Trying To Be Honest

Guts, grit and no shit.

That’s something I read a long time ago. It was about theater. And what it meant to me was being honest when performing a play. So what does that mean? Well, I think it means being truthful on stage when telling a story.

Lori Holm in rehearsal for The Guys - photo by John Congram

So many times as actors or directors, there is a temptation to help the play. Or to be too cute or clever as my father used to say. The real trick to all of this is opening up to the words the playwright has written and getting out of our own way.

It sounds easy. It isn’t.

I had a conversation tonight with George Kokines. He’s the artist who created the “September 11” art installation that will be on display during our production run of The Guys, Sept 3-5. There was an excellent story in the Daily Herald today about his work.

We were talking about being honest when performing and creating art. And what he said to me was simple and contained volumes. “That is so hard to do – be honest,” he said.

The struggle in creating art, whether it be theater, music, or a painting is that you work your ass off to make something memorable that will affect your audience. In theater this is such a challenge. People are not wired the way they were 50, 20, even 10, years ago. They grow impatient. They’re looking for the special effects.  Sure I’m generalizing a bit. But a bad movie is easier to sit through than bad theater. And that’s what we’re constantly trying to avoid.

So here we are, producing The Guys. This is one tough piece of work. Two actors. Practically no set. And a hard story to tell. We’ve been working on the play since July. Our actors, Lori Holm and Jim Pierce have been working hard to be true to the play, respect the story it tells, and put on a great show. No small task.

But even with all this struggle – the energy that comes from creating, working, and rehearsing this play is exciting. Anne Nelson has written a powerful piece of theater that sticks to the facts and doesn’t embellish for the sake of theatrical effect. She is a journalist trying to tell a story truthfully.

Now when you couple that with George’s artwork, it makes for one interesting evening. What this will mean having his artwork on display during the performance remains to be seen, but fortunately, he was up to the idea of attempting this collaboration. We are grateful.

The run up to opening night is always a thrill. Sure, it can be terrifying. Some nights you can’t sleep. You doubt yourself. Wonder if you made the right choices. But as I told the actors the other night at rehearsal – “at least that’s when you know you’re alive.”

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