Sunday, April 26, 2009

Writer/Director's Notes

What you see tonight took 41 years to create.  It took a young girl raised in the high Episcopal church tradition, loving the lord Jesus mightily.  It took her realizing she loved him so much, it was killing her.  She was trying too hard to be perfect, as He demanded of her.  She needed to walk away from Him.  And she did.  Beginning her journey anew, without Him.  And she found the glory and abundance and diversity of life, and how to know it through Science. 

It’s taken me almost 2 decades to not recoil from religion and the religious, but I knew that was the right place to be, so I worked at it.  I’ve been reconciled now (with God, if not his followers), and am comfortable with the religious, and even nostalgic for the grand awe I felt, and the community my church engendered.  When I saw how acrimonious the evolution debate was, I realized I was in a very good position to be a diplomat.  I’ve been on both sides, if you will (if you must).   I wanted to create an evening that showed people honestly struggling with their differences and trying to figure things out.

The original title of the show was G.O.D. Generation of Diversity:  Suspend Your Disbelief.

(I like puns and wordplay, as you’ll soon discover.)  Theatre and Religion both require suspension of disbelief.  And both require it so that they can tell you a story.  We humans need to tell stories; it is our stories that tell us how to act (or not act).   Without stories as a framework for how to live our lives, we are lost.  (I of course use “story” in the broadest sense possible – religion is story, science is story, governing documents are stories.)

I wanted to create a place of integration and reconciliation.  A place to honor both religion and science in our lives.  A place where no question is forbidden, and no question or answer is too scary – yet.   So I went back to the place where “All you need to know, you learned in ….”.   My historical research showed me we are using the exact same arguments against evolution that we did back when it was first proposed.  So similar, in fact, that thanks to my sloppy notekeeping, I often couldn’t tell if the quote I’d pulled was from 150 years ago, or last year.  This is still a new story.  And this is a frightening story to many of us.  So is the Christ story.  The first words of that story are the angel telling us “Be not afraid.  I’ve got a huge, scary story to tell you” (or something like that).  I think every story, from Beowolf and Homer on down, should all begin with that:  “Be not afraid.  Rosy fingered dawn lifted her veil…”  “Be not afraid.  Once, in a galaxy far, far away…”  “Be not afraid.  It was the best of times…”  “Be not afraid.  When on board H.M.S. Beagle…”  “Be not afraid.  We the People, in order to form a more perfect union…”

What you see tonight is not perfect, and I revel in that.  Tonight is a product of messy creation.  A dozen human minds and hearts coming together and creating a story out of nothing, ex nil.  I thank everyone that came in contact with this show – they breathed life into it out of the mud of my mind. 

I revel in what it means to be human, and all the different ways we answer that question.  I hope seeing this show makes you ask a question you never have before, and be not afraid asking it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Creation Rocks

Rehearsals are magic - we are like gods, creating a story out of thin air.  As a director/playwright, my favorite moments are when actors take a line or a scene in a direction I never saw.  And as director/playwright, believe me, I've seen these scene a number of different ways - mulled over how to play them again and again.  So when we get it 'on it's feet' as we say, the actors seem to go through a worm hole and create a completely new dimension to the work.  Creation rocks.

Here are the actors - Lynn Burnor, Kirk German and Omid Ghorashi (reaching for his new, tender seedling of an idea).

If I were god, I wouldn't have stopped at 6 days - It's so damn much fun!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

We moved into our glamorous warehouse this week, where we'll be until we move into the theater.  It isn't air conditioned, and there was a full eighth of an inch of saw dust on the floor, which took me 3 hours to sweep 3 times and mop.  I'm a firm believer that I shouldn't ask my actors to do anything I wouldn't do.   So I didn't stop cleaning until I could roll around on that floor without gagging.
Speaking of actors -  Here's Omid Ghorashi and Lynn Burnor taking a mug at the camera before leaving rehearsal.  And Kirk German hard at work still writing down his blocking - he's a fanatic about that.  And it's a good thing, since we have no stage manager right now to do it for him. 

But really - it's ideal for us!  We have the full size of the stage to work with, electricity to play the music, a table for props, water, etc.  and height for the finches to fly.   We can be there as late as we want and there's a bathroom (though to be safe, we need to stock our own TP). Kerry Seiffert at Blue Ocean Gallery has quite a gathering of artists and artisans (no courtisans spotted, so far) at his building!  I'm so glad to have found this!

