Thank You For Making Me A Better Me!

And it has finally come down to this. The shows are all over. The set was destroyed. We cried our last tears and laughed our final laughs. We have said our goodbyes. The Laramie Project Spring 2011 is over for all intents and purposes. But the moments and experiences I shared will all of you is something that I hold very dearly in my heart. I honestly haven’t felt so deeply about a theatrical experience since last summer when I went overseas for the Duke in London Drama Program. Then, I felt overwhelmed, challenged, and incredibly privileged. I feel the same way about Laramie.

I have been wondering what my final thoughts should be to this overwhelming experience. To briefly sum it up: beautifully humbled and fantastically enlightened.

To Jeff: Thank you so much for casting me. You have no idea how much being in this play means to me. As an African American Christian woman raised in the South, it is really hard trying to fight for LGBT rights back at home. Being in Laramie has given me an opportunity to do that through what I love most: Acting.

To Jules: JULES RULES! JULES RULES! I know you are sick of me saying that by now, but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. You do rule! I feel so blessed that you a) worked with me on Me Too Monologues and b) worked with me on TLP. Your skill as a dramaturg is unparallel.  Now that may not mean so much coming from me (considering I have never worked with a dramaturg before), but trust and believe that I really do mean it. I also deeply appreciate how you opened up to all of us personally about your life and struggles as a lesbian in North Carolina. I feel like I found a new friend in you, and I look forward to future conversations with you.

To the cast: I just want to thank everyone for allowing me to share the stage with them. I remember during the first few rehearsals in the classrooms and how intimidated I was. It seemed everyone else was really stepping up to the plate and embodying their multiple characters. There was many times where I felt like I was the 13th most talented person in the room. If I was ever any good, it was because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be half as phenomenal as my cast mates were.

Ultimately, I appreciate this play for how it made me expand my realm of possibilities as an actress. It exposed to me my strengths and my opportunities for growth. Now, if and when I decide to pursue an acting career, I have more insight on what specific things I need to go from being a “good” actress to a “great” actress. I wouldn’t have that insight if it wasn’t for Jeff and Jules challenging me or for the entire cast raising the bar so high.

Be fierce and prosper,

Afftene Taylor

3 thoughts on “Thank You For Making Me A Better Me!

  1. Afftene —

    It has been an honor. And it means SO much to hear you say such kind things about my work in this process esp. because you’d never worked with a dramaturg before. If I’d made a pig’s ear of the whole thing, I’d of sent you out into the arts world with such a bad taste for dramaturgy that it would have been devastating. As you consider a career in arts management it’s even more integral that you see and participate in all the layers of production artistry so that you can be out there advocating for your clients and the theater you want to do in ways that are smart, savvy, and sophisticated. Just like you. (And I’ve not forgotten that I need to get you in touch with Mr. Meanza over at PRC to chat about career paths. Shoot me an email and let me know where in your summer or early fall plans such a meeting might be best. I’m going to see Jeff, I think, this weekend at *The Year of Magical Thinking*, and I’ll put the bug in his ear then.)

    I’m so thankful that you, Taylor, Kimi, and Clara allowed me to wiggle my way in to the backstage process of Me Too. I look forward to helping again in the next year in whatever ways you all think would be best. I’m also happy that through Laramie you all have captured Naomi’s energies and intelligence for the next year so that the legacy of dialogic performance on difficult subjects can continue at Duke. It is such necessary theatre.

    I remember your first post was full of trepidations about your abilities as an actor, your specific concern about the Southerness that fills every nook and cranny of you, Afftene, the person. And, as I watched you, particularly as we settled into the run, it was amazing that the underlying person was there but never in a way that made me disbelieve who were were *also* in a scene or moment. You made distinct and specific choices for Marge, the Minister, even little Jeffrey Lockwood that made me see and hear them as unique people, but I also never lost the thread of Afftene.

    I was particularly struck by the alienation effect of seeing you and not-you (a la Brecht) in the Fred Phelps scene. The discomfort you mentioned in the talk back about having to embody that kind of hate was visible in your posture and face. For the audience member who wasn’t privy to our process, that might have been read as stern anger a kind of realism in the role, but for me, I saw the active struggle of your saying those lines. And it made me actually empathize with the Phelps clan in a way I’d not thought possible. They have been indoctrinated into that worldview for so long it’s hard to think that they aren’t just completely brainwashed, but in seeing your performance (even just that very little moment) I started to think about what might happen to someone in that family who starts to question what they are saying. What kind of pain and fear might they feel as they realize to reject the family’s theology would be to reject their entire community and support system? It might have been lost on the casual audience member, but you know me — ever vigilant in looking deeper. It was such a powerful expression of Brechtian technique and, despite accepted wisdom, how emotional the alienation effect can be. I know it might not be much compensation for not having the chance to be an angel : ) , but, I hope it might be a way to let you know how I saw the angel, in you, fighting with that “demon” exterior. That active struggle was also a lovely counterpoint to the joy and different kind of emotional power/connection you found with Marge.

    Bring on those more conversations, my friend. I’m ready!


  2. Afftene,

    You rule! What a great entry. I knew the moment you walked into the audition and read that you were what this play was goingto be about. You grew so much. And performed it like a pro. You had the audience eating out of your hand each time you appeared on stage. I could say my favorite character of yours was Marge,because i believed her larger than life way of making each moment of life count with laughter, opinion, and compassion. I could say my favorite was the strident minister, who was so sure of his place of right. I could say my favorite was Shadow because he made me smile even though what he had to say was dead serious AND I believed him. What a remarkable accomplishment that was for a college woman! But my favorite was Jeffrey Lockwood. Because he was still different, performed by a confident chameleon of an actress. He summed it up. The whole DNA of the play was contained in the articulate Jeffrey Lockwood. You should be proud of you excellent work.

    You are the best. I am so happy your summer plans are working out.I can’t wait to work work with you again. Are you auditioning for RAGTIME?

  3. Jeff,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. It means alot to me that you, a seasoned theater professional, enjoyed my work as an actress. 🙂

    Now, regarding Ragtime, I honestly doubt I will be auditioning for that show.
    1) I will have to commit to the show in the Fall, and I am not sure I can do that.
    2) I am directing Me Too Monologues, which will be taking up alot of my time.
    3) I’m not sure I have the vocal chops to sing for 2 hours on stage.

    However, I will give it some thought. I would love to work with you and Jules again!

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