Block 585: January 25, 2015


Another Sunday in Portland. It’s foggy and damp outside; yesterday’s 60 degrees and sun seems to have gone for now.

Date: January 25, 2015

Crane: 585

Days Spent on Project: 705

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: Becky F.

Becky was the third stage manager to live permanently with Newsies, as it worked its way to the Paper Mill stage and then transferred to Broadway.

I would call her incredibly focused, driven, organized, and very pleasant to work with. She was always good at getting things done and communicated. She wrangled with the best of them. She kept things moving.

Broadway (or Broadway bound shows) are huge. There are a lot of moving parts, lots of personalities, lots of needs, lots of schedules, lots of constraints, lots of discussions, lots of limitations, lots of possibilities. I’m aware that a team of stage managers were/are needed to guide these works as they rehearse and gel into something and then run nightly with hopeful precision. That three people (like Thom, Timothy, and Becky) were in charge of running it- smoothly- nightly for a year and half impresses me so much.

I don’t want to infer that people and theater artists who live in New York are Better or The Best (because I know that is so not true), but what is it about that environment that pushes people to do better? To strive to be the best?

Why can people be content to rest on laurels or the bare minimum elsewhere? If you had that attitude in The City, you’d never get anywhere.

Can you have ambition and drive elsewhere?

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve got a playlist called “Atmospheric Calm” playing in the background today, courtesy of Spotify.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: My theater is previewing another show this weekend. It’s a new play, with three actors (1 woman and 2 men). I sat in the final dress run Friday night. I went to the end of the show (its first preview) last night to discuss any design needs and notes with the designer.

I chose not to watch it last night (and I probably won’t watch it again) on purpose.

I can’t decide how I feel about it.

I’ve been thinking about it, the play and the performances and the design choices and the staging, ever since Friday night.

And, I’m almost fairly certain that I didn’t like it. I don’t think it was successful in its intention. I can’t decide what its intention is or was.

BUT, I do think it’s a good theatrical event. I’ve had several long conversations with people who saw that last dress fun on Friday, and we’re all kind of floored at it. Because I’ve been thinking about it, talking about it, weighing its choices constantly for almost two days now, does that make it “good” theater?

However, it’s made me realize something: white male privilege exists. It’s weird. It’s shocking. It’s a little off-putting. To do a play under the guise that we’re condemning male privilege, only to have a text, staging, and design choices reinforce male privilege… it was a little… off? When I saw the show, several men were having visible and audible reactions (crying?), but the women around me remained silent.

If the intention was to suggest subversively that male privilege taints everything, then I applaud that… because it took a play that seemed to be about a woman’s story and made it all about the male opinion, male reaction, and male victimization. But I don’t think that was the intention at all. I don’t know what the intention was at all.

When you do a play that tries to grapple with gender issues and sexual violence and politics, you really need to tread purposefully, critically, and thoughtfully.

I’m sure people in Portland will eat it up, because it’s “edgy,” but I hope they really think about the choices made and question what they’re applauding at the end of the play.

A colleague at the theater and I were discussing “War Story-ing” yesterday, which is a term used in therapy groups. When someone romanticizes victimhood, romanticized the hard and low times, they’re called on it- Stop making it a War Story.

Watching the play made me crave theater that’s moved beyond An Issue, that’s moved beyond Therapy. I really want to see a play written that doesn’t try to grapple with A Problem. I really want to see a play about relationships and people working and living and struggling and surviving and succeeding and failing. Not everyone has to have A Problem. Not everyone needs to be A Victim. Not everyone needs to be a complicated Anti-Hero.

Theater can’t exist in a social vacuum, but it doesn’t need to be the vacuum either.

2 thoughts on “Block 585: January 25, 2015

    • I feel like there is at least a very long book or a series of plays in me. I need to get back to The California Project I was working on last spring. The evolution of that has been interesting, and I know there are many more chapters to flesh out… and then I need to figure out a way to produce it.

      One of the actors I was working with last spring mentioned it was more like a TV mini-series than a play. I maintain that it’s a play– several plays– so we’ll see how it shapes up.

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