Stage Raw: The Post-Play Discussion
AT YOUR FINGERTIPS, THIS WEEK'S COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
(THE LATEST NEW REVIEWS ARE EMBEDDED WITHIN THE LISTINGS)
FOOD FOR HEARTBURN: THE POST PLAY DISCUSSION
After watching the opening night production of Vern Thiessen's Apple at Theatre 40 last Friday (See New Reviews), I stuck around for a post-play discussion with the author and the actors.
"You can leave now if you'd rather not stay," the producer said, but in the immediate context, to rise and scamper across an aisle would have been to make a spectacle of oneself. Another critic did just that, but I wasn't as brave.
Thiessen's very poetical drama studies the infidelity of a man whose wife is dying of breast cancer. Turns out he's philandering with one of her clinicians.
The playwright, in his mid-40s, sat crossed legged in a chair situated on the stage. He was asked where the idea for the play came from.
"Gosh," he said, waving his fingers through a shock of dark blond hair, "It's been so long since I wrote it, nine years, I can't quite remember."
Well there's a fine start: Thanks for coming.
Thiessen then mentioned that cancer runs in his family and that his marriage was crumbling at the time. "But this is not autobiographical," he said twice, jocularly implying that he wasn't as messed up as his central character.
Wrong answer. After taking a course in PPDT101 (that's Introduction to Post Play Discussion Techniques), he would have said, "Cancer runs in my family, so I tried to imagine how I might behave in a situation like this, with an ill spouse, bringing an honest light to the best and worst aspects of flawed people struggling to do their best." But the most he could muster was the moral equivalent of, "Please don't think that jerk you saw on stage was me." Zero points for framing the argument. Minus five points for bravery.
Thiessen is an accomplished Canadian playwright from "a little town called Winnipeg, maybe you've heard of it," he said. Canada -- that's north, right? Winnipeg - isn't that somewhere near Iceland? I'll have to check that out on Wikipedia.
The actors joined him on the stage and they came off just fine. Then again, we'd just seen them working, so they get bonus points for that.
My heart goes out Thiessen. I've been in just that position myself - being asked to pontificate on my own play in a city where hardly anybody knows who I am. It's a sand-trap invitation to inflate one's own self-confidence. I respect the emotional scrutiny of Thiessen's play. The laser-like powers of observation in his writing also reveal an unusual capacity for introspection, but he got snagged on the barbed wire that envelops post-play discussions, by those small imperious gaffes. Thiessen is one of Canada's most produced playwrights. In Edmonton he's a figure. but here he's just a guy who's having a play done in one of our many small theaters. The art of the post-play discussion is as intricate as the art of playwriting. The key to both is knowing the distinction between assurance and self-importance, between who we imagine ourselves to be, and who we are.
Check back on Monday after noon for NEW THEATER REVIEWS of "The Rehearsal" at A Noise Within; "Retro Coco" at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center; Wallace Shawn's "The Designated Mourner" Son of Semele Ensemble; "Fubar" At Theatre of NOTE "R.U.R." at Art/Works; "The Real Thing" presented by Katselas Company at the Skylight Theatre; "The Columbine Project" at Avery Schreiber Theater; "The Caterer" at Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks.