2007-08 in 10 easy steps

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

I have a goal to try to write shorter blog entries. I know I can be a little long-winded, but I mean really what do you have to do on a Friday at work besides read my (brilliant) musings? Anyway, here you go, short and sweet, our recently announced 2007-08 season. For the details I am omitting for the sake of goal achievement, go here.

In the Bagley Wright Theatre
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (Drunks and cross-dressing!)
The Cook by Eduardo Machado (Cuba!)
The Breach by Catherine Filloux, Tarell McCraney & Joe Sutton (Hurricane Katrina...which I think should be sans exclamation point)
The Imaginary Invalid by Molière (Satire on the medical profession!)
The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney (Greek adventure!--I'm hoping for hot, bare-chested men)

In the Leo K. Theatre
By the Waters of Babylon by Robert Schenkkan (Cuba pt 2!)
how? how? why? why? by Kevin Kling (Hilarious!)
Murderers by Jeffrey Hatcher (Hilarious pt. 2!)
TBA (There was a scheduling mishap at the fault of the previously scheduled play's publisher)

Holiday Special Presentation
Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday Concert (Take me home, country roads...Fire on the Mountain creator Dan Wheetman returns!)

Thinking, talking

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

It's amazing how the weeks can just slip by around here. One play opens, another closes. My work days recently have been measured in free food and drinks: champagne to toast Braden and Marya on the great opening of Rachel Corrie; pizza to send off the musicians of Fire on the Mountain (no Kentucky bourbon, but it was lunch time). Now a brief reprieve before Gem of the Ocean (with the amazing Phylicia Rashad at the helm!) will open with great fanfare, capping a great, albeit exhausting, season. So, now that my very poor explanation of blog lag (excess food...ok, I've been busy with other things too) is done, let me share something with you.

The other day, I snuck into the end of a student matinee of My Name is Rachel Corrie to see the post play discussion. I was curious to see how high school students would respond to a play about someone not too much older than them. Would it resonate and ring true? They were virtually silent throughout the entire performance. The discussion was slow to start, but once Marya came back on stage and started--in her graceful, optimistic, humble way--to dialogue with the audience, the questions started rolling in.

Yes, there was the ubiquitous "How did you memorize all of those lines?" ("I'm still not sure I know them all," she said) but there were also questions about how the play has changed Marya's outlook on the controversy. Students asked if Rachel's spirit has inspired her to become more of an activist (yes, "I don't think I'll ever be the same," she said). One student from a school in Olympia shared that she played pinball at the same place Rachel mentions in the play. Marya's face lit up, "Really? You've been there?"

I've been having a hard time remembering that Rachel Corrie was a real person. Of course I know it rationally, and I've seen pictures and met her parents, but it seems impossible that these beautiful words could have come from the pen of someone just a little younger than I who lived an hour away and died in a country I pretty much know nothing about. I feel connected to her in a strange, remote way, but I feel oddly voyeuristic looking inside her head without knowing her. However, I think Annie Wagner might have been right when she wrote on the Stranger slog yesterday, "Everyone who keeps a private journal has some consciousness of a future audience, whether you’re aiming at your older self or fantasizing a public ravenous for your juvenilia."

It did seem like Rachel was writing for an audience of some kind, and I'm sure she would probably be happy to know her words were eliciting this kind of response--even outrage. The student audience asked Marya what she imagined Rachel would think about the play. Marya said she thought Rachel would be proud and happy to know her words were making people think and talk. It makes me think about what I'm doing now that would possibly impact anyone once I’m gone. I've just finished writing a country musical about heartbreak. While I'm sure someone might find it funny, entertaining, whatever, I feel really motivated now to use my passion for theater to start a spark. About something. Wow, it sounds like I'm writing a cover letter or something.

Speaking of writing, next Wednesday, April 4, Seattle Rep is presenting Teenspeak: My Name Is. Using My Name is Rachel Corrie as a jumping off point, students from three area high schools worked with Seattle Rep teaching artists to develop short theatrical pieces about their lives and the issues that are important to them. I got to sit in on their first read through. I was just stunned at the concise, insightful poetry that they've created. The performance takes place at 6 p.m. prior to the April 4 performance of Rachel Corrie. It's free, but reservations are necessary. Whether or not you're coming to Rachel Corrie that night, I would really encourage you to check out the My Name Is project. I think you'll find yourself rather inspired. To make reservations call the box office at 206-443-2222.


