I was surprised that, as actors, we were expected to help build the set. It seemed the furthest thing from the job description, in my mind; but building that set took a lot of time, and it would have been much harder if all the actor’s hadn’t pitched in and done their share as well. In restrospect, it seemed quite understandable to me; not just in terms of raw manpower, but because this is the set we would be performing on, and so it made sense for us to get to know it on a more intimate level by helping to bring it into existence ourselves.
I had never worked behind the scenes before, so I was extremely nervous to go into the shop and work. Perhaps that’s why I put it off for so long. I didn’t know what to do and was afraid I would mess up and cause an inconvenience. But in the end it wasn’t so bad; the jobs I had were pretty simple, actually, but they still helped: applying base coats to shelves, sorting out lengths of flooring, cleaning the supplies afterward. They weren’t terribly complicated things, and I felt useful, so I guess it was alright.
Still, the transformation that actually took place was a marvel that I couldn’t even begin to conceive of. Which is why it was all the more heart-wrenching to tear it all down at the end. But I think, in that simple act of striking, we can find a metaphor through Uncle Vanya itself: the notion that things change, that beauty doesn’t last forever, that no matter how much you love something, or how much work you put into something, you can’t always have it; it might not always be there, and you need to learn to let go.
So I tried to let go of that beautiful, amazing, breathtaking set with a smile in my heart. I picked up my drill and loosened its foundations; pulled up every staple and nail that held it all together; ripped it apart and threw it in the trash; and swept away the remains – even those hiding in the furthest corners – until the space was wide and open and empty and fresh. And new. Ready for something else to come and take its place.
I stood in that space and I felt the simultaneous: the gone memories, and the arising potential. I stood there and I looked around for a moment, wondering at how it was all over so quickly; and then I walked out with a smile on my face, the same as I had come in.
– Jaya Z.