Sans Everything- Lighting Rod Special and Strange Attractor

Maura is a director and dramaturg.

Cara is a director and dramaturg.

Cara

What’s in your pockets?

Maura

I generally like Lightning Rod Special’s work a lot, and I am predisposed to like the work of several of the Philly-based performers in that group.

Cara

I am also predisposed to like LRS. I have always loved their work. But I don’t know anyone personally. We should note that this is a collaboration between Lighting Rod Special and Strange Attractor.

Maura

I’ve worked with (designer) Masha Tsimring. I will also say that I went in with some trepidation about Shakespeare being involved in any way.

Cara Blouin

Yes, I should say that also. I am very, very wary of theater about theater. Especially Shakespeare. So wary that I think it prejudiced me about this show. Do you want to start with design? This set design was exactly the kind of wonderful that I always love from LRS. So specific, so evocative.

Maura

I loved the design. I thought having Masha do both set & lights resulted in an incredibly cohesive aesthetic world that allowed lights and scenery to play off each other so beautifully. I was pretty mesmerized. Some specific lighting moments were the stars, the isolated light spots where they listened to music and rested, and Jenn Kidwell becoming a plant.

Cara  

And I agree that the stars were beautiful. I think this is part of what makes LRS such a mature, compelling company, they know how to evoke the feeling of a thing without being representational. I think a lot of this play is about how when we look at experience that we don’t understand, we might take a trivial detail as being extremely vital, or something merely pragmatic as deeply meaningful. The elevation of blinds and potted plants is such a clever way to make that visual.

Maura

Blinds are just blinds to us, but they became portals to transverse or manipulate for the AIs.

Cara Blouin

Right, if you didn’t know what humanity was, you might think that a bland, American office aesthetic was the Roman Columns or cathedral edifices of our species. I also loved the nature of the things that were behind the scenes the silvery ducts and tubing because it was so surprisingly familiar.

Maura  

And how they made costumes out of the guts of their space.

Cara

I think theater often falls in love with totemic items, do you know what I mean?

Maura

Yes, absolutely, because I do it all the time as a director.

Cara Blouin

Like, we don’t know how to work with the stuff of actual existence, which I think it betrays a kind of fear that LRS doesn’t have at all. I’m thinking of Let The Dog See the Rabbit, when a museum staff meeting was elevated to a kind of poetry. That’s what the extension cords felt like in this. I love the way they are always coming back to what’s real and not what stands in for real.

Maura  

To be fair, though, there is kind of a traditional theatre aesthetic of using what is available to you.

Cara  

I think it’s both. I mean, I think it’s self conscious.

Maura  

I think many institutional theatres have moved away from that in pursuit of high production values and in an effort to challenge televised media’s prominence, but part of what made the Shakespeare work was the manipulation of mundane objects, right?

And it served to make the AIs so much more human/childlike.

Cara  

Absolutely. So from your perspective, what did that say about theater?

Maura

For me the show did a really neat sleight of hand where it cast doubt on the importance of art, specifically canonized art.

The inane repetition of Shakespeare is the barrier to the AIs experiencing real life, even though the way their inquest into performance began was so genuine. I felt like theatre became this way to avoid who you really are, initially in a way that illuminated your being — see the Alice Yorke character in particular — and ended in a rote performance that lost all meaning through ever-faster repetition.

Cara

Yes, yes yes.

Maura  

If the voice hadn’t given them Shakespeare, too, what would have happened? What would have resulted out of those early initial explorations of being someone else?

Cara  

Right. And also the initial attempts at theater were interactive. They relied on and responded to the audience.

Maura  

Yes! And flexible! Nobody felt ownership of any one role and it was possible to let someone else step into what you had created. No ego, no canonization, just ritual in a way that felt revelatory to them and honestly a little to me. At the same time, this very authentic joy in the creation of performance and then its move into the Shakespeare opens some terrifying but so-useful questions for me as an artist about the self-indulgence of theatre. I never know if what I see in something is what they intended or just what I needed at the moment, but to me this piece felt so brave because it asked “why are we doing this?” in a way that felt gentle and forgiving.

Cara

And that brings me to a question that *I’m* constantly struggling with– is putting that reflection into performance responsible?

I think it’s a vital question and a vital exploration. It’s deeply important to me. But I’m still uncomfortable about what it means to invite an audience to it. No matter how excellent the reflection, or how wise the revelation, it’s still insular, and self involved.

Maura  

You were the one that told me it is ok to have art made for us in regards to That Pretty Pretty. I was baby feminist-ing about whether it was responsible to put the violent effects on our brains of violence against women on stage. And you said “that art can be for us, and it’s ok, we don’t have to worry about the confused men in the audience.” And I actually think the audience of Sans Everything was (at least on Thursday night), right there with it. I think that theatre-going audiences must be asking some questions about the purpose of art. We have to trust that they are doing that to some degree, because they are the people we trust to consume our work. The collective sigh of relief when Jenn Kidwell said about Shakespeare “That is NOT my experience” said a lot about that audience, I think.

Cara Blouin

Yeah that was a great moment. It obviously mattered to everyone in the room about what canon means and who it excludes.

And I know that I am kind of asking a theoretical question about a real environment, but theater’s propensity to be myopic is something I like to keep at the forefront of my mind. I can’t fault LRS for knowing their audience or blame them because I wish audiences were different.

Maura  

That is true, about theatre being myopic. But… I mean, if we aren’t a little myopic how can we be genuine?

Cara

Every performance continues to feel precious to me. Every room full of people who chose to be there. It feels like a precious resource and I can’t help thinking in a really high-stakes way about everything that happens in that room. Especially in a venue like Fringe Arts. It’s one of the few places where theater people and non-theater people go.

Maura  

I mean, from that perspective, LRS just showed a bunch of folks a group of white people in white face doing Shakespeare, who also literally made the person of color and the person who didn’t seem to think in the same pattern as everyone else into scenery. I think that was a pretty clear commentary on the privileging of whiteness/Western canon/narrowly defined intellectualism. No?

Cara  

True again. My heart isn’t in this, really, because it was a really great show.

Maura  

I do think your point is important! Like ok, if we are looking at the show for what it was, I think it is incredible. You are asking if it should have been what it was at all, which is fair. No matter how well done, we should always be questioning what centering art/theatre does for the work we make. I just reserve the right to have loved it.

Cara  

I loved it, too. But neuroticism about theater will always be in my pockets. Do you want to talk about the performers?

Maura

I would watch Jenn Kidwell do anything ever and Scott Sheppard is hilarious. Alice Yorke was SO charming

Cara  

How is Scott Sheppard so humble on stage? He’s a giant white guy who somehow reflects no sense of entitlement.

