This blog post is brought to you in part by the wind-down from a seemingly productive Monday – a day that still allowed me time for reflection and enlightenment of the pen. In departure from my past couple of weeks – which were also characteristically reflective… in that funny way a mundane stream of thoughts surfaces and envelopes the skull during a routine morning city bus ride; or the way I occasionally indulge in an inconspicuous second glance at a unique New Yorker strolling about from a weekday’s point A, to point C, and X etc… All of this was supplemented by a nice little compilation of Crime and Detection plays from the New York Public Library that I’m making my way through. BTW – I totally suggest weaving in and out of crime and detection plays throughout the day – it has been doing something to my imagination – spurring attention to detail for no other reason than to satisfy the mind’s need to solve puzzles when it’s reading Sherlock Holmes or Elmer Rice and the like…
This blog post is also brought to you by my Yogi Tea inspiration sipped while writing these reflections, which read: “Live light, travel light, spread the light, be the light.” I sought ‘light’ at two Broadway productions recently that became special experiences because I shared them with friendly-visiting-friends! First I made it to the musical, Waitress, in a house-right box with two life-long lady friends visiting from Vancouver, Canada. Both had never been to NYC before! Next I rushed tickets to The Encounter with a bestie, Melissa, from London, England! Speaking of lightening up… I have to say it was nice to escape the pre-election madness that I feel in the air (and have admittedly been following closely and caring about intensely) by stepping into theatres where the scary world tends to fade away and be processed in my psyche-safe-zone.
WAITRESS is a Broadway musical playing over at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and it features lyrics and music by a singer/songwriter I adore named Sara Bareilles. It stars the soul-melting voice of of Jessie Mueller as Jenna. This waitress has made herself at home in a small café baking pies from recipes handed down by her mother and the new, elaborate pies that she creates. The stage is lined with actual pies and the theme is carried through to metaphor with different pies inspired by Jenna’s pleasures and perceived failures in her life and relationships. Following Jenna through a rocky relationship are her quirky friends/ coworkers and love interests. It feels like a romantic–comedy meets musical meets dramatic film featuring a strong female lead. All the actors of all the characters in this production made me laugh – so this was definitely a place where I got to ‘live light’ surrounded by supportive female friends. Disclaimer – I say ‘meets dramatic film’ because anyone with half a heart will cry at least once (I cried at least thrice as Jenna strives away from emotional abuse).
There was a place to write Thank You “Guest Checks”- so I did!
THE ENCOUNTER, playing over at the Golden Theatre, was one of those theatre experiences that I didn’t quite know what to make of. It is inspired by a book called Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu. It takes us from Conceiver/Director/Performer Simon McBurney telling us to turn off our mobile devices as he sends his daughter a picture to prove that he’s only away from her because he’s doing this show… towards his transformation into a deeper-voiced photojournalist on the prowl for a story and photographs.
I’m always curious about one-person shows in general because I can imagine it is probably quite difficult to generate all the energy required to make the audience believe that all other characters are in the room; as well as to push the narrative towards blackout or curtain call… ALONE ON STAGE! I always admire actors that achieve this feat and make it look fun – and secretly wish I could just jump into the scene with them as all the other characters! I was very struck by McBurney’s ability to do something that makes actors beautiful – to make molecules move out of thin air! In the program he wrote,
“Rehearsal derives from the word ‘hearse,’ which means to rake over, to prepare the ground. To prepare for The Encounter, we had to engage with the unfamiliar, ask questions about everyday life we take for granted. Such as… what is Time?” – Simon McBurney
What is time?
Sifting through the many definitions representing ‘time’ – it’s hard not to acknowledge there is grey area we are encountering all the time. What we consistently are a part of, but don’t always acknowledge. A link that we have a measure & clock for, yet it doesn’t quite, fully contain an accurate link to what we experience as memory, dreams, envisions or the future we are creating. The Encounter didn’t feel like a sci-fi novel though – it felt more like a documentation of a man’s experience with grey areas in his mind and in the world. A photojournalist who can’t quite get life into focus as with a camera device that creates the illusion of ‘capturing a moment’.
To take the audience through time this production is uniquely aided by technological devices (the audience wore headphones the whole time so that sounds seemed to sweep up from behind us, or beside us and the noises were also regularly found on stage being funneled through several sources – including a standing mic located center stage shaped as a cranium). The effect was that we were unusually transported to the spaces that a National Geographic photojournalist travels to – including a Brazilian Amazon village with Mayoruna people. The heat of a community fire was felt, a really intriguing lighting effect expanded McBurney’s shadow into several shadows dancing around the fire so that he became a part of the village and we saw the village people through his shadow.
I was so struck by McBurney’s ability to use so many technological devices during the performance – I know I would have been like – can I just use the black box … do I really need another gadget or whatchyamacall-it?
McBurney passed along a message directly from the Mayoruna people that he actually met in researching this character. He carried forward the message that these Mayoruna people, although isolated geographically from the modern world, very much exist!
What a great experiment with integrating technology on stage – and very fitting in that the content of the play deals with communicating with remote Indigenous villages through old, intuitive (ESP-like) communication methods that surpass language barriers. The photojournalist that McBurney plays ‘captures’ and grasps at undiscovered moments because he wants to tell a story and show an indigenous way of life is being led. However, the more he journeys into the Mayoruna people’s time and space the more he seems to be able to engage in the ability to intuit and trust in the origin and motion of the universe without a need to lock anything, or anyone, in by photograph or any other limited man-made means.
I was definitely transported into a different space and mind-set (at least until Melissa and I bopped our way back to 45th Street to plot some theatre-making adventures of our own!
(photo courtesy of Melissa Jean Woodside)