Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Picasso at the Lapin Agile ...completed

Note to readers:
I edited this post after publishing it earlier, because I discovered that the pictures were linked to my web gallery of photos of the show, and I had not intended to make available to the general public these images (not because of content but only because I don't wish to presume that everyone wants photos of them posted online.) Once I fixed the picture problem, I ended up editing the text too, so it's different from the original.

I apologize for the disjointed and nonlinear manner in which I've been blogging about the play this past few days but events have consistently outpaced my ability to keep up. I'm going to temporarily abandon the narrative I started on the last post and cut to the chase...the play that is.

Opening night was a huge success in every way. The actors delivered their best performances to that point (by far) and the audience was highly amused and very keen to laugh. The actors had to deal with being interrupted by laughter... a nice problem to have to solve. The show looked good too. All the productions elements worked smoothly, with only one minor glitch that probably nobody besides me, the crew in the booth, and the cast noticed.

In general the light and sound effects were very effective, none more so than the moment when the roof flew off and we watched Picasso, Elvis and Einstein gaze at the stars.

Sunday's matinee was hard work. Quiet crowd. Muted laughter. Actors working hard and wondering what the hell is going on out there. Really though, still a good, solid show, and very positive reactions from the folks who attended.

Closing night was dreamy. I saw actors relishing their characters in ways they had not yet done. Their focus was absolute.

Every photo I captured showed evidence of actors in character, listening and watching and reacting. Even though the theater was unbearably hot, the audience couldn't seem to get enough. The comedic synergy between cast members and with the audience was on a level that frankly surprised me. I came away terribly impressed by instincts these kids displayed.

Watching the show also put the script in a new light. Steve Martin has created a play in which every actor, right down to the smallest part, gets a chance to shine. Every one of my kids had at least one moment where they took stage and got a laugh for their trouble. Some of them did far more than that.

The more we did the show the more we got in synch with Martin's comedic sense. The actors began striving to set up jokes in order to collect the payoff laughter later. The hilarious non sequitors that Martin injects into the script became favorite moments for the cast.

For me, listening to many of the lines about creativity and aspiration as they came out of my cast members' mouths, I couldn't help conflating their real identities and aspirations with those of their characters. As people and as characters, they were all deeply engaged in the act of becoming...that's a lifelong project, but an ephemeral experience like a theater production can sometimes render it's value and it's complexity and it's pain in unforgettable terms.

Five months in the making, a long and in many ways a difficult birth. It was poignant for me to watch them cast about for answers, to listen to them butt heads against their own limitations, and those of their fellows, to witness their uneven and even spasmodic progress, and then finally to be amazed by their resilience, their transparency, and their fearlessness under the scrutiny of the public eye.
I got misty eyed on closing night watching them write another episode in their young lives.


Blogger Michael said...

Congratulations to you and your cast. I have been watching to see your posts on the performance. Put one in the plus column for free speech and thought. And it seems that all your audience members were able to leave intact, yes? Imagine that.


P.S. Will you post it on YouTube? Please do if at all possible.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Dad, you have been a shepard of youth your entire life, from younger brothers and sisters to your children to your students. Once again, you have proven that you deserve the title. Well done, and thanks again for always fighting the good fight. Love, ♥Erin

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the photo gallery before you pulled it. It showed the behind the the scene processes that go into a theatre production. And I agree that there were no bit parts in this play--everybody got a chance to steal a scene or two or three.

In case everybody has forgotten that you were escorted off the stage and out the door without your stipend to placate a percentage of our local taxpayers, as a taxpayer, too, I would like to thank you for your donated time and energy in support of the kids. Focusing and energizing their surprise and disappointment in a forward direction, helping them work through both the costs and
possibilities of creating a Plan B or C in life, facing obstacles and dealing with pushback--these are all lessons that they will remember longer than they remember their lines (except Mssr. P perhaps). There are those who still feel strongly that the drama students showed disregard for authority, but they were already under several levels of authority--parents, teacher, principal--who supported them before and after the Superintendent/Board decision. The students who demanded in essence to do another play than the one the director had chosen were also disregarding authority, albeit with the support of their most immediate authority, their parents. Both groups of students learned that they have the lifetime right, even duty, to challenge authority when it is out of sync with their values and to work through lawful and often imperfect and evolving channels to address these challenges. It's just my personal bias that one group learned to deal with one of those challenges by pulling down a stage while the other learned to put one up, but my personal biases are always open to debate. (And particular thanks, Kevin, for reigning in and harnessing Mr. Lanky--I wouldn't want the anger he expressed during the Forum unleashed in the community. He's really needs to hone those emotive skills though. Don't be afraid to raise that voice more! MATISSE! Otherwise, he is just doomed! to a life of playing handsome leading man parts. Twilight 12? Quel horror!)

1:57 PM  
Anonymous melanie (french teacher!) said...

I'm really happy that the show was such a success and that everyone involved had a great time. Because Paris is quite far away from La Grande, I haven't had the chance to attend the play but, as you know, my students and I are very interested in your play and its "saga", so we hope you've filmed it and will put the video on You Tube asap ! Congratulations !

10:56 AM  

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