Let me start with two things:
I have immense respect for the work that has been done on The Book Club Play. Actors, designers, playwright, stage manager, director (and many others who very often go unnoticed) ‘made funny’ after all. And they must be very proud of the work they have done. And I had the pleasure of watching.
My blogs have not been reposted by Geva. And, in fact, at this point I have stopped posting them to the Cohort page as well. In that forum they do not seem to be appreciated by many. My blogs talk about a layer beneath this exceptional work – like earning Ethos (e.g. credibility) through connection, paying attention to the lifeblood of this art which is humanity itself and inviting it to have an opinion, removing the tourniquet to allow ideas to flow freely between community and theater, being curious and open to thoughts - both positive and constructive.
Now…for today’s blog:
“I have the best job in the world,” says the character, Alex, in The Book Club Play…but “I lost my curiosity. I lost my connection.” He explains that “…a truly cultured person is connected – to the culture around him. A truly cultured person is…curious. You don’t always have to like it…but you should try to experience it.”
Well said, my friend. Last night I took five teenagers to see the second preview of The Book Club Play and they enjoyed it. Some of the literary references were beyond their years. And some of the humor was beyond their comedic lexicon. But, they still enjoyed it immensely.
However, what they enjoyed the most and what kept them (and me) up well after midnight last night conversing wildly (despite my 5am meeting) was a simple, honest question that I asked from behind the wheel of the minivan on the way home…”so, what did you think?” Who knew that five words and a sincere dash of curiosity on my part would unlock such an array of questions and fascinating thoughts and ideas?
I can’t possible recall all of them here, but let me give you a small sampling of their thinking. Remember…these are teenagers:
They noted the impact of the specific literature in the play on the character’s affect and relationships with one another.
They touted the pratfall humor and unexpected “man kisses.”
We discussed literature and its generational import starting with their great grandparents, to their grandparent, to my generation and now theirs.
We discussed some of the classics and contemplated the playwright’s intent in choosing those specific works and they had some ideas of their own.
We talked about comedy in theater and the use of timing and pause.
We rejoiced in our differences regarding what makes something 'funny.'
They asked a lot of questions about theater basics– some of which I could answers and others which I could not.
One of the kids shared her experience in dialog writing and made references to the tactics employed by the playwright and why she felt they worked (and at other times didn't).
We talked about character balance and audience appeal; and where this both hit and missed the mark.
They noticed from our on stage seats the majority of patrons were white and over 50. And then they asked very good questions about what this means for the future of theater since their friends don’t ever contemplate it.
They wanted to know what I had done as a Cohort and what I thought of the program.
They wanted to know why ‘accessible theater’ (their words, not mine) is seemingly non-existent and, when I asked them what they meant by this they said ‘plays that speak to us.’
They had ideas about which characters tickled them the most and we all seemed to have our own favorite ~ different from the others.
In some cases, they openly shared that they wished something had been done differently because they felt it would make the story feel more authentic.
And so much more.
90% of the play they loved. 10% they had creative ideas about changing. 100% they felt free to share because they had been invited by genuine curiosity and it was safe to do so.
After an animated conversation and an intense exchange of ideas my sleepy-headed daughter who normally can’t stay up past 8pm yawned and padded down the hallway to bed. When she got to her room she turned, shook her head and, with sadness, said “Mommy, in 20 years we won’t even know what theater is.” And off she went to sleep.
And with that, I’m going to finally stop ringing the doorbell…
…and I’m going to grab my f’n repelling gear and scale the building and knock on the windows and wield my velvet hammer until somebody hears me because I, my children, and my children’s children have something to share that is important to theater ~ because theater is important to us.