March 18, 2014
“Just home from the first preview performance and I’m still in awe. I thought it was really wonderful. While I’ve seen many pieces of the play up to this point, I hadn’t had the chance to see a complete run through (well, not since the first read through back in February), and it was absolutely stunning to watch.
I brought my parents to the show, and they were equally impressed. Both work at RIT and commented that it’s a very “academic” play, and my father remarked that EVERY researcher that deals with human subjects should be required to see this play. I was yet again struck by the depth and breadth of the play, which we Cohorts have been commenting on from day one, I think.
But also, what with all the bells and whistles now ringing and singing – i.e., the lighting, the sounds, the costumes and props – I was overcome with emotion more than once while watching, particularly at the very end. Jessie’s immersion into the character of Jillian feels so complete, and her tears became mine.
The standing ovation from the audience was well-earned by all the actors, even if the audience was small for this first preview. Still, there were laughs & chuckles heard frequently around me at the jokes in the play, and I even heard one audience member gasp to his neighbor, “Oh no! She’s starting to lose it!” when Jillian began to show signs of memory loss.
More about the preview… When we first arrived there was an usher at a small table inviting us to submit short stories on specific topics – What is a saying your family uses when times are tough? Where did you first see your love? What was your first thought when a loved one passed away? Tell a story about your child. My mother and I both submitted stories. Where did my parents first lay eyes on each other? At a sewage treatment plant. A family saying for hard times? My grandfather used to always say, “Eh, can’t complain,” which became somewhat of a family mantra (of course then he would go on to complain at length, but…). And what did I first think when my grandfather passed away? He’ll never meet my (as yet unborn) children.
The cast then read these snip-its aloud on stage during the play, interjected with Laufer’s pre-written text, and I think it worked beautifully. Many of the audience-submitted bits were funny or touching, and elicited great reactions from the crowd (at least around where I was sitting!). My parents and I were particularly touched that my grandfather’s “Eh, can’t complain” got a big laugh!
What a wonderful way to draw the audience in, and to reiterate that we are our stories. As I remember back to the very first read-through, I am struck again by the way we went around the room and told our names and, not what we do for a living, but “who we are and where we come from” – whatever that meant to us in that moment. It felt so much more meaningful and important to me, to hear those stories, not the ones that start with “I work at…” The importance of where we come from and our stories. And here again I saw people’s stories take center stage, with these audience submissions, along with the pre-recorded stories from Geva staff, cast and Cohorts that played at the beginnings and ends of each Act.
Both ways of emphasizing people’s stories were particularly poignant, especially in retrospect, with the story – the play’s story – told. The play ends with a call to tell your own story, and even provides us with a way to begin. “Once upon a time…” – Tate DeCaro