The title of this piece is a declaration you find on the landing page of Sackerson Theater’s webpage. On 8/30/19, my wife and I were able to see their most recent work “A Brief Waltz in a Little Room.” I find I’m having a hard time trying to come up with the right superlatives. My most often used, “wonderful,” “awesome,” seem to only trivialize the experience. For the moment, the best word I can use to describe the experience, is “inspirational,” (but even that falls flat.) Unable to find the right explanation, let me just say that Larry West’s 19?? production of Don Delillo’s “The Day Room” was the last time I was so caught up watching a live performance in my home State.
The experience, as they describe it, is this, “Ten audience members enter a hallway lined with ten doors. Behind each door: a moment in the life of Walter Eyer—an immersive human portrait; an intimate, full-spectrum pop-up installation.”
With this performance event I think it would be fair to invert Sackerson’s (mission statement?) to read “Unconventional Works, New Spaces,” and for me, not knowing how bold I may be, “Willing Audiences.” I say that because as an audience member for this presentation, it may help if you leave behind preconceived ideas of what your relationship to the performance event will be.
The setting, the actors, (Oh my goodness what challenging roles!), the design and execution, the direction, the concept - almost the whole experience was, as I said, an inspiration.
I don’t want to impose my interpretation of the evening’s events, (I’ll edit this post when the production has closed and attempt it), but one of my favorite aspects of the evening is the meta experience, the larger context that I found between scenes.
There’s one word I’ve tried to avoid in describing this show - “theater.” That is the element I missed as an audience member. Certainly it was “theatrical,” all of the necessary elements were there, audience, location, performers, a story to be told. For me though, Theater is a communal experience. One of my dearest teachers, E. Reid Gilbert, always said that theatre is one of the things that binds a community together, because it allows us to breathe together. Perhaps it was intentional - but I often felt rushed, and I never had that moment when I could comfortably look around at the other people who were there with me and acknowledge that we had just shared a wonderfully human experience. It’s in those moments of mutual acknowledgement (acceptance? understanding?) that I usually find much of the theater event’s value and power.
That said - I’m so grateful to the people at Sackerson, The Umbrella Theater Company and the other sponsors for making this event happen. Change in theater rarely if ever happens in large, commercial companies. Growth and evolution bubbles up from those who have a vision, and the courage to share it.