Maura  

Also I just think Scott brings a kind of rigor to everything I’ve seen him in that keeps him from being entitled. He’s so precise.

Cara Blouin

Yes, and generous. He is constantly giving focus to other performers. I agree that Jenn Kidwell is completely entrancing. You can’t watch anything else when she’s on stage. Which made the part when she’s used as scenery even stronger. And I also agree that Alice was extremely compelling. Her character was extremely endearing, although I can’t put my finger on why.

Maura  

Her vitality and curiosity about life perhaps?

Cara Blouin

Yeah, being driven. Other characters seemed distracted by one thing after another but she had a clear line of inquiry throughout.

Maura

I also have never seen Mason Rosenthal act before, and I thought he was a great counterpoint to Alice. His pursuit of the real and then participation in the performance to be close to someone he cared for. Oh man, it hurt my heart a little.

Cara

They do the same thing with human interaction that they do with lights and sets, which is to highlight the small and the true. There was a moment when they were naming themselves, and Breathing (Jed Hancock-Brainerd) hesitated when I thought “oh no, he’s going to be the hero.” But he wasn’t. I should have trusted them.

Maura

In general I just thought the performers were so strong. Great comic timing, they felt like a true ensemble. Katie Gould’s face cracked me up multiple times, like in that first performance behind the rug scene? My god. So funny.

Cara  

They’re all really careful, like you were saying about Scott. I think that’s the real reason that I love them. They have such devotion and humility to what they are doing.

Maura  

I think this piece attests to taking time to make something from an ensemble perspective, too. They’ve been working on this since 2015. Which makes it extra amazing to me that the piece felt so relevant to me post-election. I did not respond with “art is more important than ever!” I felt first ready to leave art entirely and then profoundly committed to examining what art I do and why.

Cara  

A good reminder. Ensemble and devised work takes time. (reminds self)

Maura  

I always need that reminder.

Cara  

Me, too.

Maura  

I want to mention the sound and costumes.

Cara  

Sound was so seamless. I loved when they were listening to music in their separate earphones. So surreal and yet so familiar.

Maura Krause

Yes, I loved that. The quality of the voice was very well done, too.

Cara Blouin

Like a preschool teacher unruffled from years of experience.

Maura  

And very set in their ways. That amused patronizing quality. And then the sound treatment of it made it a little unnerving, a little ransom kidnapper-y.

Cara

Sci fi overlord feeling without the sci fi overlord attitude.

Maura  

Yes, exactly!

Also, I thought the costumes were pretty strong, I knew right away that Rebecca Kanach did them. She is so good at building surprising edifices. I enjoyed how the clothes contributed to everyone’s developing individually, it helped tell Breathing’s story as well as everyone else’s.

Cara

How about the ending?

Maura

The ending was the weakest part of the piece for me. I felt like there was a false ending of them exiting into the theatre and I was so down for that to just be the end. Like them turning the gaze back on us and then going off into the world, I was like GREAT I GET IT YAY. I guess that the continued passage and running was about their individual experiences in the outside world/life? Then they all were… reborn and got to die together? But Mason got his eyes back?

Cara  

I  did not get that. I didn’t know what it was about, actually.

Maura  

I was just confused when they got back on stage. Alice’s “more” was pretty great, and later a friend pointed out that it gave a very clear ending to the piece in a way that their just exiting into the theatre would not have.

Cara  

But what did it mean?

Maura  

More life? That was them dying or returning to the mother ship, no? And they all felt different ways about that but Alice’s character wanted to do it again or keep going?

Cara

I think the most useful thing I can say about the ending is that it wasn’t clear to me, either in tone or story. This piece still raises uncomfortable questions for me. Particularly *because* I love it. It makes me question the validity of the things I love in the face of what’s happening in the world. Does it *really* matter if we are precise? Does it *really* matter if we are humble? These are real questions for me right now.

Maura  

Yes, they are. But also, therein lies madness. And potentially unproductive self-hatred.

Cara Blouin

Or potentially a sense of artistic responsibility. I think what I mean is yes, I love beauty and precision. Will beauty and precision serve me in the world to come?

Maura  

Like everything else it is a balancing act! We need just enough to have a sense of artistic responsibility but not so much that we hate ourselves for needing to make art, and for making what comes out of us.

Cara  

Fair. Thanks, Hello! Sadness! for nailing that down so beautifully.

Maura  

Woo, yeah, that show. My review of that would have just been joyful sobbing. So maybe beauty and precision will matter and maybe it won’t, but it’s still a part of you. You can have space for both.

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The Seagull- Ego Po

Shannon is a designer in Philadelphia
I’ll start with what’s in my pockets. I spent four years paying top dollar for a degree that says I’m a specialist in early modernist Western literature (take that for what its worth). I also once costume designed a production of The Seagull (way more relevant). 
For that project, I spent a lot of time with the script. I’ve always been of two minds about the play. I’ve heard a lot over the years, from friends, acquaintances, strangers, and now EgoPo, about the eternal relevance of Chekhov. I have my doubts. Not to get too lit-crit on everyone, but Symbolism is the tradition that dominates modern Western literature. This play sits on the breaking edge of that wave. It was, at the time, part of a new movement. A little experimental, a little revolutionary…120 years ago. Now though? Honestly, The Seagull is about a bunch of unrelatable historical fantasy people. The pacing is awkward, it takes an awful lot of good acting and direction to justify some of the stakes, and as with all period plays, it means suffering through at least one fake accent. (Please stop doing this. I promise you, it isn’t as good as you think it is.)
In his director’s note, Lane Savadove talks about the “dust” that starts to settle onto plays that make it into rep. Yeah. It can get downright noxious. I show up more or less expecting to be bored, if not offended. But EgoPo had the self-awareness and audacity to attempt not just to re-stage but to revive The Seagull. A tall order. And the thing is, they pretty much did it.
A lot of the production was fresh. EgoPo aimed to create an atmosphere and a universe that transcended the proscenium. The audience was invited to consider themselves guests at Konstantin’s play within the play from the moment they entered the bar / lobby space. A painfully earnest Konstantin (Andrew Carroll) led us through an enchanted transitional space, which included the actor’s green room, and onto a stage that was just gob-smackingly beautiful. To Thom Weaver and the rest of the design team: I am just one big Orson Welles standing ovation meme. This set was radically smart. It had a lush realism that delighted – actual water! actual dock! actual room! – and a heady abstraction that challenged and denuded, as when Nina (Anna Zaida Szapiro) delivered her Act 1 monologue lit in blue like an avenging fury. The greatest moment was of course, Act 3, when the solid ground flew away and furniture was re-set straight into the lake. Each and every character was forced to wade through the water and pretend as if nothing had changed. Could it be that the water had always been there? Sloshing around the actors’ ankles, weighing down the hems of dresses and pants – a symbol of something inevitable and drowning. It was a potent visual cue. The audience could see clearly that the boat had sunk and Arkadina (Melanie Julian) and Trigorin (Ed Swidey) had no power to seduce us any longer.
I think with these bold strokes, EgoPo made an eloquent case for revisiting Chekhov, and perhaps by extension, other theatrical “masters”. I was forced to recognize the universals: the violence of the old against the young; the inevitable and destructive force of human vanity; and, ironically, the impossible attempt we all make to control Art and its many Forms.
Did I still get bored? Yes, of course. Let’s not forget that the whole play leans heavily on certain gender tropes that we are all really tired of seeing: evil, sexy mothers and naive, virginal girls. Madonna/whore till the end, I guess? This is a thing I don’t believe has to stay a universal. It only perpetuates as long as we choose to perform the same plays over and over.
The only other bone I’d pick is with the program note on the Russian season. There is a lot of highfalutin speak on the timeliness of a Russian season. I get it. It was a natural connection to make. But I’m not sure I’m too keen on getting sold some tale that Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov are somehow relevant windows into the Russian psyche. I get it, we’re talking very generally, yeah – but if you’re going to frame your season in the geo-political landscape, I don’t know, I’d rather it actually got political. I’m not going to pretend I went home with a better sense of how my Russian peers are living, loving, suffering. If we’re going to get high on “activists and dissenters,” I think we need something a little more Pussy Riot and a little less Pushkin, don’t you?

