Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sorry I haven't been in touch...

I promise I will write a full entry once we have done the last show, I have so much to talk about but very little time to actually type it in here. Check back in a few days and I will bring you up to speed!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Rage of a Privileged Class

I find myself troubled today. My husband had a very unfortunate incident of racial hatred a few days ago and it has hammered home some terrible truths that I was previously afraid to believe – or in denial about. Without getting into details, he was run off the road and called racial epithets by a subcontractor of the city where we live. In fact, the individual who did this is working on the street right in front of our apartment. He has sought resolution from our local police and from the city but it appears that he is just supposed to get over it. I cannot help but think that things would be different if my husband were White and the person who did these things was Black. I find myself wondering if things will ever change. If you ever saw the movie “Ragtime” you would understand the true danger of allowing these behaviors to be found acceptable. In “Ragtime” there is a black male character who is very excited to have his brand new automobile, and some Whites decide that he needs to be taken down a notch, so they defecate on his car seat. When he goes to the police, they just tell him to wipe it off. This is basically what the police told my husband to do. Why is this acceptable? How is 2008 any different than 1968 in this regard?

I have had conversations with many White persons who basically have told me that we Blacks should be grateful for what we have – affirmative action, the right to vote, etc. – and that we have it better than we ever have. I am not so sure about that. I think that racism and prejudice are just more insidious now, not gone. I really don’t know what to do at this point. I told my husband that I’m not sure about putting roots down in a neighborhood where our rights won’t even be protected. I find that it’s hard to have an open heart right now, all I really feel is angry. No, actually, enraged. The worst part about this rage is that the majority of people that read this probably won’t understand why, and I can’t explain it to you. I just know that many Black people were beaten, tortured or killed just because they wanted the same rights as everyone else, and that 40 years later, I still don’t see where things any different.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Reviews Are In...

I think on the whole our reviews have been pretty positive. I promised myself that I wouldn't read them, but somehow curiosity got the better of me. I think I have Hair to thank for my new perspective and general mellowness when I read them. It became clear to me that reviews really are just that one person's opinion, and we are all entitled to have own, right? So why get upset about any part of it? The only truth that matters is our own anyway. I know in my heart that what the Tribe is doing is 100% real, honest and fun. We have each tried to embody the spirit of the work every time we have stepped onstage. That is all that there is, all that means something.

I am so pleased to be a part of this. I don't know how my other tribemates feel, but I have been looking forward to getting back to the show this week. I'm sure I'll be ready for a break on Saturday, but I still feel like this is such a gift to be involved with. Art should transform, both its audiences and its creators. I really feel the transformation is working on all of us involved with Hair -- cast, crew and audience. I am glad that we still have so many shows left to share with the world. If you haven't been, please come see the show, and if you have already seen it, come see it again! See you there!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I don't feel very well....

I am sick. I seem to have picked up a cold that I have been fighting for the last few days. Both Friday and Saturday performances were sub-par for me because I could feel my throat closing up, and my asthma was terrible. I am currently at home trying to take care of myself, and happened to be flipping the channels and came across a show on HDNet. The show is “3 Mo Divas”, and it is a black female version of the Three Tenors, and they cover all styles from opera, to pop, to Broadway. It is great show, and I remember reading about the auditions last year and was too chicken to go try out for the show. I can’t help but kick myself just a little (okay, a lot), because the diva who was just on stage sang one of my favorite show-stopping songs from “Wicked”. Not only that, but the idea of doing a show that encompasses all styles is so appealing to me and definitely on my dream performance list. All I could think as I listened was “Why am I not doing something like this right now?”

If Charles were here he would tell me to stop beating myself up for sure, especially after the great experience I have had this week with “Hair”. I do pretty well most of the time, I try to be content for where I’m at and not to always be looking out to where I want to be, but when I see performers doing exactly what I wish I was stepping up to do, it’s hard. I am such a late bloomer artistically, I feel like I’m just so far behind in becoming the artist I want to be.

I really need to take my art more seriously than I do. The only thing has prevented me from being more successful thus far is my lack of focused effort to refine my craft. When I see fine performances it really makes me put my own actions under a microscope and I am finding them lacking. It's worse when I see people doing exactly what I wish I could do. Right now I could easily throw a brick through the television, but I’ll settle for changing the channel instead.

Clearly I am in the mood to wallow in self-pity for a while, so I think I will stop before it gets worse. I will post later when I’m feeling better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Every Night Will Be Different

We have two performances under our belt. I think that we have definitely created a show that will move people if they let it. I wasn't sure how it would be received because it is just so different than anything I've ever experienced. It is a wonderful piece of work, and I am so glad that I get to be a part of it. I was talking with my husband the other night and I said that it hard to go back to my day job because it feels like my real work is being done during Hair.

Being a part of Hair is also starting to change me in small ways. I have already written on this blog about how liberating it was to do the nude scene, but I have noticed that my thoughts are changing, my perspective is expanding in certain aspects. I am really gaining a sense of who I am and where I fit in this world.

