If I tell you my heart has been opened wide,
If I tell you I’m frightened,
If I show you the darkness I hold inside,
Will you bring to me light?
Violet by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley
I am sitting in the archive room in the back of the third floor of the Mechanic’s Library doing research on the right-to-die debate which eventually (though it is looking less and less like it is going to happen this week) I am going to turn into an article for Words on Plays. The room smells like my Nana’s old house in Boston, which I remember in disorganized scrapbook pieces: a game of solitaire in mid-play on the small table in the kitchen, a drawer in the dining room where I recovered a watch when we were clearing out her things, the bed I share with my sister in the bedroom with the old 12-inch television that still had the nobs on the front.
In an attempt to catch up with the times, I recently replaced my laptop (which was around 82 in tech years) with a macbook, encouraged not only by their spiffy commericials convincing me it was the coolest decision I would make this decade, but also by the enticing offer of a free iPod touch. Sitting in Nana’s library, I didn’t really need music, it being one of those rooms in one of those libraries where there is just enough atmosphere that you are not distracted, but it doesn’t let your mind drift either.
But I opted for music after hour two, and discovered that the beauty of an iPod is the rediscovery of songs you haven’t heard in years. I hadn’t heard “Bring me to Light” since I dramaturged Violet my last year as a student at WU, the first production I really dramaturged on my own from start to finish. My first dramaturgical protocol. My first dramaturg note. My first display case.
I had no tact when it came to delivering criticism. Just as my younger sister gave up cursing in the fifth grade (before that she swore like a sailor…I’m kidding), I had given up lying–even the polite kind–by this point and I was bad at concealing my thoughts for lack of practice. This is why I never stuck around after any performance, for fear that someone would ask if I liked their work because if I hadn’t they would know it. For Violet, I resorted to writing all of my notes and then, rather than giving them to my director straightaway, typed them up so that a) I could tone down and clarify unhelpful comments like “This whole scene is not working!” and b) she could review the notes in the comfort of her own office, where she could scowl and throw darts at a photograph of my face.
She and I got slightly drunk at an event later in the year. She told me how much she valued my thoughts, and how furious she got when she read them.
“You can’t do that with someone who doesn’t know you well, Dan.”
Definitely on the top ten list of what I learned in my seven years of involvement with the academy
I include this clip from that production, not because I like it, but because I don’t. The power of the ensemble in this little musical always cut me deep, with songs like this carrying me away into a river of emotional pensiveness. In person, that is: during rehearsal and runs. Something is lost in the recording of it. The fact that one cannot replace the live performance with this recorded shadow is why I know theater has a place. It’s immobility, however, is also why I fear for it.