For the past three days, we have been doing the most peculiar thing: we’ve been following a forest across the Maritimes.
Over hill, over dale, thorough brush, thorough briar–it does wander everywhere, occasionally swifter than you might think a forest would normally spread. There’s a whole caravan of fools following it, too–going up and down and around with all of its twists and turns. Sometimes, the forest stops in a place–usually a school gym or auditorium–and starts to set down roots. We play with it, then, dressing up as campers and animals, singing to the tree and to whomever will come to hear us.
And what a journey it has been!
Over the past four days, we’ve done five shows in five schools–Auburn Drive, Tantramar Regional High School, Pugwash Senior and Junior High School, Birchmount, and Riverview. Whew.
We had a leisurely start on Tuesday, seeing as Tantramar Regional High is in Sackville–just down the road from us, in fact. It was our first show on a stage, with lights and everything. This is how you start to gain the ability to adapt the play–by throwing it into a completely different environment, without having tried it first. Experimentation as performance. The students there were wonderfully reactive. We’re so sorry that we weren’t able to have a discussion period! There were classes to go to, and Pugwash beckoned…
We had a twenty-minute lunch and made a quick drive to Pugwash Senior and Junior High School, where we discovered a wonderful, delightful surprise upon entering the gym…
…the students had drawn pictures of what they thought our characters might look like! Have you seen Ours? And the hyper-dramatic Libellule? And the surprisingly seductive Susie? Talk about motivation. Most of the time, the audience doesn’t have any idea of what our characters will be like, so we can mess around with their expectations and shape our own image. Here, we had to live up to what people had already discussed. Oh, dear. The pressure!
The show went wonderfully, despite the challenges of projecting in such a wide space, and the workshop that went on afterwards saw over a hundred students learn how to make fruit salad, wrangle a ball of energy like a cowboy, and become an intergalactic samuraï. And we managed to come back home by honouring another Tintamarre tradition: the Sandpiper restaurant!
It was, I’m sure you’ll understand, a completely serious meeting. Absolutely no frivolity or cake-eating of any kind.
Well, maybe a little dessert.
We were a bit bleary-eyed the next morning when we showed up at Birchmount School in Moncton, but we were soon awoken by the fact that our wonderful contact at the school, Natalie (a Tintamarrienne!) had been up part of the night making us some utterly scrumptious muffins. We graciously received them by devouring them, along with the fruit platter she sent along with two grade-five emissaries. Starving artists no more.
The show went very well–what a great audience to have! They were much younger than our other publics, but their questions were just as fascinating. What was our favourite part about acting? Could we sing another song? We loaded back out among the throngs of admirers who wanted our autographs–such rock star treatment.
In Riverview, that castle in the woods, we played to an enormous auditorium–a completely different projection challenge. But each and every one of the students who came to see us came voluntarily–no coercion! And they stayed! That warmed our bunch of weary hearts… not to mention the fact that we got incredible technical assistance–what light design! Thanks so much for your help, Kelsey, Callum, and Nathan. We couldn’t have done it without you.
We were tired when we were in Riverview–hopefully, it didn’t show.
So much of the preparation before each show is about finding our level of energy and raising it past that barrier. It’s strange, how we can suddenly invoke a few rituals–some movement, some silly dances, a song we all know–and find that we’ve stepped aside from the world into abstracted space, a pocket of focus somehow tucked away from other distractions. Shows are about energy exchange, but they’re also about that space between the audience and the actors.
When we act, we’re in a different geography; we are midway between what the audience sees and what we understand as text, constantly adapting to serve one or the other. How privileged we are to get to negotiate these boundaries…
And the questions we got after the show! Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve had amazing audiences and questioners. In Pugwash, we were asked what we first thought about our costumes when we saw them. In Birchmount, people wanted to know what we were doing after the tour. At Riverview, we talked about transitional objects and childhood and Daniel’s puppet, Boris. I love discussions so very much–if only because they renegotiate our roles as actors. The questions are essential to what we think about the play–it churns it over in our mind, turns over the loam, aerates the earth of our mentalities. Questions, questions, questions! The only way to sow new seeds in old ground. Le texte reste, mais les racines poussent quand même…
And now? Well, almost as soon as we got home from Riverview, we got an hour to pack, turn around, and hop into our vehicles for the road to New Glasgow, on the way to Antigonish–with an addition to our cast. Bienvenue, Laura! Tu nous as manqué…
Today, we head up to John Hugh Gillis Regional High School and Northumberland Rural High School. La route continue, and we keep following the forest. It’s growing on us, this tracking…
See you on the road.