We go out and mingle with the audience prior to the start of the show. This is a little disconcerting for the audience because the "fourth wall" is just such a huge part of live theater. I have noticed that many members of the audience like to play along with us, and seem to like being welcomed by us, but there are also other members who don't want to. It is a very hard thing to go be happy and joyful and vulnerable to a whole room of people, some of which may not want anything to do with you, or may just want to be amused at your expense, or make fun of you, or whatever. I was gifted today with an expanded perception of what exactly it is that we are doing. We are baring our deepest selves to an audience and asking them to make changes for the betterment of us all.

I have read about how we all share a common consciousness and that the truth of our existence is that we are all one, but I have not ever had a practical experience of this truth until Hair. We go from being friendly strangers with an audience to integrating them into our family, making them part of our Tribe. When we sing our final song to the audience, I feel the connections that we are creating, I can almost see the energy that we are sending into the audience. We are creating magic every night, and I just wish that as many people as possible will come experience it.

I think that the bonds between the Tribe members are strengthening as well. We spend so much time together -- it is so great that we all can get along. I know that what we have is not the usual experience of actors working on a show, usually there are people that don't get along with everyone else, blah blah blah. But we really actually like each other and we have spent time with each other away from the theatre. I also really like that we have group warm-ups together, led by Todd (Claude). They help ground everyone and sharpen their focus for the task at hand.

I don't have too much else to say right now, I'm just waiting for my laundry to get done and wanted to jot something down quick. It'll be time to go to the theater soon, and reach some more people. What a joy it is, what a pleasure, what a gift. I hope I'll see you there?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On With the Groovy Revolution, Night One!

Here we are, opening night at last! I feel a mixture of excitement and apprehension as we get closer and closer to go time. I really just wanted to post something before the roller coaster ride starts. I thought that once we were out of rehearsal, the hard part was done. I realize now, looking back, that it has only just begun.

It has taken a lot of work and effort to create this experience, but it's going to be harder to share it night after night. I mean, this show is DRAINING! Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. In order for it to be a real, true experience for the audience, it has to be real and true for us. Scott explained to us early on that we really shouldn't look like actors acting. We have to be a real tribe, and be genuine. I have found that in striving to achieve this, I am completely exhausted at the end of the evening.

But I am not sorry for signing up for it. I can't wait to see how the audiences receive this -- it was hard for me to get a grip on what exactly we were doing, when we first started -- I think that this will be like a full sensory immersion into the culture of the 1960's. I really hope that tonight is the start of something wonderful and unforgettable. I am sure it will be. I'll check in with you later.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Before Cue-To-Cue

I just have a little bit of time before our rehearsal today. I am at Oak Knoll Park in Clayton, which is one of the loveliest small parks that I have ever been in. It has this beautiful fountain in the middle of its pond and is surrounded by benches where one can just sit and relax. It is a beautiful day and many people have been drawn here to do just that. I see people walking dogs and just enjoying themselves. It seems that days like this one put people in better moods; every person who I have passed by has smiled and greeted me, which is a rarity in these times.

I have been thinking about “Abie Baby” and the “Lincoln” mini-monologue since the last rehearsal. I have been feeling like I haven’t really gotten the knack of it just yet. I couldn’t understand its context in the middle of the Trip, but I think I’m getting a better idea of it now. When I listen to the words “our forefathers” I already see the irony of this, because it wasn’t really all our forefathers, it was the White ones, and the real joke is that “all men are created equal” because during much of the 19th century, there were many efforts to scientifically and empirically illustrate that Blacks were not fully human and therefore not entitled to basic human rights.

I had a great conversation with Scott the other day about racism. I really feel that “Abie Baby” encapsulates the dilemma of integrating the Black person into society and illuminating the real reason why racism and segregation prevailed more than one hundred years after the abolishing of slavery. I am not sure where else in history a whole race of slaves was suddenly given freedom and (supposed) equal rights. The slave mentality persisted for Blacks even after they were freed, indeed many continued to work for their masters after they found out they were free. I cannot imagine how disorienting it was to suddenly be thrust out on one’s own, after being trained for generations that one was nothing more than property.

“Abie Baby” to me, is rage masquerading as tomfoolery. We are singing as if we are minstrels, playing to all the stereotypes, but really there is a fine undertone beneath the lyrics that says “what are you gonna do with us now? We’re not your slaves anymore, thank you Mr. Lincoln for freeing us, now what?” The parodying of Abraham Lincoln is really just putting a fine point on it. ‘Of course we are grateful, Massa Lincoln. You made us free, but we are still slaves in the eyes of this country. Thanks so much‘. This is a lot to try and get across in one song and a little bit of dialogue, but I feel like I have a better grasp on it. I know I could go on for hours about this, but I really have to stop -- I don’t want to rant and rave about it right now.

Suffice it to say that Hair has really made me think a lot about racism and how we still are struggling with the same things that our parents and grandparents struggled with then. I don’t know how much more racial understanding there is now versus then. I still get followed around in certain stores, my husband has had women clutching their purses when they walk by him. Maybe people aren’t still calling us “niggers” to our face, but there are more insidious stereotypes now more than ever. Racial profiling by the police, steering in real estate (I have actually had real estate agents ask me why would someone like me want to live in a certain area, wouldn’t I like another area better?). Tribe members, if you read this, let me know what you think about it. My views are only based on my experiences, what are yours? Let’s talk about it.