Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pure Delight (Jennie)

We are now one week into our rehearsal process.  It has been a full and productive week, the highlights of which, for me, include:
  • Introductions on Neftali’s first day of rehearsal, when Emily and I stumbled through stating our name, hometown, and favorite food in Spanish as well as English.
  • The day that everyone participated in warm-ups: three actors, one stage manager, one director, and a sound designer.  We had a pretty functional game of “yes” going . . . (my perennial favorite).
  • Flora Bliss, prompted by her mom, reading the role of Hannah at our first read-thru and sharing the scene with her older sister Emma.  That was some sweetness.
  • Our first stab at staging the cow chase.  Need I say more?
  • Teaching the whole company our gesture sequences for “transplanting” and “harvesting chard”.  
Concurrent with the joy and richness of rehearsals, I am still grappling with a fair amount of the administrative headache required to see this project through to production.  I received a call this morning from Amy Anderson of The Forecaster, a local newspaper that serves the greater Portland area, and it was a well-timed call.  Amy is a good reporter, she asks good questions, and the interview provided me with an almost therapeutic opportunity to re-connect with the central lifeline of this project.  Questions like: “Can you describe what you’ve learned?” and “What has been most rewarding?” whisk me away from the day-to-day particulars and demand that I invest in a little perspective.  Beyond simply remembering the events of the project for myself, it is the requirement that I articulate their meaning to another breathing person that rejoins me with the gratitude and joy of making work I believe in.

What has been most rewarding?  Well, the relationships.  The long and complex process of building relationships is both challenging and creatively fruitful for me.  I can remember the first time that Penny introduced me to Pee Wee and Neftali and that she then sent me out into the fields to harvest cucumbers with them.  I remember how nervous and shy I was, how little Spanish I could muster, and the fact that I had never in my life seen a cucumber plant.  I can remember hesitantly waving to them every time I visited the farm stand and I remember that day when they waved to me first.  I remember all of the instruction I’ve received, all of the conversations with Tali through which I learned his musical tastes, and the day when I didn’t need to be told what to do in a row of beans.  Now, added to my memory bank is the day that Tali first read the role of Omar at our second draft reading, the day of his first rehearsal when we all introduced ourselves in Spanish and English, and the day when I taught him how to harvest chard in the context of a theatrical transition:

Ultimately, I appreciate that this project has taken its time, that it celebrates complexity, and that it doesn’t foster time spent on easy roads.  I appreciate that it challenges me to seek creative and educational partnerships with people I might never otherwise even meet, and that it allows me to make something directly out of information and experiences that are brand new to me.  And it is unspeakably fun.  For heaven’s sake, last week I staged a cow chase.  Of all things, a cow chase!  I found myself instructing actors: “If you run at her this way, she’s probably going to go that way.”  “Never get between the cow and the fence!”  Now that is just pure delight.

And onward we march . . .