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It takes a village.

July 10, 2013 / by Lian Walden


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I am in the midst of a most intense month of theatre-making. Two weeks ago, I entered rehearsals for my Wedge show, Artichoke Hearts: A Fabulous Destiny, an original stage adaptation of the French film Amelie. (More on the production later.) We rehearsed intensively for a week, Monday through Saturday, devising each moment with meticulous care, rewriting and cutting down the script from 79 cinematic scenes to 30 pages / 45 minutes of theatrical action. Then on Sunday, we put the production on the back-burner and radically switched gears to With Two Wings, the KIDDSTUFF show I am directing featuring the same cast. We spent the next week in rehearsals and went straight into tech for W2W. The show goes into previews on Thursday, opens on Friday, closes on Saturday, and on Monday we go straight into tech for Artichoke Hearts. IT’S INSANE. In some ways it’s a blessing, in other ways it’s a curse. More on that later as well.

What I really want to blog about tonight is the concept of unconventional matrimony. Jamila and I have entered into an implicit civil union. We have fully embraced our roles as one another’s wives. When she was in tech for Bodies, I made sure she was fed. Now that I’m walking the tightrope, she’s got my back in a big way. I haven’t gone to the grocery store in weeks, but I always have food in the fridge - she even knows what brand of veggie burgers to buy and surprises me with chocolate after a rough day of rehearsal. She knows when to whip out the wine and when to make me stop working and go to sleep (the other night, she actually sat next to me on the couch and stared at me aggressively until I closed my computer and went upstairs).

Our domestic bliss has reinforced the fact that having a support system sets you up for success.

Last week, morale was particularly low among my cast. The Academy actors’ schedule is very intense, and the long hours and enormous workload was starting to wear on them, and it was affecting my rehearsal process. Something had to be done. I had to revitalize my cast. I spent all evening brainstorming and decided I would take them on a nature walk during rehearsal the next day. W2W takes place in the forest, so I could justify the time outside as creative research! I also wanted to radically transform the ambiance in the rehearsal room. The glaring lights in the black box have only two settings: ON and OFF. So I would bring in my bedside lamp to provide mood lighting while I lead the actors through a relaxation exercise. I also wanted to fill the room with flowers (nature, helloOoOo!) and to surprise the cast and crew with breakfast.

BUT…

I didn’t have access to a car. I had significant prep-work to do for rehearsal the next day. And I was utterly exhausted. Jamila came home at around 10:45p.m. and I shared my dreams and dilemma with her. Then I went upstairs to pee. When I came downstairs, she was gone. ??? Bewildered, I went across the hall and told Will about Jamila’s disappearance. “That girl’s gone rogue!” we determined. I stayed at Will’s to finish my prep work, and when I returned to Jamila and my apartment an hour later, there were fresh flowers and a bag of groceries waiting for me, with the note in the picture.

Jamila had snuck out to the grocery store to run the errand for me. She knew that I was in no condition to go myself, but that I wouldn’t have accepted her offer to go by herself.

!!!!!! BEST WIFE EVER !!!!!!!

The door to her room was shut and I could hear that she was on the phone, so I ran across the hall to Will and showed him the note. We both teared up. “Wow. That Jamila really pulled through.”

The magic worked. My cast perked up big time, we had a great time on our nature walk (which actually led to some big discoveries about the play!), and the energy in the room was greatly improved. Rehearsals have been both loads of fun and super productive since.

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It truly does take a village. And a bit of sunshine.



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