Constellations- The Wilma Theater

Melissa and Genevieve decided to experiment with recording their review rather than typing

Melissa

Alright Genevieve what was in your pockets?

Genevieve

Pretty much nothing! I don’t know anybody in the show. I’ve been to the Wilma, and I have liked their things in the past…though I question some choices from time to time.

Melissa

I feel pretty similarly. I have worked with one of the actors, Jered McLenigan, before, and I think he’s pretty remarkable. But I don’t know his wife, Sarah [Gliko], who was his partner in this play…. I’d spent the day talking about the relevancy of theater over the next season…planning and talking about how plays relate to our lives. And I’d had a drink….

Genevieve

I’ve had a lot of discussions with other people about this play in particular. I happen to enjoy it. I think it’s a really interesting way of engaging with physics for someone who is not well versed in physics. It’s a fun application of the theories. I know some people find it kitschy…I don’t agree, but I see how some might view it as schtick.

Melissa

I didn’t know that much about the play, apart from the premise. I thought I would like it more. But I felt like I couldn’t really connect to the characters, to their relationship. It felt like it was never quite real. I thought I could see a lot of things coming, like the first time she crashes to the ground as he tenderly holds her. I thought, “Well okay, we’re going to watch this lady lose her mind.”  It was fine. But coming from a day of talking about what art can be doing right now, I thought, “why are we doing this?” And that isn’t really fair. It’s not fair to put that on all plays, because not all plays want to do that. Some plays want to connect physics and string theory to the complexities of human emotions, and… that’s valid. Art can do a lot of things. But it just wasn’t where I was while I was watching this play…. I couldn’t help but think, “Cool! Two white people fall in love over and over. They fall out, they fall in…who cares? The world is ending.”

Genevieve

But what was fascinating for me was I went with somebody, and this was his first professional theater production. He is an accountant, and he is interested in big philosophical quandaries . So, I thought Constellations might be a good choice for his first show. And it was!  he was really jazzed about the production…perhaps because he’s not used to engaging in emotional  depth In his day-to-day work. Whereas theater people…we are a little jaded in that way.  This is something we talk about all the time. So we are primed to look for that “what is this doing for the world” thing, because that is the next step for us.  Someone who is not engaging in that everyday might find it exciting to see emotions played out in front of them.

Melissa

There were moments when I would check out and see audience members react. They were so moved. They kept to vocally reacting… So I think [you’re right], there is something for the idea that we (theatre artists) are just different audiences in the way we think about plays. We just do, and it’s okay. As a script, it’s a smart play. The writing is smart, it’s funny. The places where playwright Nick Payne decided to splinter off were… were well-chosen. I was curious about how the play was mostly… linear, but we would call forward to the unraveling, to her dying. I was interested in how that became an inevitability…. Because of the way it was structured, it seems like the play was saying, “It’s going to end this way. It’s just going to end this way.” It’s fascinating when you are asked to think about multiverses and how this ending was still almost predetermined.

Genevieve

I felt like he chose this particular rabbit hole to go down. He obviously could have gone in several different directions, given the exploration of multiverses. He wanted to get to that final monologue that Marianne has where she says something akin to, “You are always going to have all the time we would have had together.” I see that as the thesis of the play. That if you are trying to hold onto somebody that you perceive as someone you are losing either through death or some other circumstance, you’re still possibly holding onto them somewhere else. And that is kind of beautiful.

Melissa

It is beautiful!

Genevieve

…but it takes a long time to get there.

Melissa Yeah.

All these possibilities exist, but this thing we are watching is a curated selection of moments. This is the thing we are led to ultimately. We have to be led to this ending in order to contextualize the rest of their relationship.

Genevieve

So, this play has proven to be popular. It’s had several productions. My question is: We know this is a piece that works, because people do it over and over again. So, besides its popularity, why do you suppose the Wilma included it in their season?

Melissa

It seems the Wilma is really drawn to cerebral, intellectual topics. This time last year, they were doing The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard, which was another science play that attempted to use science to illustrate human emotions, to a less successful degree (sorry Tom). I think they found the intellectual part of it really appealing. I also think they were interested in the acting challenge of the play, in that there are so many different tactics you have to choose. That fits well into their mission with HotHouse the Wilma’s acting company. But I don’t know that it was thinking about the world in which they’re doing plays. The Wilma sometimes does that. Like, When the Rain Stops Falling, which is the play they did before this one, was climate change paired with a generation (again, mixed results for me). The real world was something they were considering. Constellations didn’t feel like that. This felt like, “This is a good play. This is good for us. It’s small, compared to the two larger plays we were doing bookending this piece,” and, “We’re doing it, because we like it. ”

Genevieve

When the Rain Stops Falling seemed like it was supposed to exemplify a “cause and effect.” The familial relationships caused the neverending rain. I can see the connection from the personal to the political. With Constellations, you could have had Marianne and Roland’s entire relationship played out in front of you and have it have nothing to do with string theory.  And that’s the problem. One did not depend on the other.  Therefore, this play doesn’t necessarily fit into the season if they’re looking at how the personal relates to the political.

