We have the privilege of presenting two dramatic works this week; Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" in Kingston, at The Baby Grand, and Charles Robertson's "Ghost of the Tree", at Arts Court in Ottawa. The plays have similarities - both are gritty, need few to no props, have minimal sets and are vehicles to showcase talented actors. For actors and directors, these scripts are meaty and exciting. For audiences, these pieces are moving reminders of human connectedness.
|The Zoo Story|
As theatre artists, we strive to tell stories that touch people. We want to achieve a level of intimacy with strangers that is normally reserved for the closest of friends. We find writing that is honest and poetic, a story that moves in a natural arc, and actors who have the talent to deliver nuanced roles... and then we punch the audience right in the gut. Hard.
Not all dramatic works have this outcome. There are comedies, and histories, and other types of stories - so why choose to produce works that are "hard to watch"? These two particular plays are also hard to define. They are just plain hard. Like life.
But -like life- they are worthwhile. Worthwhile in the writing, worthwhile in the producing, and worthwhile in the watching. In the hands of talented performers, these scripts bring the audience along anemotional roller-coaster in a risk-free environment.
|Ghost of the Tree|
Theatre is a safe space for the audience to participate in life, like arenas are safe places for fans to participate in sports. We are not on the field tackling the quarterback, but we are as invested in the outcome as if we were. We share this investment with the other members of the audience. We share the experience, even though we each have a different seat in the stands.
Plays like "The Zoo Story" and "Ghost of the Tree" give watchers ground to start a discussion (internally or out loud). They stay with you - undefined, truthful, passionate, painful but cathartic.