Calling all Theater companies and performers!

Open Call to Theater companies, performers, researchers:
I would like to hear other voices besides my own on this blog. If you'd like to write about your TLP experiences here, e-mail them to me and I'll put them up.
Topics can include dramaturgy to staging to personal responses to the play. Anything goes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why the hell am I doing this again?

Okay, right now nobody is actively crawling this blog yet, which means that I'm more or less still blogging under the covers with a flashlight and nobody's listening.  So, in this moment of silence, I'm starting to panic: do I want to pull the plug on all this?   Do I really want to bear my soul to the cold scrutiny of the Internet?  Moreover, while the Internet is deep enough to allow some anonymity, Wyoming is not.  I swim in pretty shallow waters back there, and there's no good place to hide.  I can only run so fast before my own story catches up with me.  If I'm as honest with everyone as I really want to be, I will have to give everyone enough information to finally corner and catch the Jackrabbit if they want to.   And, while getting picked up by the ears and getting unmasked won't harm my career, it'd certainly strain my relationship with my parents, who would hardly approve of this sort of thing: good plainsmen don't air their family's dirty laundry for just anybody to hear.  So far, the risks seem to outweigh the reward. 

So please excuse me while I scream and wring my hands a little backstage before the curtain goes up.  Somebody tell me, why the hell am I doing this again, please?... 
It's a fair question.  Part of this exercise feels like shameless self-indulgence.  Hell, writing this post right now feels like shameless self-indulgence.  Maybe all I really want to do is pull out my hair and cry with an audience present.  Does that make me any different than the "Leave Britney Alone" kid, I wonder?  (Yeah.  He's more entertaining.)  Then there's the question of the story I have to tell.  A guy I didn't even know died, he died horribly, and I didn't really do anything after that-- well, not until this year, at least.  My relationship to the Matt Shepard case isn't anything special.  What's the point of telling that story here?  Who's going to care? 

Okay, now that I've basically spent a half an hour talking to myself  and can think everything over, I guess I would give three responses to my own question. 

First of all, I've been thinking about the first time I spilled my guts to a friend, who I'll call "Jim" for anonymity's sake; he was involved in a local production of Ten Years Later recently.  I'd never really told my story clear through to anyone before (just bits and pieces as needed), and I sort of blurted it all out to him over tea one morning on a broken picnic bench in the foyer of the Arts building.  "Jim" was not only very understanding, but he was able to speak into my ambivalence about the play in terms I had never thought about.   Why?  Because he felt a lot of the same things, too.  I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt to get that off my chest and finally begin to put the pieces together in a way that made sense. 

Next, I've been thinking back to something "Jim" told me that morning: everyone needs to be able to have a say in their own narrative.  When we lose the ability to control or at least speak into those narratives, it's like losing a piece of your identity.  What's my story?  Like it or not, a lot of my story is Laramie, and that's a narrative I've had no control over.  It's been exploded all over the media, it's been distorted by 20/20, and it's been defined by Tectonic Theater.  I've never actually spoken into, or spoken back to that narrative until a month ago.

Finally, I've been thinking about something the local director told me after the October 12 performance.  I had I confessed to her that, when I heard about the play awhile back, it felt like getting kicked in the gut.  The director later thanked me for saying that.   After the performance, she told me that it made her stop and think about the seriousness of what she does, how it speaks to the impact that theater can have on ordinary lives.  It both affirmed what she does for a living as well as reinforced the need to take it seriously.  Not bad for something I thought was going to totally offend her.

As I look back at these moments from the past month, I think these are the answer.  For one, I need to do this for other people who are in the same boat as me.  "Jim" helped me sort out things I had never been able to put into words just by letting me speak them aloud and affirm what I said.  I'd like to provide others  with a forum to do that.  Secondly, I need to do this for myself.  I need an opportunity to speak back into, and dialogue with, my own narrative for once, if for no other reason than to learn how to deal with the vertigo this play gives me every time I see it.  And, finally, I guess I need to do this for the theatric community.  Maybe, if we can all start to talk about the serious, life-changing experiences we all have had with this play, we can get a better sense of how theater of this type can interact with, interfere with, and even change the culture in which we live and the people we live with.  And that's nothing to sniff at, I guess.

That doesn't mean that the panic's gone, however;  I'm still a little nervous about losing my anonymity.  I know that I'll have to give up my Trickster persona and take my rabbit-mask off eventually.  My parents will eventually read this.  And I'll have to stop hiding, just like I've had to learn to stop hiding from this story.  But in the meantime, I suppose I'll just have to keep tumbling down this rabbit-hole to see where it goes.

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