Tuesday, June 14, 2011

...Seeing the Impossible Made Possible

Some of my favorite moments of live performance were seeing the impossible made possible. There is little else in the world that makes me happier to be alive.

Chris Korte. Wizard of Oz. Planet Ant Theatre. Hamtramck, Michigan. 2004 This was a new production of Wizard of Oz with a small ensemble/writer/director created script in a black box theatre that probably sat 45. The stage was set up like a runway with 2 rows of audience on either side. The entire show was fantastic, but there was one moment in particular. The Wicked Witch had come out with a giant garbage bag full of poppies and covered the stage. When Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion began to walk through the space they froze, all except for the Scarecrow (Korte) As he begins a monologue, Chris removed the straw from inside his costume and lay down on the floor. He began pushing himself through the space, kind of swimming, gathering flowers and shoving them down his plaid shirt as he swam. "Ok, he's collecting flowers." my brain thought, "Well, he can't get them all." This was a fact. He couldn't get them all. It was physically impossible. As Chris swam, he collected the flowers, every single one. The audience was rapt. When he prepared to stand up an audience member across from me noticed a single flower by his foot. I had seen it too. I'm sure about 60% of the audience had. We were all routing for that Scarecrow and the man covered the flower with his foot and slid it under his chair. Every poppy had disappeared. Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion awoke and continued their journey that was now that much more magical.

Brian Letscher. Bus Stop. The Purple Rose Theatre Company. 2005.  (This time I got to witness the impossible from onstage) Brian is a former football player and was very believably the golden boy/bull in a china shop cowboy Beau. His size was just surprising, especially on the small stage of PRTC. At one point Beau orders an impossibly large meal including a quart of milk. Every day, sometimes twice a day, Jean Lepard would put that food in front of him. He'd shovel some bites in then pick up the quart of milk and down the entire thing all at once. You could hear the audience gasp. It was really simple and really amazing.

The cast of ( ). UCB Theatre. Tonight. This is a 600 level class with 27 students and no structure. The show ended up being members of the class announcing something that they've actually always wanted to do, getting coached by another team member, and then attempting that feat. One dude tried (unsuccessfully) to do a back flip. (I have never been so terrified watching improv) Two guys got into a physical fight. Nicole Drespel (my team, Astronaut Union's coach) nearly made herself cry singing "Don't Rain on My Parade" All other 26 team members joined a woman as she danced sexily to Britney Spears. An audience member flew a fighter jet. A lesbian pushed the girl who outed her down a flight of human stairs. To end the show, the entire class lifted the back flip guy in his wheelchair (which was only needed for comedy's sake) helping him to complete a back flip. The FEAR was tangible in this show and the COURAGE and JOY were so immediate. It was a dozen impossibles made possible for the audience and for the individual performers.  Love love love.

Got an Impossible made possible story? I'd love to hear it.

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