Well! Last night was a very auspicious night in Amy-land, because it was NEW THEATER SEASON VOTING NIGHT. This is kind of like Christmas for me. Well, also Christmas is like Christmas for me. I totally dig Christmas. Especially now with The Nephew in the mix. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a little kid dig into presents, seriously. It’s like seeing a starving man dig into dinner. YUM! Says The Nephew. MORE PRESENTS PLEASE!
Although, yes, it does mean that a season is ending, and I suppose endings are sad, it’s more happy and exciting, because it’s happy new just-out-of-the-box scented NEW SEASON! Not just for us, but for ALL THE THEATERS IN THE AREA! Huzzah!
So, here’s some behind-the-scenes magic for you all. I’ll totally let you all pay attention to the man behind the curtain for a little bit.
At our theater, we put out a call for submissions in the fall. We have a list of directors that can submit to direct for the upcoming season. These are directors who have directed with us before, or have otherwise proved their worth, possibly with feats of strength and speed. I made up that part. Please don’t attempt feats of strength and speed at home and expect to get a Golden Ticket next fall.
Then, once the deadline is over, we have a PILE OF SCRIPTS. The PILE OF SCRIPTS needs to be read, and discussed, at length. So we get together a committee, consisting of some board members, and non-board members who are theatery, the president of the board, and the Artistic Director, who just happens to have unruly hair and crazy eyes. And then we all read and read and read and READ.
We meet maybe four or five times, and we discuss what we’ve read, and we knock plays off the list, and eventually, with a lot of discussion (and hopefully, not much fighting, because fighting makes mommy want a drink) we come up with four shows that fit the following criteria for our upcoming season, in no particular order:
- The rights are available.
- They aren’t cuckoo-bananas and people might actually show up and want to watch them, because we’d like to make a little money.
- They are well-written, interesting, have good ideas in them, and (in the best-case scenario) make the Artistic Director get a little thrill just under her breastbone after having read them or just thinking about working for the theater that’s going to produce them.
- They haven’t been either done to death locally or are about to be done by another theater group in the upcoming season.
- The costumes and set won’t bankrupt us.
- There’s a nice mix – not all dramas, not all comedies. Because people tend to get bored otherwise.
(I also have a secret love for plays written in the past fifteen years or so, but can’t always get what I want. JUST LIKE THE ROLLING STONES YOU GUYS.)
Once we find four plays that meet the criteria above, and we can all AGREE on those four plays (and some years that’s harder than others, sometimes it’s totally fighty, sometimes not), we present the four plays to the board of directors, and give them a few weeks or so to read them, if they want to, then at the next board meeting upcoming (in this case, it was last night) the board votes.
I’ve been on the board for – let’s see. Seven years now holy hell SEVEN YEARS? How the time does fly. And only a few times has anyone on the board raised any concerns about the season. Usually it goes through smoothly.
SO! Now that it is OFFICIAL (and if anyone follows my theater on Facebook, you already know this, so you’re totally all ho-hum right now), I can talk about our upcoming season. UPCOMING SEASONNNNN! It’s like the New Year, when things are all shiny and new and anything is possible, you know? I love this time of year. It’s always the most exciting. It’s almost impossible to be grim, bitter, dark and twisty at the beginning of anything. I mean, I accomplish it, WITH VIGOR, but it is totally almost impossible.
Twelfth Night, by John Grisham. HA HA TOTALLY FOOLED YOU. By William Shakespeare, of course.
(SIDE NOTE: whenever I hear the name John Grisham, I hear it in Alyssa’s voice from Chasing Amy. I believe this will be the case until the day I die. I’m cool with that.)
I like Twelfth Night very much. Back in my ill-begotten youth, I spent a semester abroad. You remember. It was the time I caught Mad Cow Disease that probably is going to kill me any day now. And as part of our semester abroad, we took a theater class, where we saw at least one, if not two, professional London shows a week. Can you even imagine? It’s sad because I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the awesomeness of this. I mean, I was a theater person. I APPRECIATED it. I just didn’t appreciate it as much as I would have if, say, I was watching it now. I mean, I saw RALPH FIENNES as HAMLET, for the love of Pete. I don’t think 20-year-old me could appreciate the awesomeness of that.
Anyway, in London, I saw a wonderful production of Twelfth Night, and what I liked most about it was that the director chose to make Malvolio less of a blustering idiot and more of a sad, bullied target, so you actually felt sympathy for him. (That’s one of the things I love about Shakespeare – it’s open for so many valid interpretations. Invalid ones, too, sure, but so many opportunities for good ones. That’s a mark of wonderful writing, right there.) So when Malvolio gives his famous “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” line at the end, it was truly chilling – not the parting line of a buffoon, but a warning from someone who’d been pushed one step too far. I thought of this adaptation while I watched the footage from Columbine, years later. So, yeah. This performance obviously worked for me. On a lot of levels.
