Thursday, March 29, 2012

Who are you?

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal and there will be LOTS more to say on that soon. BUT, I wanted to take a moment to tell you all about a little experiment we are engaged in.

As you may of heard (or I may have already mentioned) we received a grant from Mass Humanities to produce some supplementary programming for The Temperamentals and audience engagement activities using social media (the blog is part of the idea, for example). One of the other activities centers around a virtual photo booth.

As some of the central themes in the play are identity and self-expression, we thought it might be fun to give the audience a chance to express themselves in our virtual photo booth. You are invited to dress up with some of our props and costumes, write a thought on a white board, or just come as you are into our "booth" (regulars might recognize it as the alcove with a curtain). The photos will then by uploaded to our Facebook page, for you to tag, share, and comment on.

Our hope (besides cleverly luring you to our Facebook page) is that these photos will be a way to continue the conversation from the theatre with us and other audience members. Our front of house staff gave the booth a test-run tonight, and those photos will be up tomorrow, but here's a little teaser for you:
The Lyric Stage Company's fabulous front of house staff!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Out

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Our lighting designer, John Malinowski, forwarded this article along to members of the production staff and company with the subject heading, "Coming Out in the 21st Century". It is a beautiful little story about one American family, and offers a different (and more inclusive) perspective on the "traditional" family values rhetoric. I am reminded of what Ellen DeGeneres said regarding calls to boycott JC Penney for having a woman representing "a non-traditional lifestyle" as their spokeswoman. "Here are the values I stand for: I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you'd want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values."

Thanks for sending the article along, John!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Original Mattachine

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Mattachine Society Christmas Party, 1951 or 1952. From left to right: Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Paul Bernard. Photo by Jim Gruber.

This picture is of the original Mattachine Society, at a Christmas party in the early 1950s. It is a rare shot - in fact, one story goes that the only reason Harry agreed to sit for the picture in the first place is because the photographer, Jim Gruber, assured him there was no film in the camera (a classic trick).

The hesitancy to be photographed was not unfounded paranoia -the Mattachine Society became the subject of an internal FBI investigation starting in 1953. Due to his affiliation with the Communist Party, Harry was already under FBI surveillance, and in 1955 was summoned to appear before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. The fear of being arrested, harassed, or physically abused by members of law enforcement was rooted in the reality of experience.

Which makes this photo all the more remarkable and valuable to us today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Radically Gay

Jeremy Johnson, director.

When I was 15, this old guy Andy (I think he was probably 30 at the time) worked with me at the local community theatre in Randolph, New Jersey. One day Andy handed me Reflections of a Rock Lobster and One Teenager in Ten. I don't recall if we had a conversation about being gay or not but those books changed me. I read them dozens of times and carefully hid them under my bed.

When I was 16, I got my driver's permit and Melissa Etheridge released a CD called Yes I Am. She sang a song called "Silent Legacy" and I pulled over on the highway because I couldn't see the road anymore. I sobbed for about twenty minutes pressing repeat each time the song ended. She had written a song for me and she felt like I did.

When I was 17, I walked into the Drama Bookshop in NYC and with butterflies in my stomach and sweating hands bought The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me by David Drake and read about what it was like to be a sissy and a badass all at the same time. I met David in Provincetown two years ago and it continues to be a very special day for me. Sometimes I think he saved my life.

When I was 32, I read The Temperamentals and all the memories above came rushing back to me immediately.

There is nothing more powerful than the moments when you realize you are not alone.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lights Out

A. Nora Long, producing associate

On Tuesday night , The Temperamentals  began its first rehearsal with the traditional Lyric "Meet and Greet." Members of the company staff, design team, cast and crew gathered to introduce themselves, and learn a little more about the show and the theatre. And, of course, eat food.
Cast and crew listen to director Jeremy Johnson discuss the play, pre-blackout. 

The designer and director presentations were wonderful and informative, and we will put together some of the audio, video and photos from the day to share with you all. Of course, there was another much less fun event happening just up the street. As you have probably heard (and possibly experienced), a transformer fire in an NSTAR substation blacked out most of the city, including the Lyric right in the middle of the first read-through! A dramatic event to be sure. More news to come from rehearsals now that the lights are on shortly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Intersection of Public and Private Space

Sara Brown, scenic designer

In order to recount the founding of the Mattachine Society, Jon Marans' script flows quickly through a number of scenes that take place in a variety of different locations. These scenes are written to flow into one another seamlessly. The design challenge is to create an architecture for the space that supports these varied locations while remaining flexible. To me, the stage design had to reflect the seamless nature of the script and allow for the performers to move through it to get to different locales as opposed to having the scenery move to the performers to make different scenes.

While the play is documenting the pre-Stonewall gay rights movement in America - it is also very much about the imperfect individuals and personal relationships that formed this movement. They each had to struggle with the intersection of the public and private in a very real way. Most of the men in the play are attempting to live out a 'normalized' family life while maintaining relationships outside of the bounds of this social structure. I was interested in the idea of the home as the extension of the family. I was drawn to the look of California Modern homes and in particular Eichler Homes. Not only are these homes of the time and place of the play, they reflect an idealized notion of the family as America's best hope for the future.  Placing the house structure at the center of the stage allows the performers to physically occupy a family space, to stand outside of it, or to use it as a place to hide in plain site. 

