IN CLOSING, 6 THINGS I’VE LEARNED

March 24th, 2013 donnahoke

 

Seeds closed today with a sold-out performance. It’s always a bittersweet experience because you don’t want to see a show end, but having one running locally is like having out-of-town guests for a month—exhausting. On the other hand, there’s something very disconcerting about watching the strike crew zoom in once the house is empty and start dismantling what has consumed you for not just that month, but perhaps years, something that may never have another life. So as I walked my box of props to my car and drove home, I reflected on this very special experience and what I learned from it.

 1. When you write about deeply personal issues, everybody’s take on it is filtered through their own baggage-muddled lens. Seeds is about family and parenting, and its changing role in our social, cultural, and emotional landscape. As such, each viewer wanted his/her experience not only represented, but validated, on stage. There is nothing wrong with this. I heard from more people how this show made them take stock, think, or talk for hours about the questions presented. From one person, I got a very special note that said the play had healed her in more ways than I can know. A playwright cannot ask for more than this.

 2. When you’re watching a show for the twentieth time, line flubs become a great source of amusement. Not to take anything away from the actors, because they were the perfect cast and they, along with the director, brought things to this play I couldn’t have imagined, but when one of them blew a line, I was fascinated at the ways they found to extricate themselves. One “correction” even drew a hearty laugh from the audience—I love live theater. If I wanted to control everything, I’d write novels.

 3. No laughter at a laugh line isn’t always bad. Seeds is, at times, an intense play. And in some of the greater moments of intensity, I offer comic relief—if the audience needs it. Many nights they do; other nights, there is complete silence. At first, this puzzled me, but the reason for it became clear the night I had the best audience I’d ever seen. This audience was so engaged that they howled at every callback joke, but were absolutely still for the two tension-release laugh lines, lines that on other nights garnered much response. It clicked that night that their total engagement was the very reason they didn’t laugh. I think I figured this out during the show because I could see their absolute stillness, but as someone described it to me afterward: “I was so into what was happening that by the time I realized that line was funny, it was too late to laugh.” So a good lesson learned that we can’t always gauge audience response by the laughter.

 4. If you use a bit about your mom in a play, that will be her favorite part. Enough said.

 5. No lie—a four-star review feels great, but… It’s a little unnerving because a bar has been set. Still, I wouldn’t trade the elation I felt knowing that the Seeds team made the play connect in the way we wanted it to, not just with the reviewer but the people who read the review and came to see for themselves. I am proud of this play, but know that it’s on to the next one. The work never stops.

 6. It is amazing to share theater with someone you love. My daughter was an intern/assistant stage manager on this show, and being able to experience this with her before she heads off to college was a joy I will always treasure. Not only did she learn a lot and have a great time, but it cemented her career choice, as well as her belief that I’m the coolest mom ever.:)

 I hope Seeds has a future life. I think it deserves one. But if a second production doesn’t happen, what I’ve learned will live in me always.

Written by donnahoke

donnahoke

Dramatists Guild Council member and ensemble playwright-in-residence at Road Less Traveled Productions, Kilroys List and award-winning playwright Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 40 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include ELEVATOR GIRL (2017 O’Neill finalist), THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its fourth year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney, Naatak, and Great Gay Play and Musical Contests), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays); she’s also authored more than two dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions. Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. For three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice, the only woman to ever receive the designation.

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