saxikath: (theater)
[personal profile] saxikath
So, the Festival@First 6 one-act show is over. I've intentionally not posted much about the play I was in, because, well, the shock/surprise element was part of the experience, I thought. But now that it's over, I can talk about it some more.



The play I was in is called "Season's Greetings." It had never been performed publicly before; Theatre@First was the first group willing to tackle it. And it wasn't a unanimous decision among the group, as I understand it.

Why?

Well, any play that opens with the line, "Happy 9/11, Ellen!" is going to have issues.

And when it continues with two people discussing how to turn the day into a celebration, complete with the attack on the Towers replicated in cake, and "the Tower Day song," well, you could argue that it's inappropriate or offensive.

And when the third character talks about losing someone in the Towers, and her struggles to deal with the day every year, and the other two then (quite honestly) try to help by singing the song at her -- well, yeah. You can see why people had trouble with it.

I played the third character. My part consisted primarily of one monologue, briefly interrupted by a couple of lines from one of the other characters, and then a final reaction to the song (in which I called the other two "sick" and ran offstage). Gina, my character, lost a cousin in the Towers, and is faced with "trying to pretend it's just another Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday" every year. She wants to move on from the grief, to remember her cousin with joy and not with the anguish the day brings -- but she can't. She feels that "to forget would be to forget Antonio" -- she feels it would be selfish to let go of the grieving.

It was a tough part to play. The other two characters in the play get the laughs, albeit nervous ones, as they present the idea that perhaps it is time to change the way we look at the day, to make it into a celebration, to let it be a day where "no one is asking me to be afraid." My character is the straight woman, "the depressing one" as I tended to say. I had to pack a lot of emotion into a bare few minutes on stage, and I was always a bit shaky afterwards.

The play was controversial. People thought it was inappropriate. But I actually thought it was an interesting look at grief, both public and private, and how we deal with it. When is it okay to let go of the grief a bit, to remember the person lost without dwelling on the pain of losing them? And what is the responsibility of people not directly affected by an event such as 9/11, when faced with those who are? We all respond to grief differently; how do we deal with each other when we are doing those different kinds of grieving?

A lot to think about from one ten-minute play. I'm grateful to [livejournal.com profile] kalliejenn2 for letting me in on it, and [livejournal.com profile] urban_faerie_ and [livejournal.com profile] oakenguy for being great castmates.

Date: 2009-08-04 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pernishus.livejournal.com
Well, I must admit that I find the society that came up with Hogan's Heroes to be engaging in Barn Door Shutting after Secretariat Has Left the Building Behaviour, myself, when it comes to criticism along the lines you indicate in your post...

Date: 2009-08-04 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenlily.livejournal.com
I think people like to throw around the word 'inappropriate' when what they mean is 'You have brought up a thing that makes me uncomfortable, but I don't feel like talking about why'. 'Inappropriate' is such a loaded word; it's designed to make the person who's being called it, feel so embarrassed for not knowing 'the right thing to do' that they drop the subject altogether.

"Season's Greetings" definitely made me uncomfortable. I can see why it would be controversial. But I didn't think that a play that examines this issue was 'inappropriate'. It's 100% true that, eight years later, we still don't always know how to talk about 9/11, and I saw it as a play about that state of not knowing. If we don't know how to talk about a thing, talking about why we don't know how to talk about it is a good place to start. (And now I feel like that quote about 'known unknowns', but never mind.) In that sense, I thought it was a good play.

Date: 2009-08-04 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] in-parentheses.livejournal.com
I think people like to throw around the word 'inappropriate' when what they mean is 'You have brought up a thing that makes me uncomfortable, but I don't feel like talking about why'. 'Inappropriate' is such a loaded word; it's designed to make the person who's being called it, feel so embarrassed for not knowing 'the right thing to do' that they drop the subject altogether.

This is really, really smart, I think. And is exactly why I enjoyed the play. (Well, that and I have no 9/11 triggers and am therefore a cold, heartless bitch.)

Date: 2009-08-04 01:46 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
This -- both parts.