As a designer, I start by mapping out the action of the text. The initial conversations tend to focus on use and action. I bring images that I think reflect the world that we are creating and then find ways to deconstruct elements in a way that supports the performance. In this case, we talked a great deal about creating opportunities for lighting. The scenery is designed to create shadows and texture in light. Each element can be lit from the front or from the back to stand in silhouette.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What You Can Do

A. Nora Long, producing associate

Sorry, blog, this is a day late. But, hopefully, I will make up for my tardiness, with thoughtfulness (fingers crossed).

On Sunday, I led our second talkback for our current production Time Stands Still; (Hang on, isn't this blog about The Temperamentals? Wait for it!) the story of two journalists recovering from trauma they have faced abroad, and the impact their work has on their relationship. It is a play about relationships, primarily, but one of the questions it raises (and was again raised by several audience members) surrounds the idea of the value of journalism. Is it worth the risk these journalists take to cover these stories? With so many images fighting for our attention, does any single image have power anymore? Why is it important for average citizens to be informed about the world? What can we really do about it?

I think we can all sympathize with this feeling of helplessness. What can any of us small individuals do about all the many terrible things happening in the great big world? Well, in this country, you have two powerful tools at your disposal - voting and shopping.

I think the benefits of voting are fairly self-explanatory - you can have a direct impact on who makes decisions in the one of the most powerful nations in the world. You can lobby your elected officials, you can let them know how you feel about anything. And, with the advent of the internet, it couldn't be easier. In case you weren't otherwise aware (cause you read this blog but no other source of news?) this is an election year. In Massachusetts, you must register to vote by August 17th to be eligible to vote in the State Primary, or by October 17 for the General Election on November 6th. You can read more about it here. So, vote, and email your representatives.

Shopping may sound silly, but as a consumer in a capitalist country, where you put your money matters. The fact is the advances of technology and the global market mean that we are all much closer to events in the world than ever before. In the 90's, we all started to look at our sneakers differently, and changed the industry - and now the true cost of the Ipad is drawing similar comparisons. In the last month, a group threatened to boycott JC Penney for hiring Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman, only to rally several thousand more supporters to DeGeneres and the retailer, in a sense boycotting the boycott.

I could go on as there are many examples of how each of us can contribute in our small ways to shaping the world we want to live in - which brings me nicely to the story of The Temperamentals. As Stuart Timmons writes about in his biography of the leader of our group (and incidentally revealing the inspiration for the title, "The trouble with Harry Hay was his refusal to adapt to a reality he found unacceptable." We can all do the same. As the philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."

In looking back on our past, we have the advantage of hindsight, and can determine for ourselves how much has really changed, and how much has stayed the same. And then we can figure out what we want to do about it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Tasty Space Between

Brian Dudley, Box Office Manager

Okay, can we be honest with each other?

I don’t love reading plays.

Before you start chasing me out of the box office with torches and pitchforks, please note that this does not mean I don’t like plays. No, no, no! I think plays are great. The play is such a unique narrative form in that the script, the actual words are just the skeleton, and the muscles and veins and lungs and eyes and ears all belong to someone else: an actor, a director, a designer, a member of the audience.

Therein, however, is my problem with just sitting and reading plays. All I know is that more often than not, when I curl up by the fire with a cup of tea to read a play1, I get a few pages in and then I go all cross eyed because my brain isn’t filling in the blank spaces between the dialogue and I’m unable to process the story being presented to me. When I look at a script, often I’m boggled by the white space between the lines. What the actors will look like. Will they have accents? Is he wearing a suit in this part, or is he dressed more casually? How will they transition from being in a crowded diner to a cramped bedroom? The white space is endless.

There’s so much not being said in The Temperamentals, so I’ll admit it to you here and now that when I first read the play, I closed the script and I didn’t quite know how to react. This was my first verbalized2 response, via a text message to a good friend of mine:

The answer to her question was, “yes, I think so.”

Because, see, when I read the script of The Temperamentals, it’s like I’m scanning the list of ingredients for a cookie recipe. I see things like social justice and political awareness and men in suits and chocolate chips3, and it’s like when I read an actual cookie recipe and my mouth fills with drool imagining the plate of baked goods I will eventually be consuming. There are so many interesting, thought-provoking, and exciting things about the play, a lot of which lives in the white space, so as good as the words are, I look forward to hearing them once the whole production has been baking in the oven for a little while, and the smell of intelligent discourse and interpersonal relations waft through the theater.

You know, I think I got lost in the metaphor there. Excuse me while I go find some cookies.

And we’re back. At its core, The Temperamentals is a story about Harry Hay and his relationships, both romantic and platonic, with other men, and how they were created, influenced, and effected by the conception of one of the first successful gay rights organizations in this country. Anytime a playwright dips into history and recreates a real person, the opportunities for distinctive and exciting storytelling are everywhere, and nowhere more than in this script. This is a story I’m glad the Lyric will be telling, because I am so interested to see the way the characters interact with one another in “real life,” instead of on the page. I look forward to gauging their posture and gait and tone of voice; to the story really living and breathing along with these men.

So the short version of this is that I’m really excited to see this play. I’m excited that you’re going to see it too.4 And afterwards, you can come to the box office and tell me how well you think we filled in the spaces.

[1] I do not actually do this.
[2] In a manner of speaking – I was alone in public so I did not actually verbalize anything.
[3] I cannot promise there will actually be chocolate chips at the theater, but I encourage you to bring your own. I know I will.
[4] What do you mean, you don’t have tickets yet? Call 617.585.5678 and talk to one of our charming box office representatives today. Is this a shameless promotion? Yes. Yes it is.