Sunday, November 17, 2013

dramaturg's statement

There is no or little question that the entire cast of The Orchard Players eventually went on to engage in certain types of super fun conversation and character-building forms of energetic social activity.  We are all on Earth, I suppose, and there is simply no way around certain things.  My mentor Samuel Beckett said that the situation was more or less beyond cure.  I would make random suggestions, sort of like Grandpa Ben in the Swiss Family Robinson, a wizened fellow who sat in a rocking chair studying the afternoon shadows as they lengthened and gradually crept from the floor to the ceiling.  Pipe in hand, he expressed concern for the new generation.  They chattered away, without stop, on a wide variety of interesting topics.  Sometimes, upon waking, in the dead and chill of the night, they would simply whisper the word "conversation" and derive some obscure comfort from that, yet secretly wondering in the back of their minds just how much longer they would be able to eke it out in this island existence.   "Do you think that's OK?" they would ask me the following morning.  It was a real moment of truth, let me tell you.  I would think it over for a couple of minutes, consult my notes, clear my throat, and then try to give them the most honest response that I could.  These themes are explored in the play at microscopic levels of detail.

My job was to approach them and converse with them patiently and at incredible length.  We built a log cabin from scratch. This has occurred many times throughout history, and is a well known rite of passage in the world of the theater.  Johnny, Karl, Franz, Lao, Smokey, and Snug are like family.  We all pitched in, and sometimes after rehearsal went on extremely long wilderness hikes.  You probably imagine we would be too tired for that, and we were.  But as dramaturg, my job was to occasionally get them to "reach for the stars."  Franz had serious issues.  Johnny had some serious issues as well.  But Karl, Lao, Smokey, and Snug were all as fit as a fiddle.  You could say anything to them!  You could ask them any random question that popped into your head.  Franz was much more temperamental, always brooding over his manuscripts or worrying about his delicate love affairs.  Johnny was very hard-working, to the point where he started to run himself ragged and weary.  We tried to convince him that The Orchard Players had legitimate artistic merit but he was never convinced.  He didn't believe in the core vision of Woodsie, unfortunately.  Always just wanting to get back to that wandering lifestyle of his.  Not surprisingly, it was Karl who finally convinced him to be in our production.  Woodsie wrote it specifically for them, in essence, and was thrilled beyond words when they agreed to act the thing out.  They put their real lives "on hold", so to speak.  They took part in a fiction.  As dramaturg, it was my job to facilitate reflection, discussion, and energy.  Moving back and forth between realms, drinking spiced wine with Woodsie and his boyfriend McGruff, the well known crime-dog from the 80's campaign to help take a small bite out of illegal activities, congratulating the cast when they succeeded and castigating them when they stumbled or failed, helping out with the light cues, the sound design, and the costumes.  My job was to seek the hidden meanings.  I have grown up in the theater. The Orchard Players is as fine a piece of work as I have ever encountered.


-Tony Danza