Leaps and Bounds

This past Saturday was something else entirely. Since we’ve finished setting movement and costume change patterns, we’ve had much more time to focus on acting. I guess I should have expected a rehearsal like Saturday’s for this reason, but the level of emotion was shocking regardless.

For me it was a scene between two characters, a mother and her daughter, that tipped the scale. I really got the sense that the mother was worried for her daughter’s life. I got the sense of what a mother must feel, worrying for the life of her child. Then I thought about Judy Shepard’s worst and coldest fears becoming harsh and brutal reality. Her son was attacked and savagely beaten, to death. He was the target of violence and hate on more than one occasion because he was gay. Finally, I thought about my mother coming to see this play. I thought about her concern for my safety, for my well being. And that hit home. Everything from that point onward had a very real value and meaning for me. Each monologue, each conversation, each action was a story of a real event that had already happened. This play is a representation of events that have already happened. As biased or as designed as its critics claim it is, this comes from life, meaning real people’s lives.

By the time I was onstage next, I was in this world. Sheafer Theater was my world. I truly felt what my characters were saying. I genuinely believed what I was representing. I deeply connected with what I was seeing onstage. I cried so hard. I was so moved. This transportation was gripping and enveloping. The cast was on, and we made huge progress that day. I talked with other cast members about it over dinner after rehearsal. We agreed: “leaps and bounds.” And on top of all that, this experience is facilitating new growth and relationships. How could I have expected this when I first auditioned seven months ago?

-Spencer Paez

2 thoughts on “Leaps and Bounds

  1. Spencer —

    I can only imagine the emotion this post will bring to Jeff when he reads it. I’m jealous that I was not in the theater to witness what sounds like a transformative rehearsal.

    As I just remarked to Summer, I’ve been making a timeline of Matthew’s life for the program today. Doing that has lead me to some re-reading of memoirs — Romaine’s, one from Beth Loffreda, from which I got the timeline information that I shared with you, Cameron and Andy, and, of course, Judy Shepard’s. It struck me as I read your post about mothers and children and safety, how much hearing Judy’s own perspective on her son, his struggles, and her loss is so eye-opening. She’s not in the play as a character but I think Marge & Reggie are the surrogate parent/child relationship that evokes Matthew & Judy without ever saying so directly. They also offer us a happier ending to a story of risk and illness than what the Shepards endured and, through that, make those of us who have and continue to survive big and small incidents of homophobia and discrimination happy to be alive and achingly cognizant of the loss of others.

    As I type this I’m struck by a word from one of Naomi’s characters — Eileen Engen. Stewardship. She uses it to refer to the land and the reverence ranchers have for the source of their livelihood. After reading your post, I’m struck at its relevance to the practice of documentary theater as a whole (and if I’d have to hazard a guess I’m sure this connection was part of the reason that bit of testimony made it into the script). When Tectonic Theater took these interviews (even chose particular public documents, records to use in their script) they bound themselves to taking care of something owned by someone else. To stewardship. And, by extension, those of us who take up their version of those words, and add to that mix our own research and connection to these “real people”, we must do the same. And that is a daunting, wonderful, and highly emotional task.

    I’ve asked this question of Summer, I’ll ask it of you as well, what do you think we should DO with the new growth and relationships that have come out of this work? What, if any, commitment beyond Laramie’s performances do we make to/with each other?


  2. Spencer,

    You did an great job of articulating the “hump” we got over on Saturday. As I said in rehearsal last night. I believe in the way theater can change our lives and the lives of our audience. I think with all of the power that is present from how the company has bonded and how focused everyone has become, we have a really good piece of theater on our hands.

    You are doing a wonderful job on stage. Your characters are clear and distinct and serve the play well. Always keep some focus on the way in which supporting the voice makes the character more present in the space, without losing the intimacy. You are getting stronger vocally every rehearsal. Keep working on moving down that path.

    Articulation and Support will help to carry the good work you are doing.

    Best- Jeffrey

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