It’s one of the biggest design teams we’ve ever assembled for a drama (well, that goes for the category of musical too — whichever way you look at it, OUR CLASS employs more members of a creative team than any production in Theater J history). We’ve got a sound/composition/and musicology contingent of three brilliant artists; a team of two hugely dedicated fight and movement choreographers; a distinguished lighting team (why stop at one when you can have a partnership?); and brilliant contributions from sets, costumes, properties; more stage management than you can stuff in a phone booth (then again, phone booth? Do we have any left in DC?) – but you get the point. This searing drama is actually a great big theatrical enterprise and talented designers have been pouring their talent into this production and our extraordinary ensemble has been drinking up the input and giving back to us a breakthrough production that’s offering stand-out performances from each member of the ten person cast.
Last night we went public with the show; our first preview. Three hours and five minutes later, the audience leapt to their feet and each member of the ensemble took an individual bow to thunderous applause. The company bow at the end, hands clasped high together, bespoke a gratefulness and a relief that all the intense dedication may indeed be paying off in a production that’s going to be unforgettable.
Despite the epic dimensions and estimable length of the show, an audience of about 75 stayed for a 20+ minute discussion at the end. Audience members spoke of appreciating the play’s complexity; the nuanced, highly individualized characterizations. “How was it,” I wound up asking, “that you could come to care about figures in the play responsible for such brutal acts?”
“Because it was revealed in progression,” one astute member of the audience responded. “We got to know them year by year; got to see how small conflicts and set-backs swelled into large resentments. And then later, after the violence, those same characters had to live with their mis-deeds; they were haunted by what they did; and what they denied.”
Okay I’m flowering that up a bit, at the end. But the responses were extraordinary. Even the critical ones. “Relentless.” “The play kind of bowled me over.” “I was overwhelmed.” One woman came up to me after the talk-back and said she was too afraid to speak during the discussion, but that she thought the play was too long. She too felt run over. Our security guard reported that one man left at intermission saying the play “was too violent.” So I’m doing due diligence. Still, the number of people who were riveted, powerfully engaged, and moved was what dominated the feedback session.
All in all, there’s a discussion underway. There’s a play to be reckoned with. We welcome your feedback. Here, or in the postings to come. Next posting, we’ll share the extraordinary line-up of speakers we’ll be offering — FREE — both before and after many of the performances.