Thursday, September 9, 2010

Opening Night

It's been a while since my last post. I've been preoccupied with the start of term (which has entailed learning a new admin job) and, even more so, with the lead up to the opening of The Objecthood of Chairs, which happened last night.

It was, I guess, what one might call a "soft" opening. A small but, I like to think, appreciative audience joined us at SFU Woodward's Studio T for what the front of house manager rather grandiosely introduced as the "world premiere" of my play.

Even following nearly a year of workshops, three weeks of intensive rehearsal, two dress runs, and Tuesday night's invited preview performance, I still get goose bumps when Milena calls for the house lights to dim and then, courtesy Jay, we hear the first beats of Martin's opening music, "Les Chaises," followed by Jordan's fade in of the two upstage specials designed by James to showcase the bentwoods first brought on stage by Justin and Vic, who shimmer gorgeously in Flo's costumes. Then there's that long, expectant pause as J and V position themselves with their backs to the audience before beginning the opening "Stand and Release" movement sequence choreographed by Rob K, supplemented by Kugler's direction regarding the bringing on of the other four chairs. Finally, Sammy and Shang-Han call up the opening film projections by Rob G, only at the end of which do we hear my words. And, as an added insider bonus, I know that Lain and Caroline linger behind the upstage legs, waiting to bring out crucial props later on in the performance.

The slow accumulation of these different component parts at the start of our show sums up the whole process of this collaboration for me--the performance is at a place now where I can no longer imagine it without any of these elements. Nor without the incredibly talented and generous contributions of all the individuals (and more) mentioned above. I had a vision--crazy perhaps--of what might be possible by putting two performers and six chairs on stage, and then seeing what happens when text, movement, video, music, dramaturgy, and design are added into the mix. These folks have helped me realize that vision, and I'm in awe of what they all can do. Especially Justin and Vic, who've been with this project from the beginning, and who've learned each other's disciplines expressly for it. This piece places impossible demands on them, and they nail it each time.

So, I'd like to think a soft opening portends a slow build. We are competing with a lot of other offerings in the city, including the Fringe, the Playhouse's much-praised mounting of David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre (with PuSh Festival Associate Curator Dani Fecko doing an amazing job--onstage and off--as stage manager), and the premiere of the much anticipated new show by The Electric Company, Tear the Curtain, at the Stanley. And, although by no means our competition, there is our excellent sister show next door in SFU Woodward's Studio D, Gertrude Stein and a Companion. It hasn't helped that The Georgia Straight seems to have screwed up our listings info, meaning we're without any print media publicity for both weeks of our run.

That screw-up has hopefully been mitigated somewhat by the on-air interview I did yesterday with Rick Cluff on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition (you can listen to what I had to say by following the links from here.) Despite being barely awake, and despite Rick getting the name of our show wrong to begin with, I think the conversation went well, and hopefully some listeners will be curious enough to check out the show. I've been asked to do a similar interview next week with Radio-Canada, which means brushing up on my French.

At any rate, even if audiences don't come out in droves, this has already been an amazingly rewarding process--again, for the opportunity to work with this great bunch of people; and for the generous feedback that has already come in. As one audience member communicated her response to last night's show to Kugler, her connection to the play began more in her mind and ended more in her heart.

That's satisfaction enough for me.


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