a historic church, and, of course, all that Shakespeare in the Blackfriars Playhouse.
I’ve also been reading a ton of plays, as we’re trying to plan our next two seasons of Silk Moth Stage. I’m so grateful that people have sent us some amazing work (and if you didn’t, there’s still time!). It’s hard to find the right plays for Silk Moth. As I’ve been seeing all these shows, I have been trying to process what about the space or context makes them work, or not, and seeking clues from that to better describe what kinds of shows we need. I think that performing in universal daylight makes certain modes of engagement feel fake or distant, and others far more immediate than a conventional theater setting. We’re a very “tell the truth / but tell it slant” kind of place. We don’t want to do theater for children, but we want people to feel okay about bringing their children. We have to look the audience right in the eye and acknowledge and value their presence. Our experiences this summer showed us that we’re onto something by daring to borrow Shakespeare & Company’s definition of the classics and apply it to new(er) plays: The highest truths, universally told, with healing powers.
The Cure at Troy and The Tempest are literal classics, and I could feel this definition resonating there. Rent feels like a classic.
We can argue all day about what the highest truths are. I’m not sure I believe that a universal telling is possible. But I do know that we need those healing powers.