Back from an amazing weekend with No Nude Men Theatre..what is it? it's not exactly a company. It's more like a kind of federation. A loose conglomerate. A modular amoeba. Really wonderful thoughtful theatre people, so talented and versatile. Folks who can do stage combat, build a set, promote a show, light a set, figure out sound cues, write a play, direct--everything.
I realized that theatre is in its way a kind of religion for those who take it seriously. Not a religion in the God-sense--who would be the God or Goddess of Theatre? Shakespeare? Or some Greek or Roman deity?
But I don't mean religion in the sense of deity but of sacrifice and ritual. People come together to perform the ritual, night after night, of telling a story. If the story is great enough, if the intentions of all concerned are purified enough of ego and its attendant ills, then magic may ensue. The dead speak through us, the world changes a little; at least we who are doing it change, and hopefully the audience as well.
In that sense theatre is not so much about worshipping a God but of becoming a co-creator of a moment in time that stands apart. Whatever you want to call that.
And it does involve sacrifice, otherwise known as tech rehearsals, day jobs, not enough sleep, and junk food.
We were at a hostel in the beautiful Marin Headlands where it's uncharacteristically hot and bright. And on Saturday afternoon a bunch of us gathered in a big circle under an oak tree and read The Recruiter out loud.
Real actors. It was a trip. Of course as the playwright I was fixated on the lines and bits that didn't work. When one of the actors said to me afterwards that it was a great script I looked at her incredulously. But upon reflection...I think from seventy-five to eighty percent of what I had written worked. The other twenty, twenty-five percent I am revising. I got some wonderful, useful feedback.
Good actors never cease to amaze me. I think sometimes actors get a bad rap, and god knows the profession lends itself to some funny excesses. Actors have to be super-sensitive emotionally and at the same time have thick enough skins--or just plain stubbornness-- to endure public failure, rejection, and exposure. An odd combination of vulnerability and toughness. But what doesn't get talked about often enough is the emotional intelligence that borders on genius which good actors have. The ability to empathize immediately, deeply and physically with people they have never met--people who are not even real. They can believe in them so intensely they make them real.
Anyway, I got invaluable, honest, insightful feedback from at least half a dozen of them; not mere pats on the back, but ways to make the play better, mingled with appreciation for what's already there. And I can see the shape and the structure of it now, clear as day, emerging from the shed skins of all the innumerable drafts. This time I really think I've got it.