Melissa

So, what did you think of the performances?

Genevieve

I thought Jered was wonderful.  He really moved through each scene expertly and with an ease. He was very open from the start.

Melissa

With each different change, timeline, or “string” of this relationship, he was the one that most fluidly moved through tactics. He changed the most completely and the most naturally. I don’t know that I would say the same for Sarah Gliko, though.

Genevieve

I felt the same about her. I saw it on a Tuesday (after they had a day off),  and part of me wondered if this was the cause. Because sometimes if you’re off for a day you need a few minutes to get back into it.  She seemed like a performer rather than a person from the start. There was a harder edge to her that made her appear performative.

Melissa

I totally agree. I also saw it on a Tuesday. She was fine, and when she and Jered were focusing on each other, they were talking to each other a little more. But there were moments when she would turn out to us that felt like, “This is blocking!” She would “express” herself, like she’s acting.

Genevieve

It’s important to note that they are married, because it makes sense to me that the moments they focused on each other was when the intimacy clicked in for her (but it would fall away when she had to deal with the rest of us). That being said, I do believe her harder edge was good for Marianne, because that character is the scientist. She’s the one explaining the theory. It works. If it made her slightly inaccessible, it at least fit the character…letting her have that quirk.

Melissa

I want to push back against that, because so much of Marianne, as directed, was, “This is a quirky joke! Aren’t I awkward and funny?”  She opens the play with the line, “Do you know why it’s impossible to lick your elbows? Because they hold the secret to immortality.” Like, why? Who is this person? Marianne is straddling both hardline scientist who needs to be in control and… not Manic Pixie Dreamgirl (that’s an overused phrase)… but this uber playfulness, uber awkwardness.  It was in those moments that Sarah Gliko was least successful. When she could be this more in control person, which she had also played in The Hard Problem, I thought, “Ah yes, this is a person. This is a human being.” But other moments her characterization felt really contrived. I don’t know whether that was Sarah, whether that was Sarah interacting with the script, or whether that was director Tea Alagic guiding her in that way. It didn’t click for me. It felt fake.

Genevieve

The quirk felt like stereotype, rather than one person trying to connect to another person and having a difficult time with it.

Melissa

And when you have that up against Jered, who is [playing] a pretty normal dude…that character of Roland  is pretty normal even in his more simpering or brooding states. He still feels like more of a human being. Maybe that’s Jered being a different kind of actor, or maybe it’s direction, or maybe it’s the combination of direction, writing, and acting.

Genevieve

What did you think of the overall direction? It’s a hard piece to tackle, because it doesn’t give you much to go on.

Melissa

It’s true… I thought the direction was fine. But again, there were these hyperarticulated moments of awkwardness… playing at that kind of human connection. They were successful in creating repeated language beats, particularly in the crouching down, “hold me, I’m losing my mind” moments. There would always be that, which signified which multiverse we were occupying, which was helpful.  But I feel like the way Sarah ended up playing Marianne was because of direction.

Genevieve

Knowing that the script doesn’t offer much in the way of world-crafting (though other plays are open to a director’s interpretation, of course), this one is unique in that Payne doesn’t give any indications of set or specific world, and it’s up to the director to decide how they want to move through that. To Alagic’s credit, I forgave the fact that there was no set, not props. I still question the overall design, but it is a testament to her to make me forget that there are just two bodies interacting in space for an hour and some change. I was immersed in that world enough.

Melissa

What questions did you have about the design?

Genevieve

It was spare, which wasn’t a problem (and I usually prefer spare, anyhow). But they were set on a dais, and it seemed like they were in a petri dish. There was so much open space around them that it almost felt like a waste of space. I believe the point was to signify that there is an infinite amount of space around them and this is just one universe (or several universes) with which they are interacting. Intellectually I understood that, but at the end of the day, I was watching 2 actors in a wrestling ring being dwarfed by space.

Melissa

I felt the same void of it. It was harder to connect to them because it felt so vacuous. The set was physically beautiful…Matt Saunders is one of the best set designers (or designers in general) in the city. It was clean, and it was aesthetically appealing. The shape of the projection screen–

Genevieve

–the swooping projection screen that arched its way around.

Melissa

Yeah. The flow of it was really appealing. Yet it somehow made it harder for me to latch onto them. I did like that in the end the platform rotated the smaller circle within the larger dais.

Genevieve

It was so simple, but lovely! That’s why I appreciate really spare sets. When you are given a set, and this set seems to say “this is what you’ll be looking at for the next hour,” and then in the last minute the design team introduces a very small change…it becomes all the more effective. A simple, spinning stage becomes astronomically interesting.

Melissa

But your description of the petri dish is right. It is so devoid of any life. There was the movement that’s projected or lit onto that scrim, and at the end there is the rotating stage. But the lights (Masha Tsimring) were all pretty cold (mostly whites, some yellows). The only real life was in their clothing (costumes by Becky Bodurtha), which was so starkly colorful against all this blackness. It felt like we were observing them, and it made it that much harder to connect to them.

Genevieve

They were fighting sterility.

Melissa

Yes! But as cold as it was, the lighting was really great. It was subtle, it gently delineated time.

Genevieve

Yes, which we needed, because scenes switch multiverses so often. The lighting shifts allowed me to key into the pattern of switching from the throughline multiverse to the other multiverses swirling around it.

Melissa

It was beautifully done. It was just that the colors against the starkness of the set contributed to that sterile, empty feeling. Beautiful, but hard.

Genevieve

It felt like floating in space a bit! There was nothing really to latch onto, no warmth that draws you in (besides the two people on stage). But maybe that’s the point? The focus is supposed to be on them, because they are the sole source of warmth.

Melissa

It might be a personal thing… it was hard for me, one beer in, talking about whether theatre is relevant anymore. What about the sound (designed by Elizabeth Atkinson)? That tone that delineated, “this is a different time now!”

 

Genevieve

It was really subtle, and it took me a little bit to clock it. If I were an outside person (who had never read the play), it might have taken me a minute to get into it. Although I do like the subtlety, because anything more might have crossed over into the cliché…derivative of “Sure Thing,” where playwright David Ives incorporates a bell sound to signify a shift. That would have gone in the wrong direction tonally.

Melissa

Again, sound was pretty minimal. There was that static in the final scene, pre and post orchestral sounds, but otherwise it was not really present or it was very quiet. Again, because the actors are just there with nothing except for these occasional tones… that’s the emptiness.

Genevieve

That’s the challenge of this piece. How do you make it not just a blackbox production? How does it become something that fills the entire space of the Wilma’s theater?

