Evan Johnson updates us on his magnum opus as it wends its way towards opening night!
We are deep into rehearsals at this point, the script is no longer in my hands (thank god) and I survived the first “stumble-through”. PANSY opens 2 weeks from today (holy shi%t!). I think I’m holding it together fairly well, considering the enormous amount of weight on my shoulders. I admit at times the pressure feels immense and I am constantly stepping back and pinching myself, this whole experience has been an incredible ride and I can hardly believe that it’s actually happening. My Director, Ben Randle, for three years now has seen me at my best and at my worst; I am so thankful we’ve had time to really let down our guards and be real with one another. As much as the weight of this show and pulling off this crazy split-character/doppelganger thing falls on me and my performance, it’s also Ben’s cross to bear and the shared sense of responsibility is comforting in those moments of solo(theatre) blues.
Costume changes (!) have been incorporated into the scene transitions for me to get the flow down. Our props and costumes are mostly complete and they look fabulous thanks to designer Eli Magid. The transitions between the two character’s worlds, which I admit I was nervous about, are being greatly enhanced (not just disguised) thanks to Teddy Hulsker, our talented Sound Designer, who is editing sound live in the room with us. His presence at rehearsals has been really wonderful.
Since my last post, we’ve shot two video segments with our badass Video Artist Zack Kasten and we’re awaiting the final versions. I am so glad we shot those early because there were a lot of details to work out, including coordinating background talent and locations which was more stressful than anticipated. Luckily, thanks to my favorite San Francisco nightspot, The Stud Bar really made it possible to get what we needed to get and the actual shooting process went incredibly smooth once we started rolling. Mike, the owner of the bar, even entertained us with his stories of moving to the city- another wide-eyed homosexual youth flying to Neverland story- which I loved.
Posters and postcards have been printed (designed by my patient and foxy boyfriend, Ernesto Sopprani) and they are being distributed by the theatre (so thankful for that!) and yesterday I was interviewed for an upcoming story the SF Chronicle is writing on me and our process of making PANSY! I am so thrilled that we’ll have