I’m excited we’re doing another Shakespeare – we did A Midsummer Night’s Dream last season and it did well, and the play within a play was one of my favorite things to watch that we’ve done, I stopped what I was doing every night to catch it – and I’m excited to see what this director does with the show. Happy with this choice, and glad it’s kicking off the season.
The Shape of Things, by Neil LaBute.
You know I’m dying over this, right? WE’RE DOING A LABUTE. I’ve mentioned before my complete and total love of LaBute. This is one of my favorite plays of his, directed by one of my favorite directors we work with. I have never seen a show this man has directed that hasn’t completely blown me away. He just has such an eye for the stage – where I’d look and say, “pretty!”, he looks and sees shapes and pictures and angles and lighting and the whole big picture. I’m always in awe.
This is a dark, twisted, bitter play. Which is why I’m head-over-heels for it. It’s about art and sex and the games people play with one another and relationships and ambiguity and seriously, you guys, SERIOUSLY, I couldn’t be more excited if you pinched me twice. (Please don’t pinch me twice, I’ll totally punch you in the neck.)
I want those of you who live locally to come and see this. I want those of you who DON’T to immediate go out and either buy the play and read it or Netflix the movie with Paul Rudd. It’s just that good. It’s not one of his Sex Panther movies. It’s serious. You’ll love it. It’s will make you think serious thoughts with your thinker.
The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project
I like plays about issues, if they’re done well. This particular play, about this particular issue, is one of my favorites. Yes, it’s been done locally, and not that long ago. But I believe it’s a play that needs to be done, and done well, and it needs to be seen.
In case you’re not a theater person, or in case you aren’t aware, this play is about Matthew Shepard. I’m pretty sure you haven’t been completely living under a rock for the past fourteen years, but in case you have, Matthew Shepard was the University of Wyoming student who was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 for the heinous crime of being an openly gay man.
I have trouble talking about the Shepard case without crying. I’m actually a little teary right now, writing this. I was living in the southwest in 1998, and the morning it hit the news, the day before my birthday, I was getting ready for work. I sat, glued to the television, utterly devouring every bit of information about the case as it came out. Just completely, totally in shock. Unbelieving that something like this could happen. And when the doctor came out for the press conference the morning of October 12 to tell the world that Matthew Shepard had died of severe head trauma, after having been tied to a fence and left overnight in the cold to die, alone, that’s what killed me, ALONE, with NO ONE, after he hung on in the hospital for five full days, I bawled. I absolutely, snottily, weeping, making noises like a child wailed. My heart was utterly broken. That two men could do this to someone else – someone who, even after all this time, not a single negative thing has come out about? Just broke me in two.
Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted hundreds of interviews and came up with a documentary-type play which chronicles the story and the aftermath. It is utterly heartbreaking. If you can watch this play and not cry, your heart might be stone. Especially the monologue – the verbatim testimony – of Matthew Shepard’s father from the trial.
I’m lucky enough to be friends with the director, and lucky enough that he wants me to stage manage. I’m going to be one snotty, tear-soaked stage manager, but I think this is an important play. And I’m so very proud we’re putting it on. I don’t think Matthew Shepard should ever be allowed to be forgotten. That kind of hate shouldn’t ever be forgotten. Because when we forget it, it’s easy to think it couldn’t happen again, or it couldn’t happen here. And it could. It could happen anywhere. And it does. On small scales and on large scales. It happens every single day.
(Just for some additional sobby goodness, watch this:
One of my favorite performers, Hamell on Trial, and his song “Hail”. If you like him, let me know. I’ll point you in the direction of some of his other wonderful recordings.)
The Oldest Profession by Paula Vogel
This is a lovely little dramedy about the oldest profession. Accountacy? you ask? No. NOT ACCOUNTACY. Prostitution. It’s totally about prostitution. Yes. We’re doing a play about whores. TWO YEARS IN A ROW, actually. Because last season we did Mrs. Warren’s Profession. We’re totally going to get a reputation.
It’s about five elderly prostitutes in their golden years, and their attempt to stay in the game, and their attempt to stay relevant. It’s funny and it’s touching and it’s got some salient points about the way we treat the elderly in our society as disposable and there’s totally – GET THIS ARE YOU READY – a PIANO on STAGE with a PIANO PLAYER. It is the closest we are coming to a musical at my theater ever. As you all know, I am a total musical theater whore so that’s very exciting to me. There will be SINGING. In the PLAY. I know, right? I KNOW.
We also have two showcases in the summer – a director’s showcase with two one-acts, and a playwright’s showcase with an unproduced play written by a local author.
WHOO. Are you totally spent? I know I am. Exciting, right? Wait, what’s that, peanut gallery? YOU WERE BORED AND WANT TO KNOW WHERE WAS THE FUNNY? Ugh, whatever. I AM NOT YOUR PERFORMING SEAL, BUCKO. Sometimes I have thoughts that are SERIOUS and FULL OF SERIOUSNESS and THEATER STUFF.
Fine, fine, whatever, I’ll totally play “Norwegian Wood” for you tomorrow on my seal-horns with my seal-nose, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.
Yay, new season! Happy Wednesday!