From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

Exhale. That's sort of the general feeling around here. We opened My Name is Rachel Corrie last night after a media storm (front page of the Seattle Times anyone?), controversy, anger, elation...and that's just from the promotion side. As you can read from Marya's gorgeous blogs below, the artistic process has also been exhausting, wonderful, scary. Now the production can fly on its own. That's not to say the work is done—from our end we'll be constantly dialoguing with the audience, making sure the work remains the focus of any controversy—but the piece can really have room to breathe now.

I saw the show on Tuesday, the final preview. I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time. I was caught up in Rachel's words, in Marya's pitch-perfect, vibrant portrayal, in every nuance and turn-of-phrase that she and director Braden Abraham overturned. The play is truly a journey and by the end I was a little shell-shocked. I stood with the audience in an ovation and it was then that I started crying. I let out the breath I was holding and the play finally really seeped into my blood. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about it, talking about, which seems to be common impulse. The lobby stayed packed for a quite a while afterwards as audience members shared with each other their thoughts about the story.

For me, I was most caught up in the passion that Rachel had to make a change in the world. I know I've written about it before, but it's what is the most striking to me. I talked to my friend Diane afterwards, and we both shared this sentiment that the play makes us feel so sheltered, so spoiled, so ineffective. Yes, we are working at a theatre that is producing art that is encouraging people to talk about really important things. I don't want to discount that. But both of us feel like how can we possibly ever truly understand the privilege we have without being faced with people who don't have it? Rachel Corrie talks a lot about that in the play, the idea that we must leave our comfort zone to try to understand humanity. Of course, that's really the goal of art, isn’t it? To help us understand or at least consider our place in the world? But I have to commend Rachel for leaving the comfort of a privileged life to try to figure out what she could do—as an artist and just as a human—to make a difference. Maybe it wasn't the right choice to make, but she made one.

This is one of the first pieces I've seen at the Rep where I really didn't feel like there was a wall between the art and me. This isn't a criticism of the theatre I've seen here in the past—I work here because of the caliber of plays we produce and their ability to spark dialogue. It's just a testament to the acting and direction of My Name is Rachel Corrie, to the willingness of Marya to completely open herself up to the audience and let us into her world, Rachel’s world. We are on the journey with her, in her bedroom, in her head. This play gets under your fingernails, in your mouth in a way I have only experienced in small, intimate theaters. And even though the Leo K. isn't tiny and I was sitting in the back row, I felt the immediacy. This isn't an in-your-face confrontation like Thom Pain (which I also loved, though the style was off-putting to some). This is Marya/Rachel taking your hand and saying, "Let me show you something." It's an indescribable feeling.

Rehearsal: An Actor's Blog, First Preview

From actor Marya Sea Kaminski, playing Rachel in My Name is Rachel Corrie.

First preview tonight. A strong show. We are on a steep learning curve. And by we, I mean me. The audience was kind and so, so interesting.

"Nothing could've prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it."

That's what Rachel Corrie wrote on February 7th, 2003 about living in Rafah. And I feel that, in the first moments of the play, looking out at the audience folding up their programs and settling in. The analogy is weak, but that line resonates in the experience of putting this show in front of a house full of people. A house full of you. You are my scene partner. You are fully participant in steering this journey, whether you like it or not. That's what happens when it's just the one me and the you. And some of you lean forward, elbows on your knees, jumping a little at the revelations, and breathing deeply. And some of you lean back. Like you're waiting for something. Like you're expecting me to strike a match and send all the issues surrounding this play up into heavy smoke. It's fascinating. Acting with you. Reading you. Trying to open my book and turn on my light and hoping that you will see the things that Rachel is trying to show us.

I mean, it's for her, really. When you scrape away all the noise. The lights and the sound and the words and the applause are for her. That is a tremendous thing to experience. It makes me believe in Theatre. It makes me scoff at Time. It keeps me Awake. Like more awake than I've been in a long while, to conjure her relentless spirit and feel it under my clothes in the brief moments that it dances across the stage. I think that wherever she is, she's laughing. And probably waltzing around in her underwear. And struggling to put truth to words. And looking all of us square in the eye.

And she is kicking my ass. To be perfectly blunt. The play is stitched together quite beautifully at this point and Braden is still pushing and digging. He is gnawing at more peaks and valleys in the text, more vibrant colors in the corners of the performance. Rachel's relentlessness has gotten under his skin, I think. I guess it takes one to know one. There is no time to rest in this process.

