A Letter to Sam Hunter
Hey Sam, the plays are so beautiful. They nourish me and help me recommit to my art and my life in theater. The plays are fraught with psychological, emotional and spiritual complexity in ways that make sense to me, and you and Davis have committed to get to that through such a simple and transparent performance of the text. This kind of experience doesn’t come often for me, though it is now how I strive to live. The words “stripping away” sound austere and aggressive, but stripping away, in addition to meaning “things we decide not to do”, also means the things we decide to do with alllll the time that’s left when we don’t do the things we’ve decided not to do. It’s moment by moment. It’s solving things simply, in time. Small things. But they mean so much to me now because, at 55, I’ve already seen life on stage painted with a broad brush. I’ve helped 100’s of those productions. I experience them every week when I go to the theater. Big, broad, procedural, skillful playmaking. And…it doesn’t help me. Help me what? Solve the how of now with all that I know and have seen. I need theater to help me too, to solve the spiritual complexities of my life now with all that I’ve experienced. Very often I’m asked to balance this personal need against the norms of production practice. And I’ve developed a kind of soldierly strength in my spine to do that, to paint with a broad brush.
When I go to plays and hear professional scene change music, a wave of disinterest and detachment blooms inside me. I was never asked to do that on this. We were always working more deeply. Everything was qualitatively different. Simpler. Plain. And out of that agreement of “no false moves” or “trust the now” we found, as we always do when we have the courage, a new truth.
I call it FreeFall. FreeFall is when you let go of everything that you think will make you safe and strong and fall into nothingness, believing something will be there. And then….something is there. And it could never have been found any other way than to let go of all we know and FreeFall…to find new truth, which we need, people like you and I, to breathe….now…we need new truth. And we can only find that by Falling through what you have written in such a way that we ultimately see the word with fresh eyes. That’s the commitment we make and also what we need the production process to do for us, spiritually, to be reborn into our craft. It’s why we do it…to endure a period when we don’t know what we are doing, even though we have been hired because, ostensibly, we know what we are doing.
There is some courage and tenacity in this, a commitment to truth, but there is also something more difficult because it’s a kind of wisdom that expresses itself, in the moment, as naïveté. And tech abhors naïveté (a vacuum?). Tech is often a place where producer values around efficiency/production and professional competence, of “knowing what to do”, rule.
I *think* the bargain that underlies my profession is “miracles under fire”, that the best of this in my field show up as professionals but quietly, and without any subterfuge, make art instead. That’s the deal. So, built into the process is a degree of surprise and disappointment. Surprise is the gorgeous miracle of art, and disappointment is the complexities that making art, over the more procedural work of professional practice, brings. Art brings complexity and always needs a little more time in ways that are difficult to explain. And an explanation is what the stage manager wants when we are holding for design.
But Truth was more important than professional efficiency on LC. And that created a resonance around your work that invited everyone to FreeFall. They felt safe not knowing….to simply look and listen and wait to see. The sense of wonder that emerged around the smallest details is the essence of what makes the evening to resonant with presence, with being here, now. In that sense, the people in these plays are allowed to FreeFall, too, to find truth.
I’ll see you later today. Congratulations on the opening of these two plays, which were so long in the making. I’m honored to share the day with you.