by Padraic Lillis · November 6, 2014
The second show was as good as the first! It really is incredibly valuable to be able to see a play fully mounted. Reading a play, you can tell if you're engaged, you can tell where the jokes are, you can tell if you went on a journey. And in production the challenges of making all of those things work become clear and ironed out. However, the value of seeing the play the second time was seeing these living characters and their situation become real - and in that reality comes awareness of things you would like to know more about or struggles that can be intensified.
During our time at Ashland we were very engaged with the campus community. We met with a class of theater majors and spoke openly about play development and our careers in theater. We were interviewed on the campus radio station, and we did a Q & A session with the audience.
During each discussion on the play Lindsay was asked about her inspiration. She spoke about how she was interested in exploring about how we learn about major events through social media, events like the death of a friend. And what does that change for us as a society. That is the impetus for events of the play. That exploration is clearly happening. One of the questions asked by the students in class to Lindsay was about her point of view on the subject. That is probably the main opportunity seeing the production gives the playwright.
Next week I will meet with Lindsay and talk with her about her takeaways from seeing the play. The direction and rewrites are obviously her discretion. It is her play. I will share that I saw the foundation of a very important play. At the moment the play is a successful journey of eight friends mourning the death of a friend. It is full. Each character goes through a rich experience. The audience is highly engaged. That is success unto itself. Besides a few nip and tucks along the way to tighten the script the opportunity is there for Lindsay to clarify or challenge her point of view about the changing world the millennials are living in.
Things that were clear through the production of the play is that characters want to be seen for who they truly are. The first action is Pete cleaning up his house before guests arrive. Creating a certain image. Amber asks "Am I that invisible?" more than once. Trevor and Freddy's relationship is secret and Trevor has wanted for years to let people know. Becky tells Conner that they've seen each other recently because they're Facebook friends. And it most strongly resonates when Becky announces that all of them that claim to be close friends of Freddy's didn't really know him. The theme of being seen ripples through out.
Along with the idea of being seen is the need for human contact. This is seen in Amber's desire to be at Pete's house with friends that really knew Freddy knew him. She doesn't seem to get comfortable until Trevor shows up and they receive the first physical contact between two characters, a hug. Trevor shares his relationship with Freddy with an unlikely Becky and that action seems possible because of the simple act of putting her hand compassionately on his arm. The climax of act one is all of the mourning friends celebrating their friend in a dance. The healing pile of an embrace of the group of friends at the end is what allows them to all move forward. The idea of how social media doesn't replace the need for human interaction is clear in the physical life of the play.
Lindsay also shared at a dinner conversation with the cast that she started with the idea of one particular character. Pete. The one who stayed in his hometown. Pete in this time of mourning is clearly questioning his choice of staying home. The idea of what it costs to stay and what is lost to move forward was an active struggle that he is going through that seems to lift the play beyond the event of the day. But that the suicide of his friend could ignite.
There is clearly the theme of sexuality and acceptance in the play. Amber and Pete point out a character we see is possibly gay. Trevor and Freddy's relationship is secret. Meg, Freddy's sister, is in active denial that her brother was gay. It was interesting that once this secret came out about Freddy's sexuality his friends didn't seem to judge him. Only his older sister did. It struck me seeing the play that maybe this generation doesn't have an issue with sexuality as the ones before it have. Maybe. It was an interesting statement to be made about the generation.
I mention these elements in the play because as you watch the life of the play unfold in front of you fully achieved in production certain ideas stand out. Certain threads that may want to be explored. And I'm excited as a producer of this event to see the shaping of the point of view of this world. To see which ideas get developed further. That is the value of the three shows.
My strongest takeaway from the two days though was the students' commitment to these characters. They voiced a strong desire to remain in contact with the actors who play them next. As a resource, a sounding board, a voyeur, a friend. They are protective of the characters and they are excited to see them grow. Listening to them talk was like listening to proud parents. I'm grateful the collaboration between students will continue from production to production. Also, during a dinner conversation with the cast each of them were given a chance to say what questions or interests they have for the future of the play and each one of them had a specific thought to share. It was wonderful to see young artists have such confident voices in the development process. The entire two days confirmed for me that this program is a great opportunity for all artists involved.
Talk with you soon.