Missed the dawn this morning, jumped out of bed, shouted “It’s Tuesday!” running to the coffee maker. You, Dear Reader, must be used to the speed I write this blog; it’s very much “in the moment” spontaneous, there might be a hasty inaccuracy but for sure full of my bragging rights acknowledging the good fortune working with who I get to work with, how excited I get about everything and discreetly sharing the problematic hurdle to jump and road block to negotiate with all the very good news to share as well. It’s a way to be open with those of you interested in what is going on behind the scenes here at Paramount. Among the bad sentence structures and stylistic peculiarities of my writing like this, I know it’s likely I must come off full of hot air, full of myself, at times. But let me assure you, my intention is to serve you here keeping you involved as one would a friend who asks, “How’s it going?” A relationship has formed. A friendship. And it’s become something of a meditation for me. A moment of reflection. This blog has become not only a theatre report but a way of getting personal, sharing personal thoughts. I’ve been realizing how, in a way, a philosophy is being formed. Until I became your artistic director, I don’t think I ever looked at the phenomenon that is the role of the audience in the development of the theatre. I’ve become aware of this recognition I have that is growing about what it is that everyone cares so much about. What is it that we all have in common? Now, I’m no scholar with my Bachelor of Arts degree from a Jesuit university (which is more a credit to my teachers than it is to me)! This is all to say I’m no intellectual with an academic pedigree. But what I did learn from my Loyola U. professor in acting class, the great Dennis Zacek, was the importance of listening. Which is hard for me. I have very loud voices in my head. As a neophyte in class, I wanted to act out the way I saw movie stars in great films have these sensational dramatic moments. When I say this, I want to do that, and when he says that I’ll go over there and do that. I had every beat planned. None of it really had anything to do with the other actor or what the author wrote. Being in the moment was my challenge. As a 24yo actor at The American Conservatory Theatre and a teacher in the conservatory school in San Francisco, I will never forget how Paul Sills in improv class made his point to me. In a scene, I had gone off on an actor with an impromptu monologue cracking up the class, I notice even the principal actors in the company are laughing, but when I finished…”You invent! You can go on and invent and invent and invent! But it doesn’t have anything to do with what the other actor is giving you!” Devastated. Only wanting to please him (the reason for my entire existence at this time) I immediately blurt out, “Can I do it again?” “No! Time’s up. Class is over.” I’ve been trying to do it again ever since. Trying to get better. This has been an ongoing class for me. Listening. Getting older, perhaps a little wiser, the art of listening reveals something. To listen is to have empathy. You have to care to listen. I think empathy is the greatest practice in theatre. In life. Friday, the Fox Valley Country Players Arts Academy asked me to lunch and sit on a theatre panel. I found myself so proud of these high school graduates about to become college theatre majors. It hit me how special a young person is to be interested in theatre. And I try to see what it is that draws them here. The news, social media, politics and pop culture are so full of name calling, deriding and laughing at people, the great put down is everything… and the difference in theatre I think is that we recognize empathy for another’s story. Their suffering, their sorrow, that painful conflict that make us human, fallible, hurt and hurtful. The difference in theatre is that the stories ennoble what is human about us. In Theatre, a writer is moving to show us how he is working out a struggle by speaking to what is great about being alive and being human. For great words, great music, great stories are why I think these students are here and why I think audiences gather in their theaters. Perhaps it is in the theatre that we are learning more and more that as we empathize and listen we are finding that being a human being is the greatest thing you can be on this planet…that life is our opportunity to make a difference.
Love & thanks. As ever,