Two weeks ago, I was ferociously worried. We were about to invite “outsiders” into our space, and, therefore, into the world we were just beginning to understand ourselves. I hoped that the energy from the audience would fuel us to become better performers and may a few claps or laughs would help us better focus. Boy, was that an understatement. Having an audience entirely transformed our work. We strove not only to get laughs or applause but instead to share what we felt each moment with the audience. I could see where faces were focusing and I focused there too. I looked people straight in the eyes singing “Till We Reach That Day,” searching for a response and singing to make change.
Working with the lighting designers for upwards of five hours by walking and standing and moving and turning, a human mannequin, was very interesting. I’ve never done that before. I loved seeing the transformation of our grandiose set into an intimate warm space then quickly into a dark, looming monster that gave me chills. Strike was odd, seeing props and costumes become physical things again rather than a part of each of our characters. The immigrant bundles we clutched so tightly, descended upon at the sight of J.P. Morgan, and on which we slept became folded sheets and blankets. My conductor hat was put on a shelf, never again to be adjusted on my head or tipped creepily at Mollie. I enjoyed going over each costume piece and thinking about how it was used and even watching huge chunks of wood be removed from the stairs or the platforms, because it reminded me how much work (albeit not mine!) went into the aesthetics of our piece. Tabling, flyering, and dormstorming were also part of my experience 🙂
Returning to East Duke 209 yesterday reminded me of just how far we’ve come. I talked to very few of my now good friends only weeks ago. We became an ensemble, cogs in Flaherty’s and Ahrens’ model T. Thank you each for helping me conquer this monster of a show, and for making my eyes well up with appreciation and awe at our final bow.