Y’all are my dogs
by Esther Emery
We had a good weekend at MOXIE. Our first preview got a standing ovation. We had wine with our post-performance notes session, which felt more like a discussion of theory than a notes session, since the show already rocks (see standing ovation). And we made it out of our rented performance space with 30 minutes left on the clock. Yay.
All this feels very good. So, like any good Puritan, I’ve been figuring out how to ruin it. Blame my upbringing, or give me credit for being self-aware, but Amy’s total love fest comment (on the art and motherhood post) made me a little uncomfortable. It was just so…positive. And I know from somewhere in my education that the love fest lives somewhere between irrelevant and distracting. It might backfire. And it most certainly won’t help us get favorable reception.
Or will it?
My other voice cuts in here: Everybody spins. We’re marketing all the time. And beyond that, we’re raising morale. Artists work better when they feel like they’re on a winning team. Loss of confidence is downright dangerous to theatre. And how am I supposed to expect an audience to love something that I don’t love?
But I do love it. I do value my work. That doesn’t mean I need to walk around talking about it. That’s personal and pleasurable, and therefore, like candy and masturbation, probably not good for me.
As I fell asleep Sunday night I had a full-on debate going on in my head. And I wonder why I wake up not feeling rested.
I really needed my day off.
But I didn’t get it. I opened my email Monday morning only to discover that my freelance director self is in prep for four different plays at three different companies, none of them MOXIE. And compared to The Listener, in those four processes I already feel exposed, unprotected and due to the bizarre elevated status of the director totally individually responsible for just about everything. If I didn’t have a 9-month-old to entertain I would have gone right back to bed.
In not-so-unrelated news, Scott Walters is back. If you’ve never heard of him, it isn’t his name that matters. It’s his theatre ideas, which is the name of his popular and well-populated and sometimes infuriating blog. Scott is one of many cyber-voices that are asking theatre folk to think about our work in context, and to deal with that fearful question of impact: namely, whether or not we have any. It’s all delightfully terrifying. In particular Scott preaches ‘decentralization,’ wherein the universally accepted status of New York City as theatrical Mecca is challenged, and ‘localization,’ wherein artists are encouraged to live in, grow in and develop the home communities that they love. Isn’t that a nutty idea.
During Sunday’s preview I sat next to playwright Mary Fengar Gail, one of our own via her play Devil Dog Six, which we produced in season two. I love her and her writing, but most of all I love the way she talks about art. “Keep reinventing yourself,” she said. And on the regional theatre, “They’re very compartmentalized.” No kidding. In this collaborative art form, we all have our little titles. Our little kingdoms. This idea is MINE, not yours. And that problem is YOURS, not mine. It’s exhausting.
At MOXIE, not so much. I’m the production manager for The Listener. Jen’s one of our two costume designers. And we both give notes to Delicia. On the next one, we’ll reshuffle the deck and everybody moves around. I dare you to give any one of the MOXIE’s a single title and watch us wriggle our way right out of it. You can’t set my value that way. It isn’t yours to set.
While in another context self-congratulation might be about stroking an individual ego, at MOXIE it’s how we keep the family together. It’s the language we use to acknowledge our mutual appreciation for one another as people and as artists.
Today we are working together to tell this story, Liz Duffy Adam’s story, The Listener, this not-so-cynical tale of emerging hope after the fall, because we want to affect the world with it. We see ourselves as members of a community that starts with the core artists, but includes every person in every seat at every show. And we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we knew how.
It’s all a grand case for the ensemble company. But I’ve written way too much already. I need to get the Chini-dog some paint so we can move the look of Namer’s hut out of ‘acceptable’ and into ‘awesome.’
This morning Delicia sent out email notes from the preview. She quoted Amy’s love fest, and I’m quoting it right back. “Y’all are my dogs, and I love every one of you.”