Theater/Arts

Holding a Mirror Up to Nature

ARCHIVED June 6, 2011

Going to the theater is nothing like going to the movies, but other than the obvious, it is often difficult to explain why. Today, I might try. On Sunday afternoon I went to see a Poetic Theater Productions piece called GOLIATH, which is being presented as part of the Planet Connections Festival. The reason I went was to offer mutual support to the show’s director, Alex Mallory, who is one of the first early adopters of Theater Connects. I had never met Alex in person, nor seen any of her work, so I was interested and excited to see what this would become.

Sunday was a theatrical experience; one I am not likely to forget anytime soon. My experience of GOLIATH reminded me in full force the power of theater in certain circumstances and the range of experiences had by each individual audience member. Now, sometimes theater (and art in general) is just bad and the whole audience is bored and in pain; nothing is perfect, it happens. To be fair, I was a little bit afraid of what would happen here, poetry has a slightly more exponential ability to be dull when it is bad. Just like listening to actors read Shakespeare who also have no idea what they are actually talking about, which leaves you confused, and yes bored.

But Sunday was not one of those days, because for me, Megan Janel Zimmer, GOLIATH was a magical transcending powerful experience. If I must admit, I was actually in tears about 10 minutes into the play, all the while thinking to myself….”seriously Megan? It just started? And your already a basket case? What?!?” It was true. [So lucky for all of you there are still 4 more performances].

Now back on topic, the reason that this show affected me so much was that it held a very harsh, accurate and well-acted mirror up to the experiences of my own life and lives of those closest to me. I saw my mother, I saw my brother, I saw my father and I even saw me. The power of the theater is that you are not voyeuristically watching someone in another world experience a story (like in the movies), but you are GOING through that experience with that other human being who standing anywhere from 12 inches to 50 ft in front of you and unless you are made of stone it affects you the same way everything that happens to you or the people around you does on a daily basis. I cannot expect that every audience member had the same experience that I did, how could they? But the fact that a mirror was held up to nature, a mere 6 ft from my chair, had me praying I did not look like a raccoon when the lights came up.

I do not write reviews, but suffice it to say, GOLIATH was beautiful. The characters were real, while speaking in a poetic ensemble that made everything they said, more powerful. The set is also made of 3 milk crates and some paper. In the discussion period afterward, I had my turn to speak and the first thing that I said was “All I keep thinking is ‘I wish I could bring my family to see this.’ Because the words spoken by “the mother”, were quite close to verbatim the words my mother also said when her son was shipped off to war and the words that weren’t, were even more powerful because I knew in my heart that those were the things she was thinking.” (I believe this is the first time I cried) My father never spoke the way this “father” did, but he certainly expected my brother to grow up, man up and shed all weakness, insanely proud of him when he enlisted. Anyway, I could go on and on, but don’t have the space, nor do I want to give away the story.

Theater holds a mirror up to nature. When it does so for you, it is one of the most powerful things you can ever hope to experience. We are not all the same, but a mirror reflecting back at one, is a portal for the other.

Go see GOLIATH

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Equal Opportunity Excitement = Success

ARCHIVED March 25, 2011

The past two evenings were pretty exciting. In the very academicy – businessy kind of way! But also in the super rewarding and personally educational way as well. Theater Connects went on the road to Columbia University and New York University, back to back.

Last night Theater Connects was an invited employer to the Columbia University Media Networking Night. Other than the fact that my name was spelled incorrectly on my name tag, which was partially my own darn fault, it was pretty good! A little bit insane, as we (companies) were separated by colors and tables with large banner signs were placed throughout the large hall of Low Library. I was in the Online and New Media group, also the Entertainment Group. I’d say for the first 30 minutes, employers were talking amongst themselves…because we couldn’t really see any students (people without nametags) anywhere….but lo and behold within the next half hour, movement was barely possible!! The students had these nice little guidebooks to tell them what companies were supposed to be in which sections, so they would come and find you.

Unfortunately, I did not have a whole lot to offer most of the students who came my way….apparently everyone is a writer nowadays. They all asked me about writing for Theater Connects….but I had to tell them that pretty much everything on the site is user generated content. However, I met two great videographers who I may use in the very near future and 2-3 students who actually fit my intern profile. By the way, my intern profile is simply this: Excited, Intelligent, Awesome. If you fit those categories, I could probably use you. If you are excited about the start-up environment and about Theater Connects…how could I not?? Some days….it feels like those are the only two skills that I personally possess!! It’s a roller coaster of a business and as fellow female founder recently told me: “Everyday you pretty much realize how stupid you are.” God I love this business!! Figuring out how stupid you are gives you an open opportunity to learn.

Which is a nice segway into this evening which was entirely different, as I sat on a panel with 5 other professionals in the Cultural and Performing Arts at NYU. This time there was a big long table separating us from the students and grads, there were microphones and name placards like you are sitting in congress. The students sat at tables…which was nice as they were serving food and it is always awkward to try and eat in your lap. Everyone did an intro and I had to come right after the guy with the PowerPoint and the girl with the puppet. Not kidding. Therefore I prefaced my 7 minutes to speak with the fact that I was definitely going to be dull in comparison!! I gave a bit of advice on ‘Not waiting to be chosen, but choosing yourself”, how to overcome your internal fear that is holding you back and ‘if you’re not being rejected on a daily basis, you’re goals aren’t ambitious enough.’ But…..segway to the audience question period  and I was thrilled when someone actually directed a question at me! It was like ‘what, who?’ ‘really?’—my experience of the night was again with writers…but this time it was the kind of writer I understood and actually stood a chance at helping in anyway: The Playwright.

What was amazing to me at the end when speaking with another playwright, who was asking my advice on what to do after graduation and how to ‘get her career in gear’ (as the seminar was called). And I honestly had to sit there and say “you know what? It kind of sucks.” There is really nothing full-proof or proven to tell a playwright to go do to get their work noticed…I mean there are a few…but even then the numbers aren’t very good.

So with the students, it totally came around to Theater Connects…the reason I started the project in the first place. To give these new grads and talented artists ACTUAL ANSWERS.  TO GIVE THEM A RESOURCE, A PATH, A PLACE TO ‘POUND PAVEMENT’ AND MAKE THEIR OWN RESULTS.  The best piece of advice I gave her was to go out and find a director who loves your work. Yes, a producer will be the one to book a venue and get you a team and a production, but a director can help you work on the script. A playwright and director can easily put up a reading together. So 1) don’t jump ahead of yourself. really work on your script until you can actually be confident it is ready for performance and 2) the director will be just as excited as you!! they will be thrilled to have found a playwright whose work they love!! It is equal opportunity jazzed. A shared passion and excitement could really take you both places.

How can she find said director? No actual answer there. But before next year, I will be able to tell her exactly how to find the director, how to submit her work and even what kind of director she should be seeking. I could give out strategy and resources and educational options.

THAT IS WHAT THEATER CONNECTS IS ALL ABOUT.

Give the next generation some REAL answers about why and how to make it in the theater world. A place to go, a resource to use and people to learn from!

I’M JAZZED. LET’S DO THIS.

MJZ