A typical play rehearsal at UW Tacoma usually begins with everyone waiting to be let into the studio by the director, Marilyn Bennett. Greetings are exchanged and the room is set with props. Afterwards, Bennett lays out the agenda for the night, offering dollops of encouragement to each member of the production. It’s a quiet process removed from the spectacle; quite different than seeing the finished result after weeks of practice. There is a certain appreciation that can be achieved by witnessing the meticulousness of the craft. As such, I believe I’m in for a treat when I attend the Friday, Nov. 17 premiere showing of “365 Days/365 Plays” by Suzan-Lori Parks. I recommend you also attend the show, even if you haven’t had a chance to peek behind the curtain — I have and I dug what I saw.
“365 Days/365 Plays” was written by Parks in 2002; she wrote a play every day for a year (as the title suggests). By Nov. 2006, over 700 theatre groups performed each play across 15 cities. UWT’s collaboration with Bennett’s local Toy Boat Theatre company will tackle 30 of Parks’ short plays with an integrated cast of students, UW alumni and community actors. They will cover a wide range of ideas and topics: relationships, politics, spirits, military, jaywalking (apparently) and so much more!
If that sounds a little academic to you, it’s meant to be. A German playwright named Bertolt Brecht had the idea that theater audiences should be emotionally detached from the performances so as to better reflect on its message. This is why “play acting” is often more exaggerated compared to “film acting;” but trust me, it requires just as much skill. 30 different bites of philosophy may seem like a tough swallow at first, but once again I cite the other side of the black studio curtain that was thrown open for me.
Like watching anyone do anything for an extended period of time, there is as much of a chance of me growing bored during the hour-long prep for rehearsals as there is of an audience checking their watch during a play. The difference between edge-of-your-seat fun and your eyes glazing over will always come down to the energy brought by the cast and crew. This production has it in spades.
For an hour, the cast had to memorize which direction they would walk off after their play was finished. I would’ve put my own head through the concrete after five minutes, so seeing that there was little complaint from everyone else actually made watching such tedious work entertaining in its own way. I saw the director, Bennett — an insanely competent multi-tasker, coordinator and master of the art of patience — pay attention to every detail, working with others and taking advice from the managers. I saw actors, actresses and those hardworking souls in the back room step lively to instruction. During one particular warm-up, the cast would wrap their hands together and chant “Energy, energy, energy; yes!”
If you’d like a chance to learn about something and still have a blast, I urge you to visit “365 Days/365 Plays” during its run from Nov 16–19. It’s only $10 a ticket, and it’s free for students with their student ID card! Come satiate your dramatic appetites! You can bet you’ll find me near the first row.