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I Know I'm a River but Dammit if I Know Whether I’m Coming or Going

June 8, 2016 / Theater Games, Breakdowns and an Examination of a Life in the Theater


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On Monday June 6th, a group of twenty-five young artists - actors, musicians, singers, dancers, directors, playwrights and dramaturgs - arrived at the Hangar Theatre. Over the course of the week, it has been the responsibility of the Drama League Directors to hold a series of ensemble classes that takes these twenty-five individuals and transforms them into…(magic swirling fairy sounds) The Lab Company.

 

And bitches. You know what that means.

THEATER GAMES.

 

***note: I traditionally hate theater games and explode into a ball of white-hot rage when asked to participate in one.***

 

But here’s the thing.

One of my co-directors, Yavor Kostov, is the reigning king of the theater game. He has theater games that are joyous. Theater games that are profound. Theater games that do not make me explode into a ball of white-hot rage. And a game called “Are you a river or are you an ocean” that recently blew my brain in two.

 

The game is simple.

A question is posed to the room…”are you a river or are you an ocean?”

 

You can’t abstain. 

You can’t qualify the answer.

And you must pick what you ARE not what you like.

 

Everyone who is a river goes to one side of the room.

Everyone who is an ocean goes to the other side of the room.

 

Easy right?

Ok then, let’s play.

 

It starts like this.

“Are you a river or are you an ocean?” (River)

“Are you silver or are you gold?” (Gold)

“Are you history or are you geography?” (History)

 

AND THEN

 

“Are you arrival or are you departure?” (!!@*&#*@*&^$*#******* system failure)

At this point I fell to my knees, looked at the heavens and more or less screamed “STELLLLA!”

 

***note: This was while we were planning the class, not when we were actually in front of kiddos. Don’t worry Drama League, I promise I’m an adult who can be trusted with the education and well being of a group of young artists.***

 

Then I got very stubborn and refused to answer the question.

Then I grew incensed and asked Yavor why god WHY he would make me choose between such impossible and vital opposites.

Then I remembered that we were playing a theater game and calmed the fuck down.

Then I went back to my room and said to myself, hey Treat, why is “are you arrival or are you departure” such a profound and terrifying question?

 

HERE. IS. WHY.

 

When the thing you do professionally is make theater, you are always, ALWAYS, arriving or departing.

 

It’s either…

 

Here’s your new home.

Here’s your new family.

Here’s your new project.

Here’s your new schedule.

Here’s your new safe space.

 

Or.

 

Say bye to this home.

Say bye to this family.

Say bye to this project.

Say bye to this schedule.

Say bye to this safe space.

 

Rinse and repeat.

Every eight weeks.

For as long as you both shall live.

(Marriage vows between theater and theater artist)

 

And here’s the thing y’all: That is so, very hard. It starts to blur the very boundaries of self. It makes you lose track of time and space. It makes you forget who your family is and who’s just visiting your life. It makes you question whether that distinction even matters. (I’m not sure it does?!)

 

Cause you see, I am always deeply close to a group of people.

It’s just that the group of people happens to change every two months.

Which is madness.

 

Here’s another thing that happens.

 

When I move into company housing, I don’t know where I am when I open my eyes in the morning. I know where I am two seconds later, but in that first moment of consciousness, I’m lost. Eventually, I learn to recognize the ceiling or window or desk that says --> YOU ARE HERE. And for a week or two, I know where I am. But then the show opens. And then I move. And then I’m lost again.

 

There’s something acutely beautiful about this constant cycle of arrival and departure among the people and places in my life.

 

But I’m also not sure that I want to stay in this cycle forever.

 

Being at the Hangar and seeing what a theater might do when it’s rooted in place and community has me dreaming of a middle step.

 

Arrival --> Unknown --> Departure

 

I think I might like to build a life around that middle step.

I wonder if that is something at all compatible with making theater.

I also wonder if upon standing still, I would wish to once more be either arriving or departing.

 

For now, all I can say is that I am all caps crash course ARRIVING at the Hangar Theatre with a group of artists who I’m incredibly excited to create and talk and cook and love and drink with.

 

Additionally, I am doing my best not to preemptively mourn leaving them (one of my less productive habits.)

 

AND FINALLY

 

I kindly refuse to answer the question “are you arrival or are you departure.”

It is cruel, absurd and impossible.

I am both. And I am neither. All at once.

 

x

Chloe Treat

 

p.s.

The next question Yavor asked was “are you time or are you space?”

Please note that the formal moral of this blog post is that theater games are only there to incite torment and rage. 

But also, I went to theater school so I know that I am time, and that’s pretty fucking beautiful.

Amen.

 

 



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