by Padraic Lillis · August 21, 2014
The weekend workshop of the play went wonderfully as reported. The day after our workshop Ashland University
held the first round of auditions. I was thrilled to talk with Scott Hudson the night before auditions and learn that after speaking to those interested in participating in theater this semester the audition sheet had filled up. Auditions were Tuesday and callbacks are Friday.
In preparation for the auditions Scott and I discussed the characters of the play and a theme that resides in the play.
First I will talk about the theme. It was the issue of suicide. What caused the character of Freddie to kill himself? Was it because he's gay? This was part of the discussion that we had during the workshop. It was a topic that Gino, from Clark University
, had expressed interest in after hearing the reading on Wednesday. The faculty at Centre College
had expressed a similar interest in the reason for the suicide before arriving for the workshop. When I told Scott that we don't know the reason for the character's suicide. That he didn't specify a reason and one of the wonderful things about the play is that it recognizes that we will never know what ultimately pushes someone to take that action. Scott was very interested in that idea regarding a discussion for the school. It makes the discussion more accessible on campus and something that isn't about one social-political issue. I think that is true for all three schools. The play seems to be addressing the powerlessness of not being able to stop it. The guilt of what someone did or didn't do. The blaming of others. The inventory of their life and friendships after this happens in their life.
The week prior to the workshop suicide was in the news a lot because of the death of Robin Williams. There was a lot of discussions about why, shock, and never knowing what someone else's struggles are. We will never know what makes someone take that final action. It is a private decision. Lindsay has done some wonderful things in the play to create a picture of someone that it is possible would commit suicide - without making it a clear cut and dry reason. One sister says, he was incredibly sensitive and gives examples from his childhood. The other sister rejected his call the night before. The note left on his computer gives no answer. Friends haven't visited enough. His boyfriend wanted him to come out so they could live freely, get married, and have a full family life. He didn't go to art school after graduating for fear of rejection. He helped a new friend out of a dark period of her life recently and she couldn't help him. There are no answers. Freddie is a major character in the play - but I don't imagine that we will be able to answer the question of why - no matter how successfully Lindsay paints a three dimensional picture of him through the individual relationships he has with each of the characters.
One thing that I think is interesting is that there is a belief that we have moved forward as a society and that it is too naive to think that someone would kill themselves because they are gay. Yet it still happens. I don't believe that it is the theme the play is exploring. But to say it is too simple an issue negates the power of the individual's experience. I am grateful it will be part of the discussion. There was an article
recently about playwrights dealing with the complex issue of suicide throughout the history of drama. Lindsay has successfully utilized the issue of suicide that is occurring in this generation as a way to evaluate friendships, values, openness, life goals, societal pressures, definition of success, communication, and a whole list of other large issues of our every day life.
I credited Mariele of Centre College for shifting the thinking of one character's guilt about the suicide to possible blaming of others because of the 'hetero-normal' societal views. Well, another issue came up while looking at character descriptions. There are eight roles. Three male and five females. Lindsay intentionally created more roles for female college age actors to be able to play. When Scott and I were talking about the characters, regarding his breakdown for the auditions, concerns about physical appearance came up. It only came up regarding the female characters. One character is the former Prom Queen - what does she look like today? Freddie's oldest sister holds a high place of status, like the stern maternal figure, but is also flirted with aggressively with by one of the boys - is it because she's physically attractive? And one girl is said to have lost 'her baby fat' from high school - is this literal? Was she heavy? Did she lose weight? Is she big now?
All of the answers regarding character came back to the internal need of the character and what they internally represented to other characters. However, none of the questions regarding physical appearance ever came up regarding the three male characters. One guy is considered to be smart and could've done anything but he stayed in his hometown, the other is a successful nerd who is too obvious with him flirtation, and the third character is the a out gay male. None of the female characters refer to their physical appearance and none of their needs seem to imply a physical appearance.
Christine, my girlfriend, sent me an article today to illustrate what it is like to work in the corporate world as a woman. The article is There is No UnMarked Woman
by Deborah Tannen. It is about her awareness of how she was summing up the women at a conference she was attending by their appearance. And how she didn't do this with the men at the conference. I don't know if this has anything to do with the issue of the play or the behavior of the characters. I do know it has something to do with our society. I know it is important for the college collaboration to create production opportunities for female playwrights. I know it was important to Lindsay to create five interesting roles for young women to play.
I have said numerous times that the goal of the college collaboration is to allow us to have a long conversation generated by the creation of theater; inside the rehearsal room and outside the theater with our community. The individual responses to suicide, the personal reasons for it, the societal causes, and all of the perspectives on that topic that the play will spark I am excited to hear them discussed and participate in the conversation as they are considered. I am also interested in being able to look at more global issues that come up in the process that may or may not relate to the play but are illuminated through the process of the collaboration. And when they appear - maybe this a form to discuss them in and to figure out how to address them as this program continues.
Talk with you soon.