Date: 2009-08-04 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moria923.livejournal.com
I thought it came off quite well. I was at the original reading where the controversy came up. Some of the criticism was that the script itself wasn't that strong. But when it was played out, I thought the performances brought out the strengths, and minimized the weaknesses, of the script.

And I thought *you* were fabulous.

Date: 2009-08-04 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magickcat.livejournal.com
I wish I had a chance to see it. It sounds like it was definitely a thought-provoking piece, with a great cast!

Date: 2009-08-04 09:06 am (UTC)
lunacow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lunacow
It sounds interesting, and like something I would have... well, "enjoyed" isn't the word, but perhaps "appreciated". From your description, I think I would have had a positive reaction despite feeling uncomfortable.

It also reminds me a whole lot of this Onion article.

Date: 2009-08-04 01:57 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
I thought the writing could've been stronger, but the content was fine. (Specifically, okay, there's the male character who is poorly socialized: it's established, it's repeated, it's repeated some more -- argh, we get it, let's move on.) I thought you and the other two actors did an excellent job taking an imperfect script and making it shine.

Insofar as inappropriate, I'd strongly disagree. People must own their own triggers. Should Cupid's Beau not have been produced, or come with a warning, lest it offend someone who's grappling with a troubled relationship? I'd say No. I don't mean to make light of either situation: I must be sensitive and tactful, but I don't believe that either sensitivity or tact means I should be silent.

Date: 2009-08-04 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chanaleh.livejournal.com
Specifically, okay, there's the male character who is poorly socialized:

Actually, I think it's interesting that you say that, because I think that effect was much more a result of the actor's characterization than of what was on the page. In reading the script originally, I thought of the character as kind of hip and snarky; self-absorbed, maybe, but not borderline-Asperger's. What we eventually saw came off very differently to me, which certainly changed the dynamic. Not in a bad way, just different from what I had pictured.

Date: 2009-08-04 02:38 pm (UTC)
dcltdw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcltdw
Oho! Very good point; I haven't read the script, so I could've totally missed that. Innnnnnnnteresting. :)

Date: 2009-08-05 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kalliejenn2.livejournal.com
for what it's worth, i wasn't going for borderline-Asperger's.

Date: 2009-08-04 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tenwii.livejournal.com
GO you guys for having the courage to perform the play. I feel that the role of the Arts in society IS, often enough, to make you uncomfortable. It's about feeling, or digging for feelings. Some people love Mozart --- I don't feel anything when I listen to Mozart. But Beethoven, wow; cry every time. Modern stuff is hard to take at first, then it fills me with other emotions coming from those modal scales of theirs.

On 9/11, I saw the towers fall from my roof garden, where I was having my coffee with my neighbor Berry. I have a clear line of sight from the Statue of Liberty on the left, to the Empire State Building on my right. The towers looked so close I could touch them. Every day I am in my "back yard" as it brings me sanity.

When it was clear at least one would fall, Berry and I both spontaneously held out our hands, palms up, and gestured upward as if to say "no, no, stay up"! Like our hands had the power to do that. Our roof was littered with papers that night, including several photos. It was a good three years before I could even look at a picture of the attack or its aftermath. I found myself at Ground Zero by mistake one day a few years ago, and figured it was time to work through it all.

Your brain is weird on grief and shock, and everyone is different. You can honor a period of time with dramady if done well, and it sounds like it was. I am writing a comedy about Breast Cancer (graphic novel, hopefully) because a lot of it was, frankly, funny. And humor is how we Irish cope. ;)

Art is about feeling for the limits, and them crossing them a bit. The world catches up, and knows itself better as a result.

I want to see you in a play! I bet you are transcendent.

J

Date: 2009-08-05 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amaebi.livejournal.com
When I read this entry a couple of days ago, I was returned to the Sunday after 9/11. I arrived at the adult Sunday school of our very liberal, very integrated San Jose church to find that it was devoted to processing our feelings about the events. And then I learned that we were only processing feelings of vulnerability and fear and anger at the attackers, not terror and horror that the US was about to go out and kill a lot of brown people-- those being feelings that would make the newlyvulnerable feel unsafe. :D

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