Melissa

For what it was, it was good. Maybe the actors were not perfectly matched, and I think there are questions as to the relevancy of the play. But it’s interesting to bring up that it’s at the Wilma, because the space is huge. Every other production of Constellations that I’ve heard about was in a small space, in a blackbox type of theater. I wonder if the space is part of it too. The Wilma is a cavernous theater. That scrim they had was actually cutting off the space. They were much farther forward. Yet, we were sitting in the Wilma. It’s a huge rake, the audience seating is expansive, so maybe it’s part of the reason why we felt like we were sitting in a void.

Genevieve

A blackbox space, a different staging setup, or if the audience was put in 3/4 or in the round might have forced an intimacy that is lacking in this production.

Brief (Political) Encounters- Revamp Theater Company

Jane is a director and dramaturg.

Mary is an actress and educator. Both are white femmes and intersectional feminists.

Jane

Well, let’s empty our pockets. Mine are full for this one, although I don’t have a connection to this company or know most of the performers or writers, I am always wary of ten minute play festivals.

Mary

Yeah, we talked about that a little, and I said that I think that’s an unfair bias.  So I guess wanting them to succeed is in my pockets. When I was new to Philadelphia, festivals like these were what introduced me to the theater scene quickly. It’s how I got to know people. It’s also a chance for people who want to experiment with stepping outside their role to do that.

Jane

Are you talking about Girl on Girl?* Was that experience really worth it?

Mary

Point taken. But I still think these festivals are an important part of the landscape here.

Jane

Even if I let you convince me of that, this is a 10 minute play festival in reaction to what ReVamp’s website calls “ten-minute pieces written by local playwrights focusing on gender roles, gender stereotypes, women’s rights and other social issues related to the current political climate in Western society.” So this is an opportunity for us to use the in-the-moment, visceral medium of theater to react to the terrifying fallout from the Trump election in a city where people are feeling directly threatened, scared and depressed. Those feelings are really raw and so the curators of the festival have a responsibility to be mindful of the context around them.

Mary

I was also nervous to see anything branded as a response to the election. But having just seen Hello! Sadness! I was aware of how healing and important theater can be right now.

Jane

Do you want to start with design? Such as it was?

Mary

I don’t think it’s fair to talk about design for this festival because no designers were really credited. It was a kind of fly-by-night thing with actors shopping their closets and a lights-up-lights-down kind of a look.

Jane

Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what this was meant to be.

Mary

Right. But I do want to talk about the scene changes, each of which was a song from Chickabiddy. Who are fantastic.

Jane

Who are gorgeous. And the music was beautiful. But a three minute song between each 10 minute play, when less than a minute was needed for the very minimal scene changes stretched things out unnecessarily.  And was kind of an insult to the musicians.

Mary

I agree, it was poor use of them. As great as they are, it’s hard to play the scene changes. So I think we both agreed that this was a rough night at the theater. Do you want to talk about what positives stood out to you?

Jane

Well, obviously #SuiteReality. I think was far out of the league of the other work.

Mary

I agree. I also think that Jenna Kuerzi was a standout actress for the night. She clearly delineated her two characters and managed to add some depth to them.

Jane

Yes, even dealing with the barest stereotypes I think she was able to, by sheer force of will, help us imagine why these women might be behaving the way that they were.  I also saw some potential in Estragon’s Boot, by Daniella Vinitski Mooney. I think it was a solid piece of absurdist writing, which may very well have had an arc, although the hamfisted direction managed to flatten it out into 10 minutes of jokey yelling. I’d like to see what might happen to it with a director who had a better sense of the text and the style. Part of what I hate about these festivals is that the direction tends to shoot for the lowest common denominator- cheap laughs or bludgeoning sentimentality.

Mary

I couldn’t get past the yelling. The intensity poured into every syllable that left all of them meaningless.

Jane

That’s the direction, though. That’s not the acting.  Anything else stand out for you?

Mary

Not that I want to highlight. What stood out for me from the evening as a whole was how completely disconnected from the world we live in this entire night felt. These are intense, dangerous times, and theater is an visceral art form. Yet most of the ideas presented on that stage were about 10 years old. Nothing new, nothing challenging, nothing to incite action or offer comfort.

Jane

And more to the point, nothing human. This playwrighting would be extremely disappointing normally, but it’s pretty infuriating right now.

Mary

Remember though, ReVamp is offering new playwrights a chance to get their feet wet. This is how they learn. Ten minute plays let writers stretch and take risks.

Jane

I don’t think that’s true. Jeremy Gable is hardly a new playwright. He was a member of the Foundry and has been produced multiple times. Ditto Alex Dremen. Greg T. Nanni has been on the scene for many years. I won’t bother wondering why a theater company whose mission is to give a voice to female artists had 3 fairly established male writers on the roster. Anyway, there’s nothing in ReVamp’s marketing that says this is some kind of lab. It’s presented as a final performance, and I think we have to treat it that way.

Mary

I think all 10 minute play festivals are a kind of lab.

Jane

The purpose of a lab is to get better. If we pull punches in our responses to the work, we’re not helping.

Mary

That’s true. I just don’t want to lose sight of the value of the exercise. But I do think that it’s fair to talk about what didn’t work. And so much didn’t work here. Let’s look at Nanni’s Burn the Witch, which was one of the few plays to have some kind of narrative arc. Nanni gives us two hateful men with no redeeming qualities, and no motivation for their hate other than that they are dumb jerks. They are egged on by a female youtube star to turn on a female…what? Journalist?

Jane

Political candidate. Whose platform is gender equality I think? It doesn’t really matter, she’s as bland and generalized an idea as the men are. Although Nanni still finds a way to make a woman the real villain here, as she mobilizes the hapless idiots.

Mary

Yes. The idea that men are so dumb they’ll do whatever a blonde tells them too is hardly feminist.

Jane

This play feels like it was written by a misogynist who is trying to get into the head of a feminist.

Mary

Why?

Jane

The women have no agency. They’re victims or seductresses controlling hapless men with their allure. Men are dumb slaves to sex. These are not feminist ideas. These are misogynist ideas.

Mary

A couple of the plays dealt with feminism. Particularly #SuiteReality and The Second Sex. Which was truly baffling.

Jane

Bizarre. It felt like it had been written by a teen drama class. Who were these women? They had no distinguishing characteristics, no desires, no motivation and nothing to do except take selfies and spout the completely random, disjointed opinions of the playwright on such groundbreaking, relevant topics as “can we call each other ‘bitch?’” and “how could a popular guy be a rapist?” They’re vaguely harassed by a backwards baseball cap wearing cliche straight out of a mid 90’s PSA…

Mary

Was he wearing a baseball cap?

