Today, I went to a rehearsal of the Apple Pie piece created by LGBT
teenagers that I am producing tomorrow for Friendship and Justice,
a progressive Catholic organization at St. Margaret's of Scotland parish
It was a tough one for me.
About two years ago, I conceived and directed the first version of
Apple Pie that premiered at the Contemporary Art Museum. We
worked under difficult conditions to put the piece together. Insufficient
time. Conflicts over the vision and responsibilities with some
of our community partners. Lots of problems with the kids. Some
were not getting along at home, others got kicked out of their houses.
Others had parents who were missing in action.
It was a mess.
Two years ago, the artist and producer in me went into overdrive, making
sure the show looked good visually, had a cool setting and interesting
physical staging. I corralled the kids, disinterested in the
usual and sometimes legitimate adolescent excuses of why they
could or could not do something. I talked about responsibility,
pushed them to rehearse, be on time, learn their lines. I was
sometimes playful, but often stern and occasionally cranky.
Essentially, Sarah, my assistant and I played good cop, bad cop.
She bandaged their psychic knees, make continual adaptations for them,
drove them to and from rehearsal, fed them treats.
They adored her. They didn't much like me.
And yet, I made the show work, at least artistically. Although
it sure could not have worked without her, too. Big time.
Did the kids learn from my work ethic and standards of excellence?
Hard to say. I'm inclined to say no because for the most part,
we did not connect well. I will probably never know.
I am tough with the DisAbility Project as well. Tougher. But
it is a different population and one with whom I have had plenty
of time to develop a meaningful relationship in which they get that
I both care about them as people and expect excellent art.
Maybe I am not good at quickies. That is, quickie art. Quickie
This time around, we are also working on ridiculous deadlines but decided
to go for it anyway. I think it is a very important project. We
have a mostly new group of kids who seem much more committed and
I assigned the project to Sarah and Jackie, an Artistic Associate with
the company and decided to take a step back and see what happens when
my detail exacting self is out of the picture.
It was very interesting. At the run through last night, the cast
seemed very supportive of each other and integrated. Unlike last
time, there were no teenage divas in the room. Divas who both wanted
to be the center of attention as well as to act out against a
perceived mother figure.
The space and exchange felt very different. The kids had a obvious
investment in the project and it was clear that they had dug the process
and each other.
So that was wonderful. About that, I felt very pleased.
The artist in me—who usually edges out the educator—cringed where
the staging felt unimaginative or the acting was poor or the diction
While I was deeply appreciative of the work that Sarah and Jackie had
done with them in some realms, I also struggled with what I saw. And
my struggle was complicated by the echo of my own 17 year old self
who was suddenly in the room. Who was a really gifted actress and who
would have crawled over broken glass to get it right.
think the biggest misconception about artists is believing it is
their gift that
makes the difference. It is the sweat equity.k It is a mystery
how we get students to adapt that realization. We can sometimes
get them to work hard to please us, but it is more difficulty to
get them to "get it right" for themselves.)
told myself that who I had been was irrelevant to the moment we
were in and tried to stay present with the kids and directors who
were in front of me.
I wondered if it was sufficient if what we did was meaningful for them
and their families.
I wondered how what they did will be perceived by the audience, especially
if it not someone they know.
I wondered what it means to have certain standards.
I wondered to what degree certain standards need
to be more flexible depending the circumstances.
I wondered why my standards are frequently so much higher than other
people around me.
I wondered how I could learn to be more generous and more forgiving,
to the people with whom I work and towards myself.
Jackie asked me for feedback and I was gentle and encouraging. Very
Saturday, March 4, 2006