Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
There’s a moment in Grosse Pointe Blank, my favorite John Cusack film (and my favorite Minnie Driver film, at that, she’s almost impossibly attractive in Grosse Pointe Blank), where Cusack’s professional assassin, attending his high school reunion, is asked that standard variation of reintroduction question: “How’s your life?”
His response is, I think, the best possible answer to this question. He replies, “In progress.”
We are a week away from opening The Long Count, New Leaf Theatre’s original and very personal exploration of the question “How do we build a future from a present we didn’t expect?” Which is an accurate description, certainly, but I find I’ve been having a lot of trouble describing the show in more tangible terms. It’s not a show that can be readily explained by plot points or conflict structure. I can’t say that the protagonist Wants This and the antagonist wants the protagonist to Not Get It.
“So, this show you’re doing. What is it?”
Um…it’s a performance-based meditation on growth and choice, loosely based around the Mayan calendar. Um. It’s a movement-based journey narrative. Um. It’s a story about a protagonist learning to fly.
No. Not quite right. Iotas and inklings of the truth, but not a completely accurate description. Try again.
It’s about a moment. It’s about that moment when the decision to change your life is entirely in your own hands, when you can no longer let the current pull you. The entire play takes place in the hinge of a door, in the exhaled breath upon which will either be borne the word Yes or No. The play is about the fear of the unknown and its relative weight on the scale to the fear of standing still for the rest of your life. The play is an embodiment of that Anais Nin quote, about the risks of remaining a bud and the risk to blossom. The play is about the landscape of your spirit and the dark areas that exist past the edge of the cartography.
And that’s better. That’s closer. Still missing something.
It’s about process.
Yes. That. The play represents a process with no final product, an acknowledgment that sometimes the process is the final product. It’s about what you’ll see in the performance and it’s about all the things you’ll never see in the performance. It’s about the seeming dozens of scenes that disappeared during the month-long rehearsal, about characters like the pompous, antagonistic sun, the harried messengers between the erstwhile lovers, the original manifestation of the Chaos Monster; who were there for a brief period of time and then vanished into the fog of revision. It is about the moment of decision and about the countless number of smaller decisions that lead into the larger decision, taking off at breakneck speed to leap across the synapse. The performance will show you the cosmetics on its surface but give you glimpses of the fluids beneath, of the poetry of bones.
The play is so much about the process that each Thursday during the run is not a performance but an “open rehearsal” in which the play will be considered and amended further.
The play is about something inherently human, about the need for contemplation against the animal instinct to act. We are not human “be.” We are human “being,” we are active verb in present tense, and every tiny path we choose instead of the others creates worlds we will never experience. We learn to leave those worlds behind. We learn to forgive ourselves for those unborn realities.
Within the performance we attempt to evoke these hourglass sand universes using the physical whole of eight uniquely different beings in concert with the elemental energies of light and sound. The Long Count begins with an apocalypse and then denies that such an event is the end of anything, positing instead that certain points of our lives will be fueled by both fission and fusion, by planets exploding and the fragments reforming into different planets, each one capable of sustaining sentient organisms all their own.
The actors were not in the room when the process of this play began, so I can only offer my interpretation from my entry point on the timeline. I am part of the sequence. The sequences that comprise me are part of the sequence. The play ends on the page with a period but ends in the space with an ellipsis.
This is the way the world ends. Not with conclusion, but with prologue.