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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts Before the First Rehearsal

My posts have become less frequently lately, as I've become distracted by the business of preparing for my two upcoming projects, James Comtois' Captain Moonbeam and Lynchpin followed immediately by the Lincoln Center Directors' Lab. And I mean immediately; Captain Moonbeam closes on June 26th, the Lab starts on the 27th.

Anyway, instead of ignoring the blog while I focus on my projects, why not use the blog to think about them? After all, this space is, if nothing else, a place where I can give voice and structure to thoughts that would otherwise float nebulously through the haze of my mind, their whispers quickly extinguished by a mild cough or clearing of the throat. It feels strange to talk about this stuff while it's still so very much in gestation in my head but there's no rule about it, is there? Who says everything has to be polished product?

…There's not a rule about it, is there? I feel particularly strange blogging about Lincoln Center, like maybe I'm not supposed to. This probably stems from the fact that I still sort of imagining it as this Super-Cool Secret Club while I've been trying to poke my nose through their curtains, hoping the Cool Kids will let me join. But that's just silly, right? It's just a workshop; it's not a Super Secret Clubhouse. I can talk about it if I want to, right?

Basically, briefly, there's this. They emailed us a play about a month or so ago with the instructions to read it, think about it, just marinate with it a bit (I believe the specific instructions were to "noodle around with it" but I marinated instead). A few days ago, we were each email with specific segments of the play that we're to prepare to spend a day (6 hours) directing with a room full of actors, directors, a stage manager or a designer.

That's all I'm going to say on that for now; with Captain Moonbeam at the forefront of my priorities I haven't managed to do much more yet than read my segment, but I have a feeling my thoughts on the process will be a post unto themselves. Actually, that's not a bad idea - blogging about it might be exactly what I need to organize and prepare.

So that leaves Captain Moonbeam. We have our first table reading on Tuesday of next week, and I'm trying to organize my thoughts for that. What I want to do - what I always want to do at the first reading - is spend some time talking about what the story is - why it deserves to be told, what about it makes it worth hearing.

For Captain Moonbeam I think it's ultimately a story about redemption; it's a journey toward faith, finding an understanding of some sort of goodness in the world worth hanging onto, fighting for even. Unfortunately, in this story at least, all that comes at a price that makes it bittersweet, or even just plain tragic. I think this play very much addresses the question of the "better story," as Yann Martel calls it in Life of Pi:

I can well imagine an atheist's last words: "White, white! L-L-Love! My God!" - and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.

The first thing we've got to do is have a conversation about the archetypal significance of comic books, and comic book adventures. These ideas about goodness, order, selflessness and nobility - they're all symbolized by comic books in this play, and the type of world the comic books portray within them. So how do those comics resonate for us, and what do they represent for us as a culture?

In stark contrast to that comic book world, there is another version of reality in Captain Moonbeam and Lynchpin, a world where people are miserable, petty and self-serving; a world where people can fall ill for no reason, your best friend, or even your own father can just abandon you one day and leave you all alone. Is that the world we're believe in? Or is it the comic book world, where heroism thrives and goodness and nobility prevails? If we don't believe in it to some degree, why do we have these stories at all?

And where does that leave us with Alex, our protagonist? In the end he just wants the better story. And can we blame him for that? No, really - can we? It's not a rhetorical question. How are we suppose to feel about what becomes of Alex by the end of the play? Which is sadder, that he believes in such a noble world, or that we don't?

I hope I'm not getting to heady for what's ultimately a pretty and weird short play. Still, it's important to get that toe-hold on what makes the story worth telling, and I think this is it.

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