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Thursday, February 18, 2010

~Two Glasses: Tanya and Erika

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two Glasses: Tanya and Erika

It's Thursday today. I woke up this morning and lied there for a good twenty minutes before reluctantly getting out of bed. I don't want to work. I want to skip this day, and get to the fun stuff after it. Games. Comics. Web browsing. Thursday is the only day that I have to care about my guilt at not working. I went to my computer and opened BlitzMax. The test I had made for incorporating zooming into a certain part of the game was broken, and I couldn't figure out why. So I threw it out and started over, this time copying what I'd done in The Perfect Color directly. It seemed to be working. Then I saw how much work I had ahead of me, and decided to take an early lunch. I'd get back to it later. I'll get back to it later.

so Tanya quit. From now on, when I think of Tanya my first thought isn't going to be that she had good creative instincts, or that I enjoyed working with her; my first thought is going to be that when she realized how much work needed to be done, she gave up.

I figured out that she was leaving from a letter she sent out. -------
I wanted to just give you guys a heads up. Firstly, it has been a joy working with such a great cast. A director often sits between the cast and the board. I tried to do what I could to meet the needs of both...
In its vague ramblings it sounded very much like a goodbye letter, but she seemed to have entirely forgotten to mention that she was saying goodbye. I responded: "In that entire letter, you never say what it is you're trying to say, you just walk around it. Tell me straight: are you being kicked out? If so, I may consider leaving the production." And I was serious, too. I expected that if Tanya was going, it was because she was too creative and someone had a problem with that. I expected that the next step would be to turn The Matchmaker into a more straightforward rendition with less crazy energies. That's how the world works, right?

Well, that's not what happened. When Rachel told us that Tanya had not been fired, I was very confused. It didn't help that she was being very diplomatic and didn't make it perfectly clear that this was entirely Tanya's decision. No, Rachel tried to take some of the blame herself for having "arguments" of a very vague nature with Tanya, and I was only too happy to keep the blame aimed in that direction. Rachel kept insisting that it would still be set in the 60s, that there weren't any creative disagreements at all in fact. I refused to believe that.

And then Tanya walked in. She'd accidentally gone to the wrong place, so she was a good twenty minutes late. This amused me: a few rehearsals earlier, I'd accidentally gone to the wrong place and needed Tanya to come pick me up. What did not amuse me was what came out of her mouth then. She sat down and started spinning the situation into something that sounded reasonable. "I don't want to create any more difficulties…" she said, not making it at all clear what difficulties she'd been making that surpassed the ones she was making right now. "In the best interests of the play…" she said, not making it at all clear how this was in anyone's best interests. "It would be best if I got out of the way…" she said, not making it at all clear whose way she was blocking.

She babbled on and on without actually saying anything at all, as though she was choosing her words very carefully. And here's the kicker: she was smiling through all of it. Not a phony smile employed to reassure, but the genuine smile of a person who's just had a great burden lifted from her back and is relieved to be free of it. The words were empty, but that smile told me the story.

Here is the story of Tanya's failure as I see it now. She had neither experience nor a work ethic, and she was allowed to run the play regardless because JEST thought her creative energy and instincts trumped those inadequacies. And they could have, if she had made the continual choice to face her own inadequacies head-on. But she wouldn't. For months the board of directors wanted her to cast a Cornelius, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted her to get costumes, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted her to impress upon the actors that they all needed to show up and rehearse together, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted Tanya to do the job that she'd committed herself to do, and she refused. Tanya ran away to South Africa for a month. Then she came back and still wasn't in a rush. And the board of directors was as patient with her as they could reasonably be under the circumstances, but they did make it clear that she needed to get her act together. Tanya was not willing to get her act together, which is not a single act but a continuous series of actions leading all the way to the final performance day. So Tanya chose to quit, and get back to things that involved less guilt.

As we were working under Tanya, I saw myself reflected in her. True, she was too normal brain-wise. But she was figuring it out as she went, like me. And she was in over her head, like me. And she had no work ethic, like me. And she had so many crazy ideas, like me. That she quit tells me two things. First, that she is less like me than I thought, because I would never allow myself to abandon something I care about. Second, that she is more like me than I thought, because abandoning something I care about is exactly the sort of thing I might do. I want to forgive her. I want to never forgive her.

It turns out she was expendable. She was swiftly replaced with a woman named Erika. Like Tanya she's young and pretty, two qualities which influence my behavior around them more than I like to admit. Like Tanya she's creative and has good instincts. Unlike Tanya she knows exactly what she's doing. She has 18 years of experience and a PhD in theater. She keeps to a tight schedule. I first met her a week ago, and already we have all the roles cast, a rehearsal schedule going all the way through to performances, and preliminary sketches for costumes and set design. I don't have to say that I could never be like that. My newfound knowledge that such people exist who are both creative and professional is letting some much-unwanted light into my dark and cozy worldview.

She's making huge edits (like entire page-long monologues, and maybe a third of my lines) because she says that a comedy should never be longer than two hours including the fifteen minute intermission. She didn't like the age difference between Vandergelder and Dolly (He's three times her age.), so she tried switching the actress who's been playing Dolly (Maytal) with the actress who's been playing Mrs. Molloy (Eliana, the woman with ADD who I've mentioned before but not by name). We ran through the lines yesterday with this arrangement, and it worked great. We are keeping the 60s setting, and throwing out some other things that Tanya stuffed in but no one else liked. I am not getting my catchphrase "Holy cabooses!" back, because Erika agrees with Tanya that it's not appropriate for the time period.

Erika likes what I'm doing with Barnaby. That's a relief. She hasn't said much about Ambrose (Grr, normal people.), but I don't understand the character anymore. I had a very specific idea of who he was, which came from being on the same wavelength as Tanya. I looked at all the unconventional casting she'd done (including Maytal as Dolly), and the crazy ideas she had for what the play was supposed to be about, and fit together the little pieces we get of Ambrose into something that was different and interesting and had a part to play in everything she had in mind. This is why she eventually came around to telling me to do exactly what I wanted: because what I wanted was based on an expectation of where her ideas naturally led. And most of what she was telling the other actors to do was fitting in perfectly to what I was doing as well, in ways that I think I was the only one who noticed. But now it's a different director, a different actress I'm working with, a different vision for the play. That great feeling I had, that I was right in the middle of the emotions of the play, that's gone. Now I'm just Ambrose, more or less as he's written. I'm going to try to feel out the way in front of me, see how much of my idea of Ambrose I can preserve. But now it's not going to add too much to the play to do so.

But Barnaby's fine. Which is good, because that's the more important part. On Sunday I eagerly volunteered to be at the auditions for Cornelius and run the audition scenes with him, so Erika has seen the hunched shoulders and quirky movements and she says she likes it. So that's good. It means less work and more coasting. Less work is good.

You may have noticed that I've been doing some crazy things with the blog lately. This is because I'm working on the climax of Part 2. I planned out the final sequence of posts over a year ago, though this post here was never meant to be part of it. The reason I've held off on posting recently is not because I'm lazy, but because I've been working on the finale, the blog-post-to-end-all-blog-posts, the most ambitious thing I have ever done with this blog. After almost a month I'm still in the middle of the preliminary design phase. When I started, I laid out all the elements of the post on a big white page on my computer so that I could rearrange them into a coherent order. And then I looked at how much was there to be used, and in that moment I was suddenly overwhelmed with depression. My god, I said. What the hell have I gotten myself into?



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