Summer is my season. I love the world most when I have no need of a sweater and when the day stretches into the evening, making that 6 am alarm and the subsequent shift at the survival job seem like a distant memory, a prologue to the real day. For the second year in a row, there are few rehearsals this summer, planning takes their place.
Last year, it was finding venues for How I Learned to Drive, Cressida, Helen, and Fool for Love. Of those four projects, only Helen did not come to fruition. I had to put her on the shelf and there she remains, for now. This year, I have a venue – The Backdoor Theater – and a company –
Salt and Sage Productions – and there is even more planning to occupy the long summer days.
We are preparing for a tour of Jenny’s solo show, Cinnamon and Cigarettes, followed by three full productions – The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Ginna Hoben, Great Falls by Lee Blessing, and What Every Girl Should Know by Monica Byrne – and a reading series of Jacobean sex tragedies. Our to do list, though terrifying in length, fills me with glee. I cannot wait to be back in the rehearsal room exploring addiction, broken promises, bad dates, relationships, road trips, trauma, survival, pregnancy, travel fantasies, adolescence, and friendship. It is quite the season.
In addition to all the planning, I have devoted time this summer to two complimentary forms of training: Linklater and Alexander. Linklater is a vocal technique and Alexander is a physical technique, however, both at their core are all about breathing. We do a lot to inhibit our breath and undoing those inhibitions and engaging in new ways is alternately terrifying and exhilarating with these two states sometimes living within seconds of one another.
As I spend the summer planting seeds for future theatrical endeavors and training my body to breathe freer, I feel a bit like the gardener in Paisley Rekdal’s poem, Happiness. In the poem, Rekdal speculates that her neighbors may be offended by the time and effort she pours into her garden. She admits that her garden takes her away from their concerns, telling them: “I can wait longer than sadness. / I can wait longer than your grief.”
The gardening of the poem is no mere act of escapism, it is a way of connecting – “If I could not have made this garden beautiful/ I wouldn’t understand your suffering,/ nor care for each the same, inflamed way” – and an accomplice to her inner demons: “there is no end to ego, with its museum of disappointments.” The garden is a landscape of beauty and the site of suffering as the sparrows fight there.
Rekdal’s garden is both a metaphor for poetry, itself, and the inner-being of the artist: there are noble and less than noble elements to both pursuits; neither is pure, “selfless” and “selfish” intentions commingle and there is a certain absurdity, a beautiful humor to it all: imperfection is natural, our best intentions and our worst selves live side by side, and our dramas are – well, kind of funny.