Sunday night after the last Studio Tisch performance of We Outran the Sun, we took down the canvas and projector, removed gels from the lights, locked up the piano and moved it out of the theater and into a small rehearsal room. I can now say that I’ve done a one person show, even if the character I played was myself. Though it blurred the line between concert and theater, I suppose other characters did share the stage with me through the projections and music. The performances went really well, a bit daunting but also thrilling. Having something come to life from your imagination is an incredible experience, and to borrow a phrase from my friend Krista Hoeppner, I think it was worth seeing (words I try not to use lightly). The first show felt a bit like what I imagine skydiving to be: after much preparation, you force yourself out of the plane and try to enjoy the scenery. As the nights progressed I worried less and less about whether the parachute was going to open.
(With a little editing, looking back at the 3 year old version of myself)
I went out for a drink with my friends Gabe Ebert and Lena Hart after the first performance. We were all in a production of Much Ado About Nothing a few summers ago at Chautauqua. Gabe and I also played a lot of music together that summer, including a medley of the Death Cab for Cutie song I included in my Universe Project and the Sufjan Stevens song “Chicago,” which we played at Bratton Late Night. Gabe recently understudied the role of Ken in Red, the drama about Mark Rothko which won the Tony for Best Play this year, and he also is a fantastic guitarist. We talked about what it takes to create and produce your own work, how it involves equal parts inspiration and stubbornness. To a certain extent, in both art and life, sometimes you have to will something into being. You work and you create, and through a sheer force of will it can become real.
Strangely, everything is back to normal here in New York. After a few incredibly busy months and a weekend of surreal performances, I can cross off an item from my list of things to do before I’m 30: seeing something I’ve written get produced. I’ll be recording a Comparative Religion textbook for the next two weeks or so, and then will be flying home to spend time with my family in northern Michigan at Arcadia (where I worked summers in college with Dave Beck). From Michigan, I’ll fly directly to North Carolina. I’m returning to Triad Stage in Greensboro, where this fall I’m playing Tom in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Not only is it a theater I love to work at, but it’s also one of those classic roles I’ve always wanted to play. I’ll “pack up my life in box” just like in the lyrics to the portrait of Eva and Leo, and spend two months working on that beautiful play. I’ll also have central air conditioning in August, which is not to be underestimated.
(Under the GW Bridge before taking promotional photos ©2010 Michael Heck)
A few people have asked me if I’ll continue blogging. I hadn’t planned to; the idea behind the blog was to promote and document this particular project. It’s also much more work than I imagined, a bit like writing a short story every day. I may return to it in a more intermittent fashion, adapting it into a personal blog, but for now I’m planning to take something of a break. I do also think the project will have a continued life beyond this initial workshop production. Mike filmed the Saturday performance, both a static shot from the back of the theater and also additional footage on his handheld HD camera. When we get an edit of the performance, I plan to use the DVD to submit the project to different theaters and also for particular grants. Since the project is mobile, I can easily perform it when I travel to theaters out of town as well. I’m not quite finished trying to outrun the sun.
Many, many thanks to everyone who has followed along, from casual readers to those of you who signed up to get the posts as emails. I really meant it when I said that you’ve been just as much a part of the process (and intent) of the project as those who were able to come to a performance this past weekend. I also want to thank Michael Heck, my friend and collaborator, without whom I could not have created this piece, at least not in its current incarnation. My hope is that We Outran the Sun made people reflect a bit about their own friendships and relationships, and also about the fact that it is possible to will something into being, to create something where there once was nothing, to outrun the sun.
(Artwork by Dave Beck, from the original photograph by Michael Heck ©2010)
We outran the sun / Found ourselves where we’d begun
We are still the same / And yet somehow more ourselves
And the sun, it slowly catches up with me