Akron & Ravenna OH

It was pouring rain when we arrived at the Masonic Temple, and now that’s a sentence I’ve said in my lifetime.

 

L to R: the entrance to Kenmore Masonic Temple in Akron OH, our theatre for the evening. I dont know what the G is for either. Ssh. We’re not supposed to.

I’m writing from our new digs in Flint, MI! We just arrived here and are all really excited because this place has kitchens and a basketball court for our next four Michigan shows! I think we were all kind of ok  to leave the last joint behind, an odd mix of glamour and definitely-under-construction. (Though I will say that my experience of waving at an arriving family of guests through the automatic front door that wouldn’t open or close while the harried manager continued shouting into the phone about something else is the closest I’ll ever come to actually being on Fawlty Towers.)

So, Akron.

 

L : cake by Reeves Cake Shop. Admittedly they’re all starting to taste the same, but I think this is the most beautiful one so far. My cast mate referred to these as ‘very Rebecca colors’.  R: myself and our company manager make a new friend, and maybe that shirt doesn’t go with my pants, that’s cool, I get it.

There was a fleeting moment of concern that the rain would keep folks away, or that the giant suit of armor would come alive (just me?), and I’m happy to say neither one of those things happened.

Akron was special for me because it included some familiar faces! which is always nice on the road:

 

L to R: this woman’s grandmother was my grandmother’s aunt!! (I think!). We’d never met. Who says theatre doesn’t bring people together? And this charming lad is my grad school classmate, who drove two hours from Columbus and maintains that it was easier than trying to get from Astoria to the Brooklyn preview. #blessed

I was sort of frustrated with myself for letting two shows slip by while they were still fresh in my mind, but now I’m kind of glad. Thinking about them together makes me see the similarities (both older, mostly white crowds, both -interestingly – in venues with a religious/spiritual overtone) and also one sort of big vibrational difference in the way the audience received the play. If I were to be  incredibly reductive and general about it I’d describe them in one watercolor swipe like this: kinda of a Yes and kind of a No.

Let me hasten to say that all, ALL, our audiences have been attentive, appreciative, and emotionally responsive to the material. Just assume that unless I really REALLY report otherwise. There has been no need as yet to employ those de-escalation tactics, though in a way I wish there would be… I wonder each time about who isn’t talking, what isn’t said and for whatever reason.  It was really kind of incredible, my friend’s text read after Akron. I guarantee you most of those people were Trump-ers and to see them react this way was amazing. There was compassion and appreciation in the room and the willingness to share personal experiences without any defense or justification. And I do think the Public’s goal of presenting this as ‘neither a Blue play or a Red play’ is being received. And in Ravenna also an audience member described feeling like our country right now is in the last scene of this play, ie, confronting each other in the wake of what has happened, questioning where we go from here.

In Akron we heard from more than one person who said I’ve been on both sides of this, ie, in management and ‘on the floor’ of the factory.  I remember one man saying quietly that he does believe if people really do come together and communicate they really can arrive at a solution (i’m paraphrasing). People told personal stories of watching their town unravel in the wake of big business packing up and moving elsewhere; of their families and the differences in their career expectations vs their children’s. I was in construction and my customers became my competitors when the <X> closed; a bunch of guys just got a pickup truck and stuck a ladder on it and now we’re competing for business. Really weird.  A bartender said I see myself on the stage in a different way, maybe less dramatic… but I hear the stories of people who come in, and I do see the conspicuous consumption, and it getting worse…  Maybe in a burst of regional pride, one man talked about how he used to live in West Virginia and it’s way worse down there, the way people treat scabs, like, you see ‘Die Scab Die’ on somebody’s front lawn? Up here you’d go to all kinds of jail for that. 

I also personally loved the artistic understanding and appreciation of the moment when a man asked our Cynthia if she felt different when she put on the corporate clothes halfway through the play, and what that did to her as the story unfolds.  I mean, it may not have been a ‘theatregoing audience’ but that is an artist’s question. Listening to that conversation was a beautiful thing.

