At rehearsal yesterday I was thinking about momentum. I was carefully observing it all around me. The actors are working off book and less encumbered with no script in hand. However, they don’t quite have the entire dialog memorized. Who knew the word “line?” was the shortest, sharpest word in the English language? This became clear as the actors requested a prompt from the stage manager so that they wouldn’t lose their momentum in the exchange. And I watched the director physically lean in to certain parts of the scene as if willing it forward, managing the words and the gaps at a pace that best serves the intent of the playwright. And the scene changes are crisper now…knowing that the next prop is stored in the pizza box on the credenza and who will place it where it belongs while the lights are down. The play is gathering a certain momentum. And it is absolutely a pleasure to watch this amazing team create something collectively. However, as I sat there observing I had a keen awareness that I am losing creative momentum within me during this process. In the past day or so, I have been exploring why this is the case and would like to share it with you now. Not because I’m upset, but because it is important in Geva’s quest to involve the community. And I care enough about the ultimate success of this endeavor to risk saying it.
Before joining the Cohort Program, Sean Daniels (Director of the Book Club Play) and I had a very healthy dialog over email about what the program is and is not. Sean made it clear that “it isn't a group collectively directing the show, more of an educational immersion into how it's done” and Geva has delivered on this concept. We are watching. We are learning. As Cohorts we are “students” of the theater process currently. And, in return, we are marketing for Geva through our blogs.
I am pleased at how welcome we are to come and go from the rehearsal room and that we have been given permission to learn about costume, set, production, Equity, and anything else that strikes us. The cast remembers my name and asks about my kids. The director greets me and seems happy that I am there. They engage me in this way. And it is very comfortable. And the program delivers what Sean said it would – an opportunity for me to watch and learn. But this is observation, not involvement. And this is an important distinction.
My response to Sean at the time of my application was:
“I do hope…that you are using this program to gather perspective from the community even if it is done outside of the rehearsal room in talk backs with the director, cast or Geva staff about the play or theater generally. Being the outspoken individual that I am (and knowing that you haven't yet selected me for the program) I will boldly say that you would be missing a valuable opportunity to place your finger directly on the pulse of the community if you do not harvest this two-way dialog. With it I feel that Geva would be better positioned to select the right plays, and make the programming immediately relevant, and get the word out to potential audience, and put people in chairs, and grow your membership...and...and...and... Infinite possibilities.”
And knowing full well what the program intended to deliver, I chose to participate anyway.
Sean explained at our first Cohort meeting: “I’m picturing a high school kid next to a soccer mom, next to a donor, next to someone who has never been before, next to a member of the local orchestra. Ideally, we make this group look like Rochester.” And Geva has done this.
In a short amount of time, here’s what I have learned about some of my fascinating fellow Cohorts. One is a Mechanical Engineering professor at U of R and part of GeriActors doing community theatre for years. One is a recent High School graduate who is apparently doing well with auditions and being offered scholarship money for voice at university. Another owns a bakery and in her blog confesses that she is ‘terrified of private speaking’ and yet is a beautifully articulate blogger. A Cohort from Writer’s and Books has already created strong connections between the Rochester community and LAByrinth Theater Company in NYC and is invested in lacing together creative entities here in Rochester to strengthen the arts community. The Democrat & Chronicle journalist is a regular attendee who is motivated and willing to write about the program. One Cohort recently confessed that she is a longtime book club participant and actually belongs to two. She, too, is an exceptional writer and excited about the program. And there are many, many others…including me. I am a single mother-of-four working a day job that I don’t love to support my family and, with great challenge, carving out any precious moments in my life to create something meaningful. I am a writer and photographer currently working on two written pieces that I will someday publish and laying the foundation for a documentary film. And a Cohort.
Quite frankly, I love the cast. But, I also love the cast of Cohorts. As much as I want to know why Ana feels so compelled to control ‘her book club’ or why Will seems unaware of his own sexual preference, I also want to know what makes this other crazy cast of characters tick. I don’t want them to just watch. I want know what they think, who they are, why they are invested in the Cohort Program, what they know about the community that might prove useful to Geva, and what they would like to see from the process. And I would like to think that Geva does, too.
Not during rehearsal but in some other way…ask. There is a pipeline from the community sitting in the room because they care about theater and want to be there, so use it. Why not? What is there to lose?
I am sitting in my family room during rehearsal hours. I just got back from a long walk in the woods in this snow storm with my iPhone camera. I got a few good shots for my photo blog. And I will keep my hands on the keyboard after finishing this post to make some progress on my personal writing. I’m excited to see what that investment will yield.
It isn’t the snow storm that is keeping me home. It’s the realization that I am losing my own creative momentum by sitting and watching others create rather than truly creating with them.
“Tell me and I’ll forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I’ll understand.”
– Native American saying
(Why did we stop at Step 2?)
I still appreciate the Cohort Program. I’m enjoying what it does offer and I will continue to participate. It is a pilot and a good first step. But, I’m also looking forward to watching it blossom over time into something that fully serves both the community and Geva. I have every confidence that it will.
And with that…time to create something beautiful.