Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Doubt - John Patrick Shanley

This semester, being my last semester before graduation, is packed full with the "lasts." For the education part, I am student teaching, which is going really well so far. I've got about two more weeks in my first placement, and then it will be on to high school. For the English part, on the other side, I am writing my senior thesis, which is a 25-30 page paper on a book or several books by a particular author. There is also the option of doing a creative project or of directing a play. I told my advisor as soon as I entered the English program officially that I would be directing a play for my senior thesis, so that's what I'm doing this semester, as well. I chose to direct Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley. It's only an hour long, actually, so I guess it's technically a one-act (we're doing it as such), but it's such a deep play.

I had the incredible opportunity a couple of weeks ago to go and hear the author of Doubt speak at a Q&A. I got to ask him a question, and we even got to go backstage afterwards and meet him in person. I was awed by him. He is so down to earth and grounded in reality. He said so many wonderful things about theatre and life. I just got this incredible sense of wisdom and balance from him, and it made me love his play even more. One of the things he said that I loved was that we've already fallen off the cliff. We're going to die, we just have to figure out how to enjoy the ride down and make the best of it. He also said that he doesn't understand why anyone would be certain about anything, because being certain means you take a possibility off the table, and in a world of such possibility, why would you count anything out?

I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to hear him in person and to meet him. But Shanley has evidently always been a very open writer, encouraging conversation. He actually included his e-mail address in the back of one of the scripts of his I had read, and evidently also put it in the program for the original run of Doubt in New York. So I e-mailed him and asked if he would want to come to our performance. He said no, which I expected. He's otherwise engaged. I am somewhat disappointed, not only because it would be simply amazing to have the author at one of the performances, boosting attendance, energy, and likely my grade on the whole project, but Shanley just seems like the kind of person I'd want to know. There are a few people in the world like that, you know? I hope to be that kind of person someday.

We open in about two weeks. The cast has worked so hard, and I'm really pleased with where we are. We have a long way to go, but I feel confident we'll get there.

Theatre just gets me. So many things can be said without ever actually being said. I was listening to Next to Normal and Wicked in the car the other day, and I started crying thinking about the relationships and the truths that are expressed in music and words that never have to say what they mean to get their point across. It's a beautiful thing, when it comes together. I'm just grateful for the chance to experience something like it in my life.