This show came from a desire to create a mood and an experience for the audience without wholly relying on the traditional storytelling arc. So much of American theater is in the head, the expected point-by-point storytelling pattern that we see over and over again on stage, in television, and in movies. This play was a chance to see what other ways an audience and a theater group might engage each other.
As well, this work was developed with the Moment Work technique used by Tectonic Theater Project. This technique emphasizes collaborative story making with all theater artists, not just the writer. Our work began as loose texts that were developed and changed through a series of workshops and rehearsals over 8 months. This means what you see on stage is guided by the author but is also the product of many minds.
As the show developed, I saw how many theatrical traditions we could draw from to make the show really be an homage to some of the past techniques like vaudeville, absurdist theater, Southern preaching traditions, and silent films as well.
Why this play now?
The world seems pretty mean these days. But even in all that meanness, violence, anger, hatred, and despair, I think that joy, storytelling, and human connection are still the most powerful responses. This story digs into what is most human about our experiences and tries to look at the serious things with humor and the funny things a bit too seriously. I think our culture needs a bit of this these days.
What story are you telling in the performance?
The story we have couldn’t be more universal – life is hard and yet we push through it. Sometimes we find excitement and joy, and sometimes we find hardship and heartbreak. But we all, every one of us, follow a path sprinkled with similarities because, at the end of the day, or the end of our lives, we are all human beings. This story is developed in three movements that explore how we understand birth, death, and the milestones in our lives that seem so momentous when we go through them. We do all of this “examination” through humor, physical movement, color, and some pretty cool jazz music.
What have you been learning about yourself during rehearsals?
Not only did I take a new approach to writing and creating this piece, but this is the first time I have directed anything (with a lot of help from Suzanne Wiltgen, our choreographer). The unique process of making this piece and directing it has taught me a lot about the translation from what I see in my head, which seems perfectly understandable and clear to me, to what will be communicated to the audience. This process has made me much more aware about my responsibility to the audience to communicate, to entertain, to enrich their lives through the time they have invested in our show.
If you won a Tony for this show, who would you thank?
I would thank everyone who has helped in the development process, but especially Suzanne Wiltgen, our choreographer and movement director (and oftentimes stage director as well). Suzanne helped me re-see the show from a broader perspective and that led to reshaping the structure. As well Sandra Calderón-Doherty. She has been there over the last few months helping us to see how the show fits into a bigger theatrical tradition and helping with the practical stuff too. Finally, Travis Russ of Life Jacket Theatre who sponsored the Movement Workshop with Leigh Fondakowski from Tectonic Theater Project, which helped kick off this entire process.
When the performance is over, what do you want the audience to be feeling or thinking about?
After the show, I hope the audience has a favorite moment as well as a general sense of “it’s gonna work out.” One of our taglines is “life is hard, why not dance?” and I hope they leave the theater thinking about both parts of that question, but with a little smile on their faces too.
Ivan Faute is a playwright ahs prose writer originally from Chicago. His theatrical pieces have been produced in his hometown as well as New York, London, and Houston. This is his third fringe festival but first in DC, close to his new home in southeast Virginia where he teaches creative writing at Christopher Newport University.