Friday, November 23, 2007

The Last

The Kentucky Cycle Remix by Greg, 11/16/07 (to the tune of My Old Kentucky Home):

The show must end,
And tomorrow we will strike
And return to our normal lives.

Our friends, family,
Our husbands and wives will say,
"We're so glad you survived."

Weep no more, my cast mates.
Oh weep, no more today.
We will sing one song as this play comes to an end,
And we'll sing it with our new thirty friends.

So we ended the run with tears during the final song and hugs and tears in the dressing room. I am grateful for this experience with this cast and crew, many of whom I will miss and others who I will haunt so as not to miss them too much. A few days after we closed I began to get angry at the people who said they would come but didn't. I'm proud of the work we did and wish more people, especially more of my friends, had seen it. But such is life. This was a big challenge and I am glad for having had the opportunity, the shared experience, the camaraderie and the support of our cast, which shone brightest on the nights when we outnumbered the house. We should pat ourselves on the back for a job more than well done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Margaret Garner, Fugitive Slave

This is from "The Kay Bourne Arts Report" published by The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. and Kay Bourne. In preparing for young Sallie each night, I try to imagine how she came to be in the hands of Michael Rowen and what her life was like before she was a slave. When I think of the lengths some of my ancestors went through to try to free themselves or just to survive their circumstances, I am amazed at the sacrifices they were willing to make and wonder what situation I could possibly find myself in that would make me do the same.


For the opera "MARGARET GARNER," Toni MORRISON revisited the account of a trial in February, 1856 which had inspired her to write her novel "Beloved." The two act opera, first performed in May, 2005, is one of the few operas written about the African American experience, the other notable examples being George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and "Treemonisha" by Scott Joplin, an African American, as is Morrison.

New York City Opera, housed at Lincoln City, recently staged the emotionally involving "Margaret Garner" with its charming lyrical score from Richard Danielpour and a searing libretto by Morrison. Brilliantly directed by Tazewell Thompson and magnificently sung and acted with Tracie Luck in the title role, the stunning production so captivated the audience that cheers went up when a cruel overseer was killed in one of the twists of the gripping story.

Margaret Garner, 22, had escaped slavery on a night of record freezing temperatures, crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot in an expedition led by her husband who had been hired out to labor on a nearby estate. They were fleeing to Cincinnati, Ohio, a free state, less than 20 miles away from the Richwood, Kentucky estate, Maplewood, where she toiled and had been repeatedly raped by its owner Archibald K. Gaines.

When the U.S. Marshalls, including Gaines, find them, there is a shoot out in which the husband wounds two of the deputies. Faced with the imminent return to slavery, she slits her daughter's throat and attempts to murder her three other small children rather than see them returned to slavery. Because Margaret Garner was subject to the terms of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and also liable for murder in the state of Ohio, the trial became the longest fugitive slave case of the antebellum era. Had she destroyed property by killing the child or committed murder? (This) became the tangled issue that lengthened the trial.

Morrison has said that "Beloved" was about forgetting. About the avoidance of the subject of slavery that neither Whites nor Blacks are comfortable thinking about. That shutting out the past became structurally what held the book together. She approached the libretto knowing that in opera there is very little nuance and ambiguity. So while Morrison does portray Margaret Garner as a complex character, with the opera she keeps more to the facts of her life as Morrison could determine them from news accounts. "If you're going to make it bigger and theatrical than you have to get your facts right," she told City Opera dramaturg Cori Nelson about how the libretto differs from the novel inspired by the same life. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Surviving The Kentucky Cycle

I should have posted this a while ago but hey, we've been doing the show, right? I wrote this and sent it off to friends after our opening weekend.

October 8, 2007
I Survived Opening Weekend of The Kentucky Cycle


Tomorrow I hope to feel somewhat rested.

What a week.

After a seven hour rehearsal last Saturday, we had two days off before tech. We teched part one on Tuesday evening without props and costumes -- our first night on the stage -- and began the psychological process of existing in small spaces within the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) black box with 22 other actors. (Tech rehearsals are not fun: there is a lot of waiting around for cues to be set, redoing cues, waiting for the designers to make changes at the discretion of the director. As a result, everyone can get antsy and testy. Thankfully, we have a wonderful production stage manager who does her best to keep things moving so we get through it as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible.) There is a cross-over upstage which is just wide enough for two actors to pass each other chest-to-chest. A few times during the show the cross over is full of actors changing and waiting to go on. Thankfully, the BCA cleared out, cleaned up and carpeted the dressing room over the summer but ventilation is still an issue. We all sweat profusely and take turns sitting by the dressing tables where we can enjoy some cool air from the fan. The small back corner of the room is big enough for the women in the cast, our rack of costumes and boxes of shoes. A curtain and chairs make it a nice cozy little space in which we can nest. My castmate Melissa has a calm and innocent air about her, almost as if she is always looking at the world with new eyes and simple appreciation. On Friday evening we were in the nest and in a very child-like manner she said she likes our "woman hole." With tears streaming down our cheeks we didn't stop laughing for five minutes. The men have a space on the other side with two racks of costumes, plus their stuff tends to overfllow onto the makeup tables and general floor space. We deal with it and it all works just fine.