OK Hart, brevity is the soul of blogging and we’re way past that already.

 

L to R: Arriving in Ravenna at the Immaculate Conception Social Hall in Ravenna OH; the playing space (oh gymnasiums!); large crucifix facing the stage.

My cast-mate’s eyes were wide as we crossed paths backstage during the pre-show ‘mingling’ period in Ravenna. I asked what was up and he said he’d just gone to greet a few audience members and introduce himself to three ladies in the back row. He was met with stern glances and one said coldly  I saw the ending last night in Akron. 

There was no forthcoming information.  When pressed, it turned out that the source of the disapproval was the amount of swearing in the show. Did you practice saying that word?  the lady asked my friend. (The word was not specified.)

So… yeah. It was a little like that.

(Also I had a nice chat about tarot cards with someone beforehand. And a shout out to Reed Memorial Library for bringing this to your town!)  But this kind of thing, like the cursing thing,  really pushes my buttons, the not-seeing-forest-for-trees-ness. Standing backstage, I watched probably three or four people walk determinedly out of the venue during the first act and I just thought Really? You’re going to miss out on this beautiful and spiritual work of art because of F-bombs? But, the theme of our endeavor is tolerance and understanding, and this was an opportunity for me, and most of them stayed.

But. You guys. They. Made.No.Sound. Ok, maybe two sounds. Oh my god. It was rough. They don’t like it , I said to myself at intermission in kind of a reverse Sally Field moment. They really, really, don’t like it.  

There will be one person who is grateful for this, my wise sister texted me.

I’m happy to say that she was right, and I’ll never forget the woman in the front row who so candidly talked about her life, and how she wept to see her story onstage, and I had to leave for a minute at the end there because it was just so emotional and I wasn’t expecting that, and her story of working at GE and we saw the writing on the wall, you know, and these workers came in from Hungary, and we had to train them, to, basically, you know, take our jobs. and people said all kinds of, you know, things about them, and I just kept saying, well they just need jobs too… but it was hard… but I liked them, you know, they’d come in with their big pots and make their food in the cafeteria… I’ll never forget her. I know I keep saying that. Or, maybe I will, but I’ll have this blog.

Other reactions had a different vibe. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say they didn’t like any of the characters at all, or describe their reaction to us as angry or hear someone say that their main takeaway was that bartender is right, you gotta pick up and just move on, you don’t like your job, you don’t like the way things are going, just change it. You don’t have to put up with it. You don’t have to act like this, you are responsible for your own life, and you have to change it. It sounded positive, and it also sounded frustrated. The man who ‘didn’t like’ us (though he liked the show) went on to talk about how i carry three petitions in my pocket and is trying to get their township to have the same right to make laws and effect change that they would if they were a county…

I’m trying to find  a way to describe it. It’s not that they didn’t relate. They did. Obviously. AND it’s not that they aren’t determined and focused on change. They are. And it wasn’t like Meadville, where I was left with a feeling of they didn’t need this. One of my castmates after described the vibe as  I cannot engage with this right now, because I am living it, and I am just trying to survive. So, no. Yes, but No. 

ravennacake

Didn’t get a pic of the actual prop cake, but local act Sunshine Cupcakes   not only made it, they made this cake, and a flurry of cupcakes for the audience AND the actors!! and maybe one of us ate our feelings at intermission.

I think we’ve all learned something here. I’ve learned that it takes me two hours to write  a blog post and I need to rewrite my musical which starts rehearsal on Halloween (self serving details on this later). I’ll end on this note: there’s an artist in every town, in every audience, in every community. I’m thinking tonight of the mysterious, white-bearded, wizard-like man who stood up to command the floor in Ravenna and say I believe the job of any artist is to alter reality, and I believe you have done that, and in a very real way, you are changing civilization.

I instinctively namaste’d at him. I’d blame Jessie for it, but, come on, it’s me.

Let’s do it, friends. Let’s go forth and change civilization, one F-bomb at a time.

See you in Macomb. Love,

Rebecca

 

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