Sunday, February 27, 2011

What just happened?!

Theatre is a transformative experience.  It transforms our ordinary world into art that happens right in front of our eyes. Sometimes theatre even transforms the audience, the players, or the artists behind the scenes like the directors and playwrights.  It can galvanize a community or a country, whether it takes 24 months, 24 days or yes, even 24 hours to create.

And a transformative cultural event was created at last night’s B.U.S. at Bricolage.

Bricolage is all about “making artful use of what is at hand” and the whole 24 hour process was a true test of that philosophy.

At 7:30 pm on Friday night, the twenty-four actors, six directors and six playwrights all met at the theatre and we began the process of putting a show together around the theme of “abundance”.  

Actors brought in props, costumes and stories from their real life to be used for the show.  Playwrights brought their talent and inspiration from their bus ride through a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.  Directors brought their talent and experience.  And Tami Dixon and Jeffrey Carpenter, the brave leaders of Bricolage, created an environment of safety and support, where everything happened so smoothly and without any hiccups or backstage drama that they’d make you think it was easy!

(Which if you have ever produced any evening of one-acts know, it is so not easy even when you have weeks and weeks of time to juggle all the logistics of 36 artists rehearsing in six different spaces, adding the sound and light cues and organizing the opening night festivities--all without losing your sanity). 

Six new plays were born, each distinctive to the playwright’s voice, all using some of the material and inspiration given us from Friday night, and all executed with clear storytelling by the directors and top-notch performance by the actors.

Of course, I’m biased being part of the experience, but honestly, these artists put together a show that looked like it took weeks to put up, not hours. 

I was honored to be included with the other local playwrights last night: Wali Jamal, Tammy Ryan, Gab Cody, Peter Roth, and Gayle Pazerski.  

We had a play about vampires riding the “T” and a play about ghosts.  Another was about excessive Italian passion and the American tourists who witness it.  One of my favorites was the play about Mother Nature getting her drink on to deal with a breakup with Poseidon. 

My play HALF FULL was directed by Brad Stephenson and featured the acting talents of Mark Southers, Mark Staley, Matt Henderson and Don DiGiulio.  The story was about perceptions of abundance, using the metaphor of a glass being half empty and half full.  Two guys argue about this as they look around the neighborhood at a bus stop in Braddock Hills when a father and son enter.  We find out the dad lost his wife last year and has a whole other perception of what a full life is and how they see the neighborhood.  It was a character-driven piece in every way and I was really inspired by the actors I wrote for.  I thought the only bits of humor would be the gold top hat and the Peter Cetera references.  Turns out the play is funnier than I thought, but mostly due to the actors churning out such great performances in such little time.  The director and actors just hit it out of the park and nailed the comedic moments but without losing the sense of gravitas, creating a nice balance of joy and suffering that lifted my play up to new heights.  

I was reminded how wonderful it is to have talented people working on your plays—it can change everything (see, its transformative).

One thing about going through the 24 hour playwriting process is that the pressure can bring out the best and worst of your writing habits.  I learned some hard lessons about my process.  And lessons learned at 3 am you don't easily forget.

But I think I’ll share what I learned in another post.

Right now, I’m just going to enjoy the buzz of success that comes from being part of such a transformative artistic event.

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