People keep asking me how I’m feeling now that Laramie is over. I was expecting to feel somewhat liberated, what with several hours of each day suddenly cleared and available. I had been excited to get back to “real life,” nebulously defined as a life in which I could sit down to eat dinner and hang out with friends in the evening and start homework before 11. But since the show closed (and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it hasn’t even been a week since it closed — it feels like an eternity), I’ve felt…lost. I miss seeing the cast and crew everyday. I miss that sense of pre-performance anticipation. I miss feeling like I’m working towards something concrete and important. I miss feeling like I’m helping to tell a meaningful story, a story that needs to be told, a story that will lead audiences to engage in a process of critical reflection.
I mentioned during our last class, when we all went around and talked about what we’ve gotten out of this experience, that this semester has easily been my happiest at Duke. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this, but a large part is due to the thoroughness of our process of creative collaboration. The show bled over into my academic, extracurricular, and personal life over the past few months, and the merging of all three realms is such an incredibly rare thing to find on this campus, or in any creative forum. I think we all felt like we were doing something important here. We were all so invested in the success of the final production that each and every person involved was intensely motivated and excited about the prospect of what this show could be like and what it could do. We enjoyed being with each other. We came to love this community and this process and these stories. Rehearsal was something I looked forward to every day — coming together, watching my performance grow stronger, watching my fellow actors improve and grow more confident, watching the people of the town and the Tectonic members begin to interact and react and engage in a moving dialogue.
I’ve had people come up to me on campus and tell me repeatedly that they so enjoyed the show and they so enjoyed my work. I’ve done a number of plays here before, and having students I don’t know approach me to comment on my performance is something that has rarely happened. I’m not saying that recognition is the ultimate marker of success, because I think I would have been proud of the work we did as a company and a class even if no one had come to the see show. But the fact that we generated such buzz, the fact that we were having to turn people away from performances at a school known at times for its subjugation of the arts, the fact that people who saw our work were moved by it and touched by it and thought about it and wanted to comment on it, the fact that the whole department had our backs behind this production — all of these things bolster my faith in the future of the arts programs at this university. I want to repeat this experience again in some way. Like Ben, I’m coming away from this experience resigned to the fact that I want to continue performing in some capacity. My passion is telling stories, the stories based in reality that need to be told, those that speak to a larger truth about humanity. And I don’t think theater needs to be “activist” in form — and I would hesitate to even call this work an activist play — but I think good theater should aspire to lead to a process of reflection. It should start a conversation. I think our production did that, more than any other work I’ve been a part of before. I want to do that kind of work again. This process has inspired me. I’m so grateful for that.