Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home and Shepard

PDX Airport
I just returned to Portland. I spent the past few days in Staunton, Virginia, staying with two of my closest friends and collaborators, seeing shows at the American Shakespeare Center, and reading more of Shepard’s substantial body of work in preparation for Fool for Love.  

I decided to direct Fool for Love almost a year ago. I had just seen the film version of Fool for Love and taught Shepard’s Pulitzer Prizewinning Buried Child in a introduction to drama course. I had been a fan of Shepard’s plays and prose prior to this paired encounter, however, something about Shepard at that moment got under my skin. There is a restless quality to Shepard’s writing which felt apt as time alternately skulked and sped toward graduation and my subsequent move from a small town in the Shenandoah Valley to a moderately sized city in the Pacific Northwest. That Shepard’s characters often pass through New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment (or Entrapment as locals sometimes quip), where yours truly was born and raised, also contributed to my sudden affinity for his particular brand of story-telling.

Dulles Airport
Still, I had never produced a show on my own. I needed someone else on board, a person with whom I felt inspired to work, and to whom I would feel a disappointment if I did not manage to bring the production to fruition. Actress, Jenny Newbry Waters, who had played Don John in the Much Ado About Nothing I had directed for Portland Actor’s Ensemble, came immediately to mind. Don John is a great villain with a limited range: Jenny is a great actress whose range extended far beyond one of Shakespeare’s more cardboard villains. I approached Jenny with two titles I was considering – Fool for Love and Pinter’s Betrayal – and a time frame – the upcoming fall – for production. Jenny wanted May in Fool for Love, however, fall would not work for her. She was leaving town to teach at the University of Idaho. Would I wait and do Fool for Love in the spring? Yes, I found another title for fall, How I Learned to Drive, and pushed Fool for Love into the spring.

And now rehearsals are beginning! Arthur Delaney, who just closed Cressida with me, is Eddie, May’s sometime lover and half-brother. (Arthur also played Claudio in the aforementioned production of Much Ado.) Tommy Harrington, who was Alan in Feral and Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive, is Martin, May’s current boyfriend. Brian MacEwan is The Old Man, the father of May and Eddie and a product of their collective imagination. I cannot wait to get to rehearsal and be reunited with so many of my favorite collaborators. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain thrill to doing a show with an entirely new group of actors. It requires a kind of bravery and clarity that is both challenging and energizing. However, there is also an enormous reward to working with the same artists again and again. Jose Rivera puts it nicely in his 36 Assumptions About Playwriting: “Find your tribe” then “stick to your people and be faithful to them. Seek aesthetic and emotional compatability with those your work with.”

Just as my trip to Ashland felt like an appropriate retreat prior to rehearsals beginning for How I Learned to Drive, my visit to Staunton was exactly what I needed to clear up some emotional space and catch my breath before Fool for Love. On the flight going from Portland International Airport to Dulles, I finished Don Shewey’s biography of Sam Shepard. The following quote that Shepard gave an interviewer in 1979 lept out as central to this particular journey:

“I feel like I’ve never had a home, you know? I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet at the same time I don’t know exactly where I fit in. And the same thing applies to the theater. I don’t know exactly how well I fit into the scheme of things. Maybe that’s good, you know, that I’m not in a niche. But there’s always this kind of nostalgia for a place where you can reckon with yourself. Now I’ve found that what’s most valuable about that place is not the place itself but other people; that through other people you can find a recognition of each other. I think that’s where the real home is.” (97)

In flight from Denver to PDX

I have called many places home: Albuquerque, Portland, Staunton. However, Shepard is right. And trite as it might sound, my home is my husband reading Moby Dick to me before I go to bed. My home is eating waffles with dear friends while lesson planning Othello. My home is in rehearsal. Tonight I come home. Again. 

No comments:

Post a Comment