On the Little Black Dress Relay Team

by Kate Hawkes

Two weeks from today and the inaugural Prescott Little Black Dress Ink production will have opened and closed. (I say ‘inaugural’ because I hope and believe there will be more, right Tiffany?)

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that ‘two weeks and it is done’ bit. I guess that is the way with theatre though. It takes a month or more to plan and build the set, then it comes down in less than a night, all hands on deck, right after the last show.

From hearing about Little Black Dress, to writing a play, to hearing it was ‘in’ and then adding acting and directing, seems to have been both yesterday and a year. Am I getting older, that time both drags and flies? Or is it that I am better at being in the moment as well as keeping track of the journey?

A couple of weeks ago all of the Little Black Dressers (better short-hand than Inkers!) convened in the PFAA theatre for the first and only time before tech rehearsal, to share the gifts that we have in our care. I had not been in the space before except as a tourist, and to be there as a participant was, well, like coming home.

I think it is that way anytime I enter an active theatre space. I am immediately filled with the vibration of possibilities, redolent of hope and work, the blending energies of the imagined and the real, and the invitation to go forth, nestled in the surety of past creations.

There must have been more than 30 of us, perched in the steeply sloping auditorium, a pastiche of oldie opera-housey veneer within converted church. An empty stage, with a  5-chair barely curve, promised us the space to both offer and to receive.

Many people knew many others and some hardly any. It didn’t matter. We all recognized each other as being there for the one purpose. Like children at a birthday party where we were each both the guest and birthday girl/boy, we couldn’t wait to give and to open the presents.

The ring mistress alighted the stage, set a few rules, held out the lucky dip (to ascertain the order of gifts given) and the party began.

I love theatre people. No matter how scared they are, no matter how prepared or not, no matter that they are guessing what to do, know the audience or don’t, ultimately, they plunge in.

We’d make great English Channel swimmers. We brave the sharks and the cold, we take deep breaths, keep moving forward, paying attention to where we are right now, even as we have one eye in the horizon.

What was so wonderful about that informal ‘let’s share the stories’ get-together was the audience. We were all actually on the same team, working as a relay. Like a game of musical chairs, every ten minutes a sort of bell would go and the current guests on stage gave way to the next. They raced (or wandered) to the chairs and gave their gift to the array of birthday queens and kings in the audience.

Or, maybe it was when we were on stage we were on the birthday throne? I think so. That’s when we get to open the gift, play with the different elements, pushing the buttons, exploring its texture, trying it out with our friends.

That is how it felt to me. I was with friends, even though I’ll be hard put to name many of them on the 18th when we convene again. That work-party will be to add the next layer of texture (lights and sound), the next wave of musical chairs (getting on and of between gifts, this time not from the auditorium!) and I will be with friends.

The dissonance of feeling as if this journey began yesterday and a year ago, between the many hours to get it ready to give to public and the few minutes it will take to unwrap, makes perfect sense. It is the nature of the collaborative, ephemeral endeavor we call live theatre. And when it is created, shared and released within the safety of friends at a communal birthday party, then it is beautiful.

I am looking forward to being on the relay team that gives the gifts as well as the birthday girl who opens them. Yes, albeit again. Because each time I open the gift of the performance it is a brand new present.

That is the beauty of live theatre. As long as we brave the sharks, take the breaths and keep swimming it will keep unfolding. And each performance may be in the same body of water but it is a different series of waves and that redefines the gift. It cannot be repeated and cannot be reproduced. It is a new creation every time.

I hope that each of the playwrights who have so generously given their gift to us, mailed in as if from a far-away Aunt, will be happy with how we have treated their gift. I hope that when they see it, revealed on stage on the 20th, they will feel like both the birthday girl and the friend at the party.

I know that I will.

(note: this blog also appears on Kate’s Blog: www.wellnesswithkate.wordpress.com)


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