Which is killing me a little. All I want to do is sit up there and take a good look at you guys and gather in the moment. Hold it in my hands and contemplate it deeply and put it in my pocket and move softly forward. And there is no time and no rest for that in this play. The writing moves so quickly, her goodbyes are short and deep and her hellos become nexts before there's time to decide on a direction, she's moving forward. This is difficult for the pleaser in me, the part of me that wants to put something out there, and search for response, and move forward when we've reached some kind of agreement. Rachel didn't wait for that. She didn't wait for permission. She moved heartfirst on the balls of her feet.

It's so good. And by good, I mean deliciously difficult. To live in that. To not wait. To not double check to be sure. To not look for so long that you forget that you came here to leap.

Rehearsal: An Actor's Blog, Second Day of Tech

From actor Marya Sea Kaminski, playing Rachel in My Name is Rachel Corrie.

A ten out of twelve tech today for MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE. That means we're all there from noon to midnight, with a big, strange two hour dinner break. Today was tougher than Sunday, the second day of school is never as romantic as the first. We are fastening the pieces into the puzzle, and then smoothing out the edges. Working transitions. Rather than listening to the sound, and seeing the lights, and hearing the words, it feels like we're experiencing the play. As a whole. As a sum greater than its parts. It is an exciting, exhausting time.

I got a little wobbly towards the end of the night. Stepped back from the edge of the raked stage after fleeting visions of tumbling into the first row. When I opened IN DISDRESS NOW: REDUX at Washington Ensemble Theatre in January, I slipped on an icy bit of sidewalk on the way home from the opening and broke my wrist. I feel a little less indestructible than I did last December. I'm going to try not to break, or even deeply bruise anything during the run of this show...

The exhaustion is welcome, though. It's instructive. Robyn Hunt, one of my incredible mentors and an unbelievable actor, always spoke of exhaustion with admiration. In the midst of our Suzuki training, it was only when we started to get tired that the work began. When you don't have the energy to put anything on top of your performance, or the will to add 'flare' or 'meaning' to a moment, is the time when the honest moment can actually emerge. That is where the art lives, Robyn would imply, on the other side of that threshold. It was good to teeter there tonight.

I'm excited to get an audience. And, admittedly, scared. While the work is definitely starting to settle into my bones, ninety minutes of lines is still alot to hold inside my head. Feels a bit like a house of cards right now, and the audience is going to bring another whole deck to the table. That's when the play is going to breathe, though. When I will find its rhythm, discover where the play wants to rest and where the text wants to run. I suspect the first couple of previews are going to be baptisms by fire. A long journey finally coming, crashing home.

Edward Albee doesn't hate everyone...

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

One more thing. I meant to blog about this earlier, but you'll just have to forgive me...

In Michael Caines' March 2 theatre blog for the London paper The Guardian, he writes "Why does Edward Albee hate directors?" about some comments that Albee has made implying (and flat out saying) that in the play creation process the writer should be in charge no matter what and that directors often just get in the way. Caines writes "Perhaps Albee, now in his 70s, simply hasn't met the right director yet."

I find that an interesting point to consider because we just staged The Lady From Dubuque here last month with our artistic director David Esbjornson at the helm. David and Edward have worked on a number of successful projects together, including the premiere of The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia? on Broadway. So, Edward clearly has found a director he doesn't mind working with. The thing about Edward's plays is that the characters are so specifically drawn that there isn't much space in there for interpretation of intent. The directors really have to rely on and trust what is given to them.

I saw Edward and David speak together at our Stage Voices event during the run of Lady and Edward really had nothing but positive things to say about his collaborations with David. That makes me wonder if David just trusts Edward's scripts more than any other director or if Edward just trusts David more than any other director. Or maybe it's both.

I got the black lung, pop...

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

It's 8:30 and I'm still at work, killing some time until the end of Fire on the Mountain when I'll go down to the lobby and, as a service to the musicians, sell their CDs to the legions of adoring fans. I really don't mind hanging out at my desk during the show because I can listen to the music over the monitors. I've heard the 90-minute musical play through probably about seven times now, and I'm at the point where I can sing along (harmonies and melodies) with just about all the songs. I wake up in the morning singing "It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mine." In the shower I'm humming "Daddy, won't you take me back to Mullenburg County?" On my way to work...ok, you get the point. I live in Seattle, but I might as well be a coal miner's daughter.

