DOMINIC RYAN: Back to school

Without really knowing what I was letting myself in for I signed up for Sean Daniels’ Cohort Club at Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Although new to MRT it was successful in his previous company.

Cohort members hail from anywhere, just as members of the community are from, well, the community. That part was clear enough. How *I* would channel this experience was less clear. I have greatly enjoyed the performances for these last several years, almost in spite of myself. I am a scientist. I work in pharmaceutical research. Of course that does not mean I have zero artistic appreciation but having one is not the same as growing one.

Growing, perhaps nurturing, such appreciation turns out not to be obvious. It is too easy for me to take in a performance and come away thinking I really enjoyed it without fully realizing why. In short, I was not fully appreciating what was offered.

The Lion left me initially with many questions. The questions were my literary equivalent to dissecting a research project except that they weren’t all that literary and in fact distracted from just letting the performance happen. Once it did I came to a different understanding. Mr. Scheuer pulled the audience through an intense personal experience. Some was cathartic but I have to imagine that some was difficult for him. Living those things once is usually enough. He manages to pull it off nightly and leave me wondering “how does he do that?” Yes, that’s the actor’s job, but to be so personal first to him and then to me leaves me initially impressed with his skill followed by the impact of the play. Then real education took place. I have learned more than just what that play offered. I realized that I have gone back to school.

Perhaps that is what the theatre is, going back to school without realizing it.

Today I listened to most of the first read of I and You. There was no stage, no props, only actors reading from the script at the table. In spite of those constraints I could see props around them, in fact, I could see the bedroom they were in. It was all conveyed with facial expressions, some gestures and phrasing that captured the characters so well.

You could not read by it yourself it and get that. The interplay between two people, live in front of you, was the teacher.

And so ended my second day.

Dominic Ryan, Cohort

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