Ever since 2008 when I hopped aboard the production of MELANCHOLY PLAY at Son of Semele as stage manager I’ve felt like I was on a hell of a trip. Not trip to anywhere, except maybe deeper inside of myself, but the kind of trip where you tumble and dance and laugh and everything is weird and right and challenging and aggravating and hair raising and madcrazypsychowhereyouneedtobe.
I’ve been associated with the company since then, off and on, though mostly on since 2010 when I became a member. A few years ago I wouldn’t have known to say that this wacky kind of experimentalist theatre is what I want to do…though it would have been in the back of my mind and the dark corners of my heart ever since I saw those pictures of a Robert Wilson production in an artsy theatre book when I was in high school – though these embers would heat up again in 2006 when I got to see The Black Rider at the Ahmanson. At that time I wasn’t doing any theatre, just working a day job that was slowly killing me.
For whatever reason I don’t tend to enjoy the straightforward as much as the byzantine in art; even though perfectly straightforward narratives can and have brought a lot of satisfaction. I just… respond better to the surreal, the abstract, the absurd and the expressionistic. To me, they don’t hide the point or make it deliberately abstruse, but bring everything out that they are trying to say without simplifying a single thing or leaving out awkward details.
When I found a theatre company willing to go there and not flinch at the difficulties of these complicated thoughts and feelings, I knew I’d found a special place.
Our artistic director Matt McCray has more than earned his status as a visionary, whether directing Wallace Shawn’s DESIGNATED MOURNER or getting quite the hat tip from LA Weekly’s Stephen Leigh Morris. Matt has made sure that SOSE makes some of the most excellent and riskiest theatre in LA. And somehow finds the time to make rather remarkable theatre elsewhere too!
Even though I’m a dramaturg at SOSE the bulk of my time and effort has been as a stage manager. I’ve put in my time on four productions now (more than any other stage manager who has worked at SOSE, which is a figure I think is both cool and …idunno…not cool.) I’ve had to fill and then drain a moat, load shredded paper into a snow carriage, hang fake meat, hang real dead animals, set and reset and set some more material over dirt skins that regularly scratched the skin from my knuckles, prep food that will end up all over the stage and then clean up after and on and on… to say nothing of making sure actors have everything they need to carry out the director’s wishes. It’s ridiculously fun, if time intensive.
And when I have gotten to do some dramaturgy as an official part of a production (because I’m likely to do some unofficial dramaturgy work no matter what), it’s let me take on an aspect of ownership in a project that I otherwise haven’t known. Certainly, I take some pride in stage managing. But it doesn’t always feel like my show so much. But when I share what I’ve discovered, organize a bunch of information and present it in a way that serves and bolster’s the director’s vision and when I can take that information out into the wild, I really dig into the play we’re doing and it comes alive for me. I see all the connections and I participate in them.
I love that SOSE has always gotten prominent attention – in 2004 the company was profiled in American Theatre magazine! We’re so tiny for any theatre scale, everything we do is on the shortest of shoestring budgets, our space is teeny and our patronage is…well, let’s call it intimate. But SOSE doesn’t screw around. We make good damned theatre that we can always be proud of.
…Of course, even if our budgets are shoestring in scope we still need to raise that shoestring, er, funds somehow. It’s tough – at least for me, most of my family and friends just aren’t into theatre and don’t have the spare cash to support my theatre. But I have to ask: won’t you support great theatre in Los Angeles? We accept any help at any level, from physical labor to monetary donations. All I can promise is it will go to a mighty cause. }:>