This past week, we were at the DAC (Dougherty Arts Center) and had a great week getting acquainted with each other and the characters.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Rehearsal

We all gathered at the DAC (Dougherty Arts Center) last night for the first time.  The designers had all met before, but the actors hadn't been in the same room since auditions in late January.  Eliot played us some music and showed us video.  

I showed a pitiful drawing of the set.  Kate, our stage manager introduced herself, and immediately started managing - she's amazing.  

Adam, our composer, couldn't keep his hands off the very decrepit piano.

Once the designers left, the actors and I got down to business.  First up - who the hell are these characters?  We started with historical monologues.  

Kirk paced the dark porch in the front of the building.  After 7 minutes, they came back and we played....  And page 12 and 13 are now completely different.  Ah, Collaboration!  Oh, New Works, which cleave to nothing!

And when I came home, I worked with Fits to get a PR mailing out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yesterday was busy!

I met with Sarah Saltwick, the Everything-Front-of-House-and-House-Itself woman.
She has helped me put together a very fun time for the audience on a very limited budget.  I'm so grateful!  If you come, you'll meet her at the box office - she's way cool!  Here she is going over a draft of the program - it's modeled after a child's activity book.  She created a great Mad Lib for the Origin of Species.  I can't wait to try it myself!

Then I met with Renee Berthelette, the costumer.  She got the actors together earlier this week, and had pictures waiting for me.  Pretty much everything looks great - and she's way under budget still.  Way to go!  The costumes make these characters very accessible - down to earth.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Creative Worldview

When you're writing a play, you're always writing.  When you're directing a play, you're always directing.  It becomes your worldview.  

A friend of mine joked on Facebook yesterday that my life is one big conspiracy and everyone in my life has been hired as extras.  My friends raged they weren't getting paid union standard.  Little did he know, this Truman-esque vision is actually pretty accurate, only I'm the one that hired y'all.  Everyone and everything is there for me to produce a show.  

"If your problem is a nail, everything should look like a hammer."  
Believe me, right now, all y'alls are lookin' like hammers. 


I had dinner last night with a mighty group of hammers.  
Genie Scott, from NCSE,  sat on my left, then Chris Castillo Comer, former Director of Science for the TEA, then Steve Schafersman of TCS, then Josh Rosenau, Genie's partner in crime, then Paul Murray, who just started the blog poopchucker in response to an outburst during the press conference at yesterday's SBOE hearings, and finally the delightful Dick Neavel, who graciously hosts Steve every time he's in Austin.

We had a great time, and after-dinner conversation led to a 1am get-out-of-bed revelation for me.  Really good ideas make me utter what Thomas Henry Huxley did when exposed to Darwin's idea:  "How incredibly stupid 
not to have thought of that."  Ideas are out there, right in front of you.  

When I got up at 1am to write my idea down, I also picked up Rumi, because he comments on this:

Any movement or sound is a profession of faith,
as the millstone grinding is explaining how it believes
in the river!  No metaphor can say this,
but I can't stop pointing
to the beauty.
Every moment and place says
"Put this design in your carpet!"

Ideas, if you let them, flow into you.  You don't have to jump in the river - you're in it already!
Just let yourself get wet. (Rumi would have said - Just say no to Shamwows - stick with Shams)

The ideas in art are not the genius of art.  The genius of art is in knowing what ideas not to include.  What not to weave into the particular carpet you're working on. 

I am grateful for everyone I know, every movement and sound and moment and place, whether you make it into the final weave or not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

?? - Says NAS sci def is too restrictive.  Is FOR S&W/A&E.

Diana Walker - catholic like galileo.  The board is charged with our future as a state, as a world leader.  Critical thinking must be taught.

Both sides use the same phrases, and say critical thinking is important.  Students asking Qs is important.  But both have radically different intentions behind those phrases.

Dr. Whelan (sp)??, science phd, exxon, parent.  Re: earth and space sci statement - facilitator on TEKS committee.  5 board amendments were addressed and revisions made in response.
TEKS as we revised them are rigorous.  You should vote them in as we wrote them (revised).
Miller - I don't believe I have that revised TEKS.
Whelan - There are 10 members on the committee - no TEKS point is unanimous.