May 2012 really kicked my ass. A full time job, four part-time jobs, a birthday, finding and moving to a new apartment, running a half marathon and directing/rehearsing/producing/understudying a new monologue show – I was pretty damn close to a nervous breakdown. In fact, I actually think I had several mini breakdowns over the course of the month (crying at random, usually in the car, probably isn’t normal, right?)
“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
– Bertrand Russell
I will be writing more about all of that later and what I’ve learned and hopefully what I’ll be changing in my life. But first, I want to talk a little bit about the show I worked on this past month and that is now running through June 23.
The Theory of Silence started as a writing exercise in the Eclectic Voices writers group I manage through The Eclectic Company Theatre. (This is yet another thing that has fallen by the wayside over the past month – hopefully it will be back on track soon!) Usually, each writer brings in pages from whatever project they are working on at the time – usually plays, but sometimes screenplays or fiction – and we talk about it and give feedback. However, back in November 2011, we thought it would be a good idea to all write something around the same theme.
Since last June, Eclectic Voices (the over-arching name for the writers group and all ECT-writer-related events at ECT) has been producing small monologue shows as fundraisers for the theater. The shows are always Pay-what-you-can and are a great way to get actors to stretch their muscles, writers to challenge themselves or revitalize old work, and audiences to get a taste of ECT’s work and the voices of new writers and actors.
So, naturally, we decided to start with a monologue as a form for the writing exercise. We came up with a scenario: a fictional family (the Johnsons) who live in Suburbia somewhere in the midwest disappear one day – their cars and belongings are still in town, but the family itself is gone – leaving no trace. How does this affect the rest of the town?
What sprung from this exercise was a slew of funny, creepy, sad and thoroughly original monologues from the POV of various town inhabitants – from the Piggy Wiggly clerk to the mistress to the homeless woman to the stalker neighbors.
After gathering everything together and having a few readings with the writers and interested actors, my co-producer Jeff Folschinsky and I decided to actually try to make this into an evening of theater – we spent the next couple months throwing out nonessential monologues (mostly our own!) and working with the other writers to connect the monologues together, making details consistent and finding a general framework for how the show would flow. And suddenly – we had a play!
It took a while to find 14 actors to fill all the characters – I took on the role of “director”, which we usually don’t have for our other monologue shows, just so I could make sure to shape the evening as well as I could. Each actor got one or two rehearsals with me and a couple dress rehearsals and then – wham! Opening night!
That’s the short version of the development story.
The short short version: it’s a pretty awesome interesting night of theater with some really great performances. It’s pay-what-you-can so the price is right. So even if you think you hate monologue shows, I say you should give it a try.
To me this play is about dealing with life’s unexpected and unexplained happenstances. Sometimes there is no one to blame. Sometimes there is no explanation. Sometimes your life just changes and you have to deal with it – and how your life goes from there is completely up to you.
This might not be our Magnum Opus, but what I’m trying to understand and trying to engage with is that: not everything has to be. You have to create art to get better at it, you have to continually hone your craft in order to create your Great American Whatever, you have to be excited even when nobody else is. (By the by, I think The Great American Whatever will be the title of a forthcoming novel I’m going to write.)
There’s some great stuff in this show and I’m proud of it and proud of all the actors and writers involved. Come and enjoy if you can!
The Theory of Silence
Now through June 23Z
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Reservations: 818.508.3003 or email me directly
AT: The Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd
Valley Village, CA 91607