Jane

I mean. Metaphorically.

Mary

And carrying a skateboard.

Jane

Right. The only reason I knew that he had harassed them is that one of the women crossed her arms after he exited, having been kicked, I think? The strangest thing for me about this scene is how a woman could have written it, and three women performed in it, and it was so profoundly untruthful. No stakes. No consequences. And then grandma shows up.

Mary

To blame the victim.

Jane

Right. She– for some reason– stops her car, and gets outside of it to address the women still inside.

Mary

A convertible?

Jane.

Who knows. And she admonishes the young girls, telling them that they “vote” every time they “don’t let” a man touch them or harass them. Inviting, of course, the familiar corollary…

Mary

When we “let” them, we’re responsible for what happens. God, why do I keep voting for gropes!?  How can something be so infuriating and so boring at the same time?  Speaking of which Grilling the Octopus.

Jane

I guess Alex Dremann is positing that the brutal, sometimes deadly political division in our nation continues because it’s just so fucking sexy?

Mary

I think he’s imagining an encounter from the real website politicalmismatch.com. Which is an interesting setup.

Jane

But not an interesting execution. There are no stakes because either party could just walk away at any moment and lose nothing. And there are no surprises. The liberal is liberal, the conservative is conservative. We have no insight into what makes them this way, they’re just dummy characters with no real desires.

Mary

Yeah. Frustratingly, 90% of the dialogue in this play is two people giving each other the most completely standard available arguments for the most well trod ground of controversial issues.

Jane

While seated. Better direction could have helped this one, too. There seemed to be an attempt at audience address that would have given us a little insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings, but it was too muddy and only once, so it may not have been. But really, there’s not much to work with.

Mary

I’m not sure why Dremann bothered to imagine this date, if he was going to imagine it going exactly as you’d imagine it would go. But there is really no surprise and nothing to say about what having dramatically different values does to intimacy or relationships or even sex. Which are worthwhile questions.

Jane

They both want to have sex with each other.

Mary

But why? And what does that mean? I think it’s worth bringing up the non traditional casting of Van Johnson as conservative Ben.

Jane

Yes, I’ve been thinking about that, too. Something doesn’t sit right with putting a black actor in that role, and not grappling with what it might mean to be a black conservative. Particularly because at some point he has to say “every life matters.” It’s really tone deaf not to notice or own that you have a black actor basically saying “All Lives Matter.” Honestly, that juxtaposition is more interesting than anything else in the play.

Mary

The only other poc actor outside of #SuiteReality, as far as I could tell, was Twoey Truong in Motion Capture. That part wasn’t written for an Asian American actress specifically, but in this case it didn’t matter.

Jane

Shout out to Tammy Duckworth, we have broad ideas of what a combat vet looks like. What did you think of Motion Capture?

Mary

I expected more from Jeremy Gable. I’ve been at a couple of readings of his work, and I liked it. But Motion Capture is a straw man argument against the gamification of war. Gable’s heroine doesn’t seem to care if she loses her contract, nothing is at stake. She just gets to make a heroic argument (presumably Gable’s) against a cowering two dimensional executive and then head out. The fact that she’s threatening him with an unloaded gun is pretty apt.

Jane

I agree. You know, it’s a complaint about progressive minded people that we think everyone who doesn’t agree with us is just an idiot or a sellout. These playwrights definitely support that theory. All of this work is really smug. And really dehumanizing of the other side.

Mary

I think it’s ok to satirize the other side, or to tear them a new one, honestly, when it comes to racism and misogyny.

Jane

I think so, too. The standup comic in Hello! Sadness! is a perfect example of that. But all of these plays diminished the threat of the people who would threaten us, by depicting them as not just stupid, but also not very powerful. In The Second Sex and Motion Capture the powerful are easily overcome by a sermon from the oppressed. The idea that this happens is not very helpful, and doesn’t ring very true.

Mary

There are two shows that we haven’t really talked about, Pizza Rolls and Palin, and #SuiteReality. And I think it is perfect to put these two side by side. Pizza Rolls is a conversation between a white middle class mother and her son about the fact that he didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

Jane

Ah, yes. The very important question America needs to resolve before we can move forward in this trying time. “Which white people were right?” This play puts the very trivial concerns of middle class white liberals who are completely unaffected by the outcome of the election (as is evidenced by their leisurely conversation in their cozy kitchen) at the center. It’s completely myopic.

Mary

And we don’t even know what their positions were! The play was actually about the discomfort of the mother that her son had voted differently from him, which was echoed kind of clunkily in their disagreement about the correct way to make pizza rolls.

Jane

And it ends with them hugging and agreeing about how to make pizza rolls! Which again, is apt. The correct way to make pizza rolls actually has the same amount of import as what’s going on between this mother and son, whose relationship is in no way threatened. And they are in no way threatened by the consequences of their votes.

Mary

And then there’s #SuiteReality. A choreopoem about the #sayhername movement, which has struggled to gain recognition for black women murdered by the police even as the country focused on the stories of black men. When Tiffany Barrett, Ashley Ayanna, Ashley Spearman and Aliyah Isis took the stage, it was like suddenly we were in a completely different world.

Jane

Yeah. The real world. Where real things happen to real people.

Mary

TS Hawkins poem was beautiful, She’s incredibly deft with words, and her cast understood them in their bones. #SuiteReality follows knowingly in the tradition of for colored girls.

Jane

Yes. And that really amplified the feeling of a litany. As each of the names of the murdered women is listed, the connection to previous work sends the list backwards in time to encompass black women throughout. This play understood not only the political context that it exists in but also the theatrical context. The staging from Kalif Troy was bare and effective, nothing distracting from the words and emotions.

Mary

There was just such a strong contrast between the hypothetical, hyper-acted and low stakes worlds of all of the other pieces and the honest immediacy of this one. All three actresses were deeply compelling and deeply individual. But Aliyah Isis was riveting. The combination of her composure and innocence with the reality of what it is to be a little black girl in this American moment did not allow emotional distance.

Jane

It’s hard to know if Hawkins and Troy did this on purpose, but I think #SuiteReality ended up being a smart, necessary retort to the navel-gazing work that preceded it. When Isis says “This is for white folks” I knew I had been seen and called out. Hawkins knew who her audience would be, and she meant to take the opportunity to speak to them.

Mary

I love that call back, again, to for colored girls. And yes, you’re right. Hawkins came to pop the bubble.

Jane

And thank god.

 

Hello! Sadness!- Fringe Arts

Melissa is a white cis woman, a new play enthusiast, a feminist. She craves theatre that connects urgent ideas to human stories.