I already knew I liked bluegrass, but I didn't realize I liked it this much. Maybe it's that Fire on the Mountain has such a poignant story about the history of coal miners in Appalachia. Maybe it's all the bourbon I've been drinking lately. Who knows? But despite not having really any point of reference, I am really moved everytime I hear the music from the show. Not to mention, the musicians in the show are some of the nicest people I've met. Now if I could get one of them to teach me the banjo, I'd be set for my own career in bluegrass...

If you want more bluegrass, I guess there is a weekly Monday night bluegrass jam at Conor Byrne in Ballard (bluegrass at an Irish bar? Well the music does have its roots in Celtic tradition...). I keep meaning to go check it out. I guess I don't have any excuse not to now.

Well, as I'm listening to the musical, it sounds like the miners have black lung now, so that means it's almost over and I need to head down to the lobby. Don't worry, you'll leave smiling. The people the show is about are resilient--even black lung can't get them down.

Rehearsal: An Actor's Blog, First Day of Tech

From actor Marya Sea Kaminski, playing Rachel in My Name is Rachel Corrie.

"I am given to making very important lists."
daylight savings.
stayed up too late.
first day of school.
christmas morning.
dressing room.
a turquoise bathrobe.
and a lovely woman named leslie.
two pairs of matching underwear.
two pairs of matching jeans.
two pairs of matching tshirts,
long sleeve shirts colored a purplish blue.
set everything in order.
new makeup brushes from rite-aid.
calm nerves.
into olympia.
a bedroom like every bedroom i've ever slept in.
except missing one wall.
and two cats.
paint supplies.
duct tape on the bottom of my feet.
stop and go and stop
and go go go go.
lb at his desk.
pushing buttons and then there was light.
obediah at his computer.
creating rain.
traffic. gunshots that make my heart stop.
kati with her notebook in the third row.
jolene quiet and fastidious in the upper right.
jen making faces at me from the back of the house.
braden speaking gently speaking direct.
like he is starving and finally smells food on the stove.
erica runs the show. a heartbeat in the sixth row.
david on the stairs.
is he always here on sunday?
long dinner break.
i hate taking breaks.
want to go and go and go.
into jerusalem, through khan jounis, finally
violently arrived into rafah.
my boots feel at home on that ground.
steady. even with the rake.
hover on the window ledge while a world
falls down around
the downstage left corner.
i will be able to hear you breathe, i think.
i'll try and pay attention.
the audience is going to be close enough
to smell sweat and smoke and fear.
the day is so long.
but no messages on my voicemail.
this is the everything.
the place where i live.
tuesday we'll start on february 7th.
i will have lived in palestine for two weeks.
and one hour.
saved for daylight.

Rehearsal: An Actor's Blog, The Eve of Tech

From actor Marya Sea Kaminski, playing Rachel in My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Saturday March 10, 2007

The Last Day of Rehearsal,
on the Eve of Tech for MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE

“How’s the play going?”

asks my best friend, across the sticky table ghostlit by the flourescent beer sign. We haven’t seen each other in a week.

Well, it rivals falling in love. You know. There’s always that rush. The adrenaline of finding a role that you’d like to wear and stretch and stitch together, and then there is the dynamite in your stomach of actually getting cast. Of getting the phone call. Of saying thank you, goodbye, and looking around at your new world bursting with vibrant color, possibility, and the intoxication of sudden purpose. That’s what getting cast in MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE was like. Like dynamite exploding in the gut.

And sometimes that’s the best part. Sometimes the victory outshines the prize and you wrestle yourself into the rehearsal room everyday and make grocery lists in your head while you’re on break. Your imagination becomes resentful for all the parties and movies and slow dinners and long naps you could be having if you weren’t committed to living inside this play.

Rehearsing this play has not been that. It has not been the sweet fleet of a crush. It has not been the adventurous resonance of a night on the town. It has been like falling in love. Deep, and difficult, and beautiful in a way you cannot describe to your friends over beers.

For the last three weeks, I have woken up every morning and taken my time. I have eased into the day with the gentlest joy. Unforced, in the way that my day jobs and teaching gigs and endless meetings can sometimes demand the dregs of my energy. I have woken up every day with no wishes to make. I have had no restlessness or arm’s reach dreams of moving to Europe or taking a long vacations or going back to school or re-evaluating the Whys and mapping out the Hows or where I am. I have woken up every morning and prepared to go into the world of this play, eager to soak up all the delight and poetry and maddening curiosity Rachel Corrie used to paint her days.

I am happier than I’ve ever been, getting to know this woman. This girl. Her writing has seeped under my skin and pierced me in places. Her conviction, which somehow feels like a dirty word in this time of Great Apathy, is more fun to attend than any party I’ve every been to. Her politics, which so many people have dismissed as naive or deemed controversial and dangerous, are a dynamic story of calling things like you see them. No more and no less.

