Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Foreigner

Theater is an exercise of the Absurd. It is labor intensive, shows very little return on investment, if any, and is disposable. After closing night we will strike the set and leave the theater looking as if we were never there. “Disposable Art” Art created just for you, just for tonight. It’s not a Book, a Song, a Painting or a Sculpture that you can go back to and enjoy over and over again. It is a living, breathing, entity that encompasses all aspects of Art. Movies also encompass all Art forms, but Movies aren’t ALIVE. Like Concerts, Recitals and Sporting Events anything can and will happen. 
Two things I deeply believe in: Great theater can be created anywhere. There are no such things as small theaters, only limited imaginations. Van Gogh didn’t paint because he wanted to, because it made him feel special. Van Gogh painted because he had to, he needed to. He painted until he couldn’t hold the brush anymore. He painted over his own paintings because he didn’t have money for canvas. He needed to paint. I have been asked far too many times, “When are you going to give up this foolish life?” In this world where there is pain and suffering around every corner no matter who you are, it brings me great joy to help create a couple of hours where you can escape.
This is why I spend so much time at Central high School helping students “catch the vision” and creating master pieces of “Disposable Art.”
“Only he who attempts the absurd will ever achieve the impossible.” ~ Confucius

It’s funny… as much as I enjoy “the dark side,” I find that my best theatrical experiences are often with witty, conversation driven comedy.  It is the power of laughter.  Laughter is medicine. Milton Berle once said that “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  Well ladies and gentlemen… pack your suitcases. Human Beings need a little down time. Is there anything more noble than that?
(we had to start our building by purging the scene shop.... including nasty paint.  These two brave girls had the "sniff test" job.)
(Some kids learned new skills.  One of these boys learned how to use power tools... and it was his first play at Central.)
Everyone once in awhile, we are presented with a situation that is so unique it almost takes our breath away.  Each time I work with my friend Jeff and the students at Central High school I am presented with this situation.  This time it was helping with the Production class in preparation for “The Foreigner.”  I love these kids!  Their courageous attitudes and willingness to work hard during some difficult days has taken each of us on a journey – to a new level in creating the performing art I love.
As part of the class room environment of this production we had many discussions regarding judging others, racism, finding peace within ourselves and standing up for what we are passionate about.  These discussions were enlightening to all of us as we watched crazy things happening around the country and learned to work together with a variety of personalities. I believe the material even helped us all have a better understanding of all that it means to be human because it is an example of innocence and love and warmth being preyed upon by ignorance, yet refusing to surrender.  The quirky dignity of ordinary folks gives us all hope.
Who really are foreigners?  Are we sometimes foreigners to ourselves?  I often think of the unnecessary divisions we create between ourselves and other people and the opportunities missed for growth and human understanding.
In this delightful play we see some characters expand their horizons and embrace themselves and each other with new joy and life – while others hold tight to their prejudices and revulsion for anyone different then themselves.


I also got to see the same thing happen within my awesome cast and crew.  Many expanded their horizons by trying something new (a tech job when they are usually on stage).  There were some difficulties adjusting – some held tight to what they thought before and some embraced a new experience.  Just like the characters of the play, it was clear who suffered, literally and spiritually, in the end.


The specific hate group portrayed in this play, the Georgia KKK in 1983, is unfortunately, one of many.  But what can each of us do to help our world move beyond such negativity?  I’m proud to say that the students of Central High School are actually beginning to answer this question.  
What did we learn?
Work together

“Own” who you are

Do your part

Work brings people together



Listen, Act, repeat

Leave life’s troubles at the door

“BE”

Center

Breathe


At first I was attending class to help… help with sets, technical elements, whatever the teacher/director needed.  Eventually, I really became more of the co-director – even if Jeff said I was the director.  We made decisions together.  I did blocking and he did clean up.  We taught things together.  We encouraged the kids to participate in the design of the set and the costumes and in all elements of producing a play.  I did have to “tweak” the set design.  Jeff did step in and decorate the set and costumes.  We both needed to step in with the poster and program.  Still… it was a great learning experience for the kids who learned how much work we do to get a play off the ground, and a great learning experience for us.  We learned that we need to give more clear directions and instructions.  As a result I will be helping my friend write better lesson plans and syllabi for future classes.



























































I understand that many of the students don’t like this class format of production.  I believe they don’t see the whole picture yet… and it’s hard to see the big picture when you are a teen.  I believe this format is a win/win for the school, the students and one of my best friends, their teacher.  It is a great answer to having more productions and more classroom training in a district that doesn’t have the funding for both.

Many thanks to the efforts of so many who helped bring this show to life. My friend Jeff for letting me play; my friend John and my husband John for coming to build set pieces with me; my friend Joy for painting logs and rocks so I didn’t have to; my friend Lonnie for taking pictures; and the students who also let me play and let me love them. This production was the result of the commitment and creative contributions of many, many people.  As always, it was a joy for me to work with the creative, talented and dedicated young people of Central High School.



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