Common threads

One of the things that attracted me to Eclipse back in 1999 when I started working with this fine group of folks was the ability to see common threads between the plays written by each individual playright. I came on board late in the Cocteau season, so I really experienced this for the first time when I worked on all three shows in our Tennessee Williams season, and I didn’t fully get it until I shifted from onstage to off, designing the lights for Eccentricities of a Nightingale and Suddenly Last Summer.

Reading a script as a lighting designer is very different than reading it as an actor (or from any other perspective, really) – I’m looking for a sense of tone, a sense of rhythm, a sense of aesthetic style. In taking this approach to two very different scripts by the same playwright (after acting in another, Confessional), I discovered elements of tone, rhythm, style that were common to each. Williams is soft. Williams is welcoming, comfortable, elegant, but there’s an almost manic element of fear or urgency underneath that surface.

Maren, who is now an Eclipse company member, talked to me about her experience watching the Romulus Linney season – she found herself making connections as an audience member between the three pieces, and discovered that Linney tells stories that are, in essence, trials. In 2 the trial is obvious (much of the script comes from transcripts of the Nuremberg trials), but Maren noticed the way Ada interrogated her poet father in Childe Byron, and the mutiple layers of characters putting one another on trial within the larger trial of the nameless woman’s life in A Woman Without a Name.

I just directed The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, a Midwest premiere of a new play by Rebecca Gilman. It felt to me at first to be very different from the rest of her plays; it feels much more personal and at the same time more consciously theatrical than her earlier works. After spending months with the script, though, I started noticing some of the things that drew me to her writing in the first place, things that I hope to continue exploring as we go through this season.

Gilman’s characters, for the most part, are very intelligent people. Even the dumb hick characters in The Glory of Living and Blue Surge carry with them a thoughtfulness and awareness that must be honored. Her characters frequently play with words and language (Theresa’s obsession with Kuala Lampur in Boy Gets Girl may be my favorite), and their choices are, for the most part, intelligent and reasoned. As a director, this was an element of the script I was interested in exploring fully with the actors, and I’m looking forward to seeing it from an actor’s point of view myself in the fall.

Our audiences have the opportunity to see a full season of plays by a single playright, and they have the same opportunity I have and love as an artist; the opportunity to see the common threads between the stories, the subtle elements of the plays that distinguish the playwright as storyteller and artist.

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One Response

  1. Practice makes perfects

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