Just give me a minute…
In the moment. All the gurus—and my dogs—say to live in the moment. And apparently I was doing that so much over the past ten days that I couldn’t even manage a post of reflection on what I was living.
Now that I’ve had a minute (which also involved leaving NYC after the first three performances to return to the South, reclaim my dogs and cats, release my house-sitter and return to “the grid” I fell off of for five weeks) and some distance, I think I can talk about what just happened.
First of all, we opened a show. We hit a wall of exhaustion at the end of the third week of rehearsal, then entered the euphoria of the last few practice run-throughs with costumes and crew before entering our space for the first time to tech and “raise the curtain” (there was no actual curtain) on opening night (Thursday, September 30 at 8 pm).
That last run, the tech run, we got to see the whole thing put together with stops and starts: lights, sound, video projections, orchestrations, the ghetto-ized space that is the American Theatre of Actors on 54th Street.
And, at that point, I couldn’t touch the words anymore. It was going to be what it was going to be. It’s hard to let go when you know the show has more heights in can reach, more clarity it can zing, more character it can shine. But that’s for the next draft. For now, we clap for our accomplishments over three guerilla-style weeks, for our cast who has, collectively and individually, traveled thousands of developmental miles in mere days, for our director and choreographer who made a physical thing out of words and notes, for our stage manager who maintained calm and humor amidst a sea of the usual troubles, for our general manager who kept the peace and the order and made sure people got paid, for our crew and ass-kicking band who dropped in from the air at the end of the whole thing to make sure there was a fully fleshed-out costumed, spotlighted, sound-opped, rockin’ show to watch and hear.
The fun thing that happened in those first few shows was character discovery continuing to be made by our cast. Now that they could really be IN the show from start to finish, they understood who they were and what they were doing. And they were making stuff happen. It was joyful.
And though I can’t read minds, I think they were having fun.
I was having fun too, seeing what was tight or funny or telling a story, while also seeing what could change or morph or be chiseled out in more detail.
As for the audiences during all three of the shows I saw, well, I still can’t read minds. And they weren’t laughing from start to finish. Though they were being plenty catty during the intermission (yes, I’m talking to you four-men-who-should-wait-until-you’re-outside-to-talk-that-loud-because-you-never-know-who’s-sitting-in-front-of-you). I’m in New York. We ain’t in Kansas anymore. And all of that comes with the territory. New York audiences expect to be impressed. Arms crossed. Critical brain antennas fully engaged. Laser eyes of opinion aimed at the stage. You hope, as a writer, you can make them forget all those things and just enjoy themselves. A big goal. But not impossible.
All I can say for sure is that the overall process, while challenging and hard and full of emotional ups and downs, was driven by mutual respect, a love of collaboration, and many, many discoveries. We can’t control audience opinion. We can only make something we’re proud to call ours. And we can live in the moment of making it.
Time and continued development will tell whether POPart has a future life (every audience member who has been or is currently in an art or theatre school LOVED the show and found it to be a joy-filled, spectacularly fun representation of that experience).
For now, it has a current life for three more performances in the ATA in NYC. And it’s living, baby. It’s living.