Jane is a director and dramaturg.

Connie is a white cis woman and works as an actor in Philadelphia

Evangeline is a white cis woman who thinks art will save us.

 

Jane

Let’s empty our pockets. I saw Hello! Sadness! in its first iteration at the Kimmel Center and I came home telling people that it was the best thing I’d ever seen on a stage. I was so excited that it was coming back.

 

Evangeline

I knew very little about this show coming in. Hadn’t seen any version of it, don’t know Mary. I know that her show is currently running at InterAct, but other than that I had some pretty empty pockets!

 

Melissa

I’m very familiar with Mary’s work, and had been looking forward to this piece since I missed it at the Kimmel Center. However, I was carrying a lot of negativity with me into the show: I’ve had a really hard couple of weeks at work and in the world, and I actually find FringeArts to be an alienating venue. I also had a pretty rough day at work today so I’m coming into this conversation with tired/sad pockets

 

Jane

I think we all had /have the election in our pockets. I came to the show directly from the protests at Lowe’s Hotel.

 

Connie

I knew nothing about the piece at all so I was walking in completely in the dark.  Though, I had just seen Marcus/Emma at interAct a couple days before and I have seen Mary’s work before.

 

Evangeline

Besides America, I had nothing in my pockets. To be honest, I was wondering if this show was going to feel relevant or applicable…I try not to read too much about a show before I go see it, so going on only the title, I was curious how I might draw parallels. But then, obviously. It was like Mary took a peek into my brain.

 

Connie

Personally, I was really hoping to like it. Marcus/Emma aside, I feel like I’ve had a rough go with the last few plays I’ve seen where I walk in and it’s like “Surprise! This play is full of men who hate women!” I was feeling desperate for a good theatrical experience.

 

Jane

I’ve been feeling that so long that I wouldn’t have gone to a show at all if I didn’t know this one was safe (and healing.)

I’m feeling pretty over theater these days

 

Evangeline

Well, if I was feeling over theater before I saw this show, I am not now.

 

Melissa

Absolutely seconded

 

Connie

Yes, agreed. 100%.

 

Jane

Completely restorative. Of faith and well being.

 

Melissa

Mary managed to take everything I’ve been feeling about my place–physically, politically, occupationally, artistically–and reaffirm the fact and power of my existence.  All of my work is in the arts, and it’s been hard because I feel like, ‘what the fuck is the point of theatre right now?’

Evangeline

Or ‘what the fuck is the point of BAD theatre right now?’

 

Connie

It’s great was how much that exact thought is part of the show. It examined that question  ‘why should we keep making art’ without ever, ever feeling self important.

 

Evangeline

Totally. One of the amazing things that Mary did was decidedly re-establish the need for – as you said, Jane- restorative theatre.

 

Jane

Let’s step back a little and talk about the design elements. What did you all think of the use of projections?

 

Connie

Loved it. I think some of the best use of video I’ve ever seen.

 

Evangeline

I’m a little more on the fence. I think the most exciting parts were those when she mimicked what the projections were doing onstage…in terms of serving as a backdrop, I was neither super excited nor distracted by them.

 

Jane

I usually hate projections, because they often feel like a lazy way out of giving information that could be given theatrically

But in this case I felt like they were a part of the world of the play, not a substitute for it.

 

Connie

I never felt that the video elements overwhelmed her, either. They were never more interesting than her, which is something that can go wrong for any production.

 

Melissa

I agree with Evangeline, watching Mary’s interaction with the projections was the most stimulating for me. However, I will say that the progressive darkening of the poppy field was super evocative–I didn’t notice it until the end of the show, but it was subtle and heartbreaking. Maria Shaplin did well on that front.

 

Connie

I kept thinking of the Wizard of Oz and I can’t figure out if that was intentional.

 

Evangeline

Sometimes I wonder how much the intended effect of projections can just be achieved with sound. Like, the sound design around the Rouen Joan of Arc crypt and the poppy field felt enough.

 

Melissa

At first I thought the same thing. The poppy field on its own I think was communicated well enough by the pink lighting Andrew Thompson created. What paid off for me was the clouds that changed over the course of the show in that image. Like her safe space was being corrupted.

 

Jane

Yes, I think that’s right. And I thought the lights were perfect because they stayed out of it. I think it takes a really good designer to look at all that empty space and leave it alone. The lights always supported and never distracted.

 

Melissa

Completely agree.

 

Jane

I think Andrew Thompson understood that Mary was illuminating the work she didn’t need any help.

 

Jane

I particularly appreciated the footage of Fred Hampton. I think it kept this from feeling too much like storytelling.

 

Melissa

And too much her claiming someone else. It gave us a reference for her so it never felt like “The Fred Hampton Story PRESENTED BY MARY!!!!!”

 

Jane

I think with his story especially, it was important to let him speak for himself.

 

Evangeline

Those clips and projections did a great job of putting the show in the now. The reminder that we are not beyond this.

 

Jane

And that was something that had changed from the original and I think made it stronger.

 

Jane

What did you think of the sound?

 

Melissa

I didn’t really notice it so I guess it was successful.

 

Jane

I’m thinking a lot about the “ding” sound when things appeared (dioramas, the castle). It’s evocative. It belongs to an informative video in the 50’s or 60’s, which creates an ironic sense of being passively instructed.

 

Evangeline

The sound certainly brought the show out of a kind of flatness. Instead of “we’re in a field of poppies”, or “we’re in a field of poppies” and the field of poppies projection, we had all of those things plus the sound of birds. It made my entryway into her play much more like entering an ecosystem rather than a one-dimensional experience.

 

Connie

I completely agree! Every design element worked so well together to support the world. It felt round and whole. Like your example, the poppy field description, plus the projection, plus the sound of the birds told me (without telling me) that I was supposed to feel at ease here. And when those elements changed I changed with them, again without being told by the performer that I should now feel differently. This was a production that trusted the people watching it

 

Evangeline

I think, on a dramaturgical/playwriting level, what impressed me so much about this show was how swiftly and naturally Mary was able to thread together her worlds and bring them to a place of convergence. If there were moments where I was ahead of it, it was only because I was craving them so much.

 

Jane

Yes, that’s exactly how I felt.

 

Evangeline

For example: as the sexist comedian saying “Come on!” over and over again, I knew what was coming next (her layering of the French sex worker’s ‘Allez’). But expecting those motifs to resurface never took me out of the momentum of the play.

 

Jane

I was so deeply in the world that I could easily surf through places where it wasn’t clear yet how a new element tied in.

 

Melissa

Mary’s a master of repetition, I’ve noticed that a lot in her other work. She’s so so smart about what motifs she deploys and when. This was no exception.

 

Evangeline

I’m always interested how the “one person” functions in one person shows- are we seeing multiple characters, or is this a journey we are going on with only one person onstage? And I think Hello! Sadness! is a great example of a one-person show that brings together different voices and characters without it feeling like a clown show.

 

Jane

She really is a master story weaver.

 

Connie

Yes. Yes. She knows how to make every iteration feel both unique, an opportunity to see something in a different light, and also the threads that connect it. I’ll never hear “come on” the same way again.

 

Jane

There’s something really spiritual about the way she creates these small mantras “allez” and “she can handle it” and “come on.”

And then when they’re applied in different situations, they have all the power of a prayer.  Like you’ve been hearing it since you were a child.

 

Evangeline

Oh that’s so true. I’ve had that final “J’existe!” in my head all weekend.

 

Melissa

Same.

 

Jane

I think she’s also masterful about knowing how much we can take before we need to breathe or laugh. It’s genius, I can’t wrap my head around how perfectly timed it was. A kind of emotional ergonomics.

 

Connie

I also think the key to the script’s success is its specificity.  This is not a play that tries to be ‘universal’. This is a play about a white woman who is a grown up, trying to come to terms with a world that hates her because she’s a woman, but hates other people more, and how theatre feels stupid sometimes. But how we all want to be part of that stupidity, using Hamlet as the example.

 

Evangeline

That’s really well put.

 

Melissa

Yes.

 

Jane

Does everyone here identify as a white woman?

 

Evangeline

Yep.

 

Melissa

I do

 

Connie

Yes.

 

Jane

OK, just want to get that out of our pockets. This was about us, and for us. Although with that said. I deeply appreciate the moment when Mary becomes the thief by appropriating Fred Hampton’s coat.

 

Jane

I think it’s extremely important. She took responsibility for her whiteness, she took responsibility for what it meant for her to tell his story.

 

Evangeline

There was a moment at the Fred Hampton museum in Chicago where the audience was led on a tour of the museum’s wax figure dioramas – a callback to Joan of Arc’s dioramas. Because Mary had stood in as Joan of Arc’s wax figure prevously, I was steeling myself to stand in for Fred.

 

Jane

Me, too! I was so afraid she would do that. But she was too smart.

 

Connie

Yes, yes, yes. This script and direction was intentional.

 

Evangeline

Right. So when she repeated the Joan of Arc diorama tableaus I realized that this was not a creator that was unaware or confused. She knew it could go towards a place of appropriation and intentionally showed us that that’s just not the way to make good theater. I felt so comforted by that.

 

Jane

Me, too.

 

Melissa

I was wondering when the show was going to touch on that; I’d read a couple of preview articles Mary did about the shows she has this month and she specifically asks this question: “How could someone like me get involved in the struggle for the liberation of all peoples — especially people of color — while still profiting from my own privilege?”

 

Connie

That article made me buy my ticket!

 

Jane

This show had a really big impact on me, and it seems like on all of you also. But my response is realIy personal, really deep and really visceral. I have a hard time articulating it.

 

Melissa

I think I just needed it.

 

Evangeline

At least in my case, it reaffirmed what I already knew about the upcoming years: that a lot of us are going to probably lose. But that it’s a necessary fight, and that to not engage would be even worse. It reminded me to find strength in the truth of what we’re fighting for. You know, j’existe.

 

Connie

For me, it was a play that said “I see you”.

 

Jane

I think I so rarely see myself on stage. So theater usually makes me feel more alone. I feel like the things inside me don’t exist outside me. So to have those things articulated and articulated beautifully made me feel, literally, like a person. J’existe indeed.

 

Evangeline

That’s really interesting. Actually, now that you’re articulating that, I’m realizing that on some level, I couldn’t really see myself in Mary – not because we’re not feeling the same way or going through similar journeys, but because of her self-descriptor ‘small’. Whereas the world so often operates to make women feel small and vulnerable, I have never fit into the word ‘small’ – mostly because of body size growing up. Instead, I feel that dismissal in words like ‘gross’ or ‘weird’. It’s two different descriptors for the same bullshit. So as soon as she said the word ‘small’, I knew that we were not experiencing the white supremacist patriarchy in the same way – but that we were both experiencing it nonetheless. I think that above all else was what profoundly moved me, and what emboldened me to keep fighting.

 

Jane

Oof. That ‘small’ rides my veins every day all day. Small. Dismissable. Small. But by articulating that feeling, Mary elevated it and gave it value. It takes away so much shame.

 

Connie

And it came back around for me. After so many “Surprise! Misogyny!” play experiences, to have the macro and micro experiences displayed on a stage made me feel less alone.

 

Jane

The comic.

 

Evangeline

That was the most difficult part.

 

Jane

I feel like I live my life in that audience. With everyone laughing around me. “Come on!” How liberating to sit in front of that set and see it laid bare for what it is. No one is laughing.

 

Connie

Yeah! It hurt but like the way taking a scab off hurts! I wanted to shout “Yes! This is every day! This is every single day! And you can’t not hear it!”

 

Jane

Melissa, what made it a good experience for you?

 

Melissa

I think I said it earlier: it was what I needed. It said, “art is stupid, you’re right, but also this is art and it’s hitting you, and also you feel stupid, and you’re not wrong, but you exist and you’re trying and that is an act of revolution and resistance. You are enough and you will never be enough” It was the right play for me right now. Going into this conversation I knew I was going to sit back a bit because all of my thoughts are “Yes good 100% A+”

 

Jane

Mine, too, and I think that’s ok. I don’t feel uncritical. I loved this with my heart and guts but also my brain. It’s just that good. I feel blessed to have seen it, and grateful that we have Mary.

 

Melissa

Yes.

 

Evangeline

We’re going to need shows like this in the future.

 

Connie

Yes. I think, to go off what Melissa articulated so well, it’s a play that reminded me I’m allowed to be a complicated, complex human. I can, in fact, contain multitudes. I can feel small and know speaking up is of the highest imperative.  I can think theatre is stupid but also love it and want to create it. I can hurt and feel strong. I can want myself to be better and know I’m doing the best I can. Big props to the direction, which I don’t think we’ve discussed yet.

 

Melissa

Yeah Annie Wilson made this into a finely tuned machine.

 

Jane

So precise. This is specific, passionate and detailed-oriented genius. Wilson’s work is as invisible as the stitches on a perfectly tailored suit. We’ll never know the extent to which she made it what it is

 

Connie

Yes, final thought is. Much play. Very feel. Would play again. A++.