My last few weeks have been peppered with all of these press interviews, which have been nerve-wracking and sometimes shallow. The questions dress Rachel up as a hero, a martyr, an innocent victim... The more I get to know Rachel, the more I think she was just a girl. You can scour her writing and never find any desire to be a hero. She wanted to make a difference and she believed that she could. Maybe that’s naive. Maybe that’s heroic. I know that it is uncommon.

Admittedly, Rachel Corrie has become my hero. As an artist. And as a writer. And as a defender of her own spirit, her own light, which she knew was finite and indescribable. I am inspired by the way she followed her gut. Trusted her intuition. Saw a path laid before her and did not look away when that road became very, very dark.

The rehearsals have been dream-like. They have gone very, very fast. I show up in the morning and Braden and I warm-up and then we get to work. I blink and six hours have passed. I always feel like we’re just getting started. Every day I feel like that. Even when the time has gone roughly. Last Thursday, the weight of the text and the noise of all the expectations hit me from behind while I was trying to practice the delicate ballet of the blocking. But even in the rare times I feel like crumpling under the pressure of embodying this extraordinary person in the middle of the place where she grew up, the difficulty has been welcome. Rachel courted difficulty. She seemed to have a knack for looking challenge deep in the eye and painting it sky blue.

We go into tech tomorrow. I am reluctant to leave the rehearsal room. Not because we’re not ready. This play wants an audience. This play wants to be heard and laughed at and fought with. I am reluctant to leave the rehearsal room because it has been a wonder-full time, looking into Rachel’s world and building it from the inside out. It has been an artistic dream come true to meet Braden Abraham every day and devour the work in front of us. It has been an experience of warm sunlight through the window to run lines with our Stage Manager, Erica Schwartz-Hall, and to share small insights on the text and discover the happy secrets that Rachel buried every place she went. It has been a trip around the world to sit with our Dramaturge, Kati Sweeney, and build a clear picture of the sounds of tank shells through concrete and the banter of young children playing soccer in Rafah. It has changed my life, for good, I think, to spend these days with Rachel Corrie.

I will never be the same.

“It’s going really well,” I say to my best friend. “I can’t wait for you to see it.”

Being Fabulous

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

It's 5:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, and I can say a few things with certainty: I am not wearing shoes (my high heels have been removed and tossed under my desk), I have consumed a ridiculous amount of food and wine (including two different desserts), and I would be napping face first on my keyboard if I didn't need to see Fire on the Mountain tonight.

An explanation? I'm not really a bad employee. In fact, it was my boss who bought me a ticket to the Nordstrom Spring Fashion Ovation--a fashion show organized by the Seattle Repertory Organization and fundraiser for the Rep. This year brought in a record amount for the Rep and featured the designs of Diane von Furstenberg. Basically the whole morning for me was spent applying lipstick, pretending I'm rich and fabulous (well, I don't really need to pretend about being fabulous) and then crashing back at my desk. Do actual work? Um, that's what tomorrow is for.

Once some of the wine had worn off, I headed downstairs for the meet and greet for Gem of the Ocean, the last play of the season. The excitement around this show is palpable. For one, it marks the Rep's completion of August Wilson's 10-play "Pittsburgh Cycle." It also means we're the only theatre in world (galaxy...universe...) to have performed all 11 of his plays because he performed his one-man show "How I Learned What I Learned" here in 2002.

During the meet and greet, August's wife Constanza Romero spoke about her and August's long history with the Rep. Set designer John Jacovelli shared his model of the set--Aunt Ester's house--and talked about the intricate wallpaper that might transform during Citizen Barlow's journey to the "City of Bones." (This probably sounds like gibberish, but go to Seattle Rep's website for a synopsis of the play). Director Phylicia Rashad (by whom quite a few of us staffers were a little star struck) chimed in with details the designers had forgotten to mention, but was mostly gracefully reticent.

My Name is Rachel Corrie is underway in rehearsals, Fire on the Mountain is playing to packed houses and has gotten some amazing reviews, and Gem is now in rehearsals. It feels like a great way to start winding down the season. And we're already gearing up for next season. We should have titles to announce in the next week. Stay tuned!

Also, I promise some blogs soon that will give you more of a peek into the artistic process, filled with thought-provoking nuggets, ripe for instigating intelligent discourse. Just don't give me a glass of wine for lunch...