On Wednesday evening we teched part two, again without props and costumes. The stage is much higher than we envisioned and negotiating the steps upstage isn't as easy as we would like. The treads are a little shallow and the rise is deep. Thursday was a full dress from noon until approximately 11:30pm during which time I slightly twisted my ankle and more seriously hurt my heel. Some props were still missing -- my iron shackles, onstage food, you name it -- music and lyrics still being learned, people working on pacing, etc. Friday evening was spent concentrating on specific problem areas and we got out a little early.

As expected, our Saturday opening -- call at noon, show at 2p -- felt more like a final dress than anything else. After checking in at the theater, I walked across the street to Francesca's for a tea and sandwich. Standing at the counter, I could barely form words.

"Can I help you?"

"Um, yes." (loooong pause)

The young man at the counter patiently waits.

"Um, yes. I'd like a, eh, ah, ummm..."

*big sigh*

"Sorry. I'm just really exhausted and can't form a coherent sentence right now... Give me a minute."

Five minutes later after an audible stumble through the words "ginger-peach tea", "chicken mini sandwich" and "chocolate chunk cookie", I get my order and wander back to the theater.

Openings are amazing. The body can be totally exhausted but the mind (and ego, I suspect) kick in. You want to do a good show for the audience, your fellow cast mates, your director, yourself and the critics, and not necessarily in that order. Energies you remember having before the week of tech are suddenly summoned. The hours of an aggravating day beforehand are lost. You set your props and costumes, put on your makeup, warm up and do your best to hit your marks and shine.

We had some press in the house on Saturday even though it was not the press opening: Louise Kennedy from The Globe and Larry Stark from Theatre Mirror. I did not forget the words to the second verse of "Amazing Grace" for my solo at the top of the show. Gun shots actually came at the right time. The floor was a little sticky from thrown Cream of Wheat but no one slipped on it. Jonathan was able to get me out of the shackles onstage so I didn't have to use the emergency allen wrench in the dressing room. No audience members or lights were taken out by rifles. Jacob was safely lowered into the trap upstage. We formed a union and chanted the correct number of "Union!"'s on our exits. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 1 with the cast marching out singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Phew.

Dinner break at 5:20p, back for fight call at 6:30p. In between I get a quick hug from a friend who I forgot was coming (she knows someone else in the cast), limp to CVS to get more items for my sore and swollen foot, grab a tea and a slice and curl my hair for part 2. 7:30p curtain. Some new faces in the house. Odd that they didn't see the first performance of part 1 but they are here for the first performance of part 2. Our director gives them a 10 second rundown of the events of part 1 and we begin. Land is bought for a song, guns sold and used, husbands shunned. Lovers part, sons die and most importantly, a dead baby truly put to rest. Heart-wrenching, soul-sucking ending number 2 as the cast sings "My Old Kentucy Home". 11:15pm. My friend tells me she enjoyed the show, gives me a hug and goes home.

Omigod, someone get me a drink.

Like Jews wandering the desert, we try to find a place to drink that can accomodate approximately 15 people on a Saturday night at 11:30p. Sibling Rivalry will not let us in because they are filled to capacity. We leave three cast members there and wander to Masa. Too loud. Do we go to the theater district or up towards the Back Bay T? A show of hands indicates a split vote. I decide to check back at Sibling and then head toward the T, like a pied piper with cast members in tow. We finally end up at Delux which is remarkably empty. Yay for $5 mixed drinks. I finally spend some time speaking with our fight captain with whom I had very little contact. He doesn't know that we have a friend in common. We chat for a bit and then I hang with my castmates as we drink and contemplate Sunday.

Sunday I wake up just in time to shower and get to the theater for 12:30p call. Grab some food at Francesca's and hope that we have a good show for the press. Four press people are in the house. Someone sobs audibly during my first scene. Most but not all of the audience stays for part 2. This doesn't bother us since one doesn't have to buy tickets for both parts at the same time. They laugh, they cry... it really is better than "Cats". Afterwards we wander up to Delux but it is closed so we end up back at the BCA at the Beehive next door. My friend Krista is on the bar and happy to see us. We devour food and drinks and begin to accept the exhaustion we've all kept at bay. A man at the bar attempts to pick up all of the women in our cast although not at the same time. Somewhere around 1am my friend/castmate Brian is ready to go so he drives me home. After falling asleep on my couch with Miss Lily Cat, I crawl in bed around 3:30a to catch a few hours before coming to work. I don't remember the last time I was this tired. Note to self: Don't attempt to do a six-hour show unless you are making a living in theater and don't have to go to another job.