A Dead End Leads to Our American Mython September 30th, 2011 at 5:25 PM
They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and in artistic terms we could phrase this, “Resistance is the mother of creativity.” On Tuesday, that truth hit the rehearsal room like a hand grenade. We lost an actor. The reality of working in small, independent theatre with passionate, ambitious, and time-strapped artists who are balancing day jobs, school, and other important artistic endeavors, all too frequently forces the reassessment of time and energy. Sacrifices must be made, and for us this meant an actor leaving the production to take care of his well-being.
I’m going to be honest. I spent most of that afternoon crying, unable to focus on any of the many tasks on my to-do list. With the stress of my own full-time job, the rehearsal schedule, and the lingering artistic and production needs of this show, I thought I’d finally reached my breaking point. The last time I’d felt that overwhelmed, I was in college and ended up making the same choice as our actor did. But I couldn’t let that be my decision now. The Talmudic quote, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it,” kept circling my brain.
A Brief Lesson in Cartography
Despite the numerous speed bumps and roadblocks we’ve encountered over the past eight months of turning Our American Myth into a show, we’ve always been able to step back, take a look at the lay of the land, and find a new path. As I write, I’m positively reveling in the fact that our original title for this piece was Dead End.
So I did the thing I do best: I sat myself down with a notebook and pen and began to make lists. First, I made a list of resources, of things I have available to me. Then, I made a list of my options. This list is short:
1. Recast the part.
2. Rewrite the actor’s scenes.
3. Give his scenes to another actor.
4. (oh, please, no) Cancel the show.
However, my list of resources kept growing and continues to do so. Interestingly enough, it begins with the names of each person involved in the production. This told me everything I needed to know to walk into the rehearsal room, tears banished, wearing my game-face. The solution didn’t need to come from me alone; it needed to come from the ensemble.
I presented my lists to the room and had the absolute joy of watching everyone react to the final option of “cancel the show” with a resounding “Not a chance!” I had to say it to stress the importance of everyone’s commitment to and involvement in finding a solution that works. We began to discuss the third list: What can we create?
Zero to Sixty in Forty Minutes
As an ensemble, we debated and argued over the logistic and narrative implications of recasting, rewriting, and reassigning roles. We ran the gamut of fine details for each of the options, and then each option within them, until we reached a decision each and every member of the company could stand behind. I’m not going to give the show away, but I will tell you that we agreed to continue with four actors. In 40 minutes, the whole group created a new vision of what this show could, would, and will be.
With this unified goal in mind, we got onto our feet and worked our way through the entire play, tweaking when needed. The shared vocabulary and relationships built over the first two weeks of rehearsal paid off. As we worked through the script and our new challenges, I watched the piece transform into something different – something sweeter, livelier, more magical. The clarity of the story’s through-line emerged, tearing and clawing its way out of the script and the hearts of the cast. For the first time we weren’t working on my show, or Heather’s show, or Max’s or Johnnyko’s show. Rather, the whole ensemble had finally begun to rehearse our show.
As sad as it is to say goodbye to one of our dear collaborators, our loss has created the urgent necessity for invention. It might have taken weeks from now for us to reach the magnitude of resistance we’ve come up against this week, slowly building the tension in baby steps. Now, we’ve reached Level 100 and can push those little barriers over the next four weeks to achieve even greater things. With everyone firmly grounded in our mission, with full ownership, we are forging a new path. Screw the dead end. We’re going to make Our American Myth. Off we go!
Producing Artistic Director
DONATE TO OUR AMERICAN MYTH
Bindlepunks is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of Bindlepunks must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
- Thu, Oct 27th at 8pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
- Fri, Oct 28th at 8pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
- Sat, Oct 29th at 8pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
- Sun, Oct 30th at 4pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
- Thu, Nov 3rd at 8pm @ Satori Tea Company
- Sat, Nov 5th at 8pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
- Sun, Nov 6th at 4pm @ Works/San Jose Gallery
$10-20 sliding scale at the door.
To reserve a spot,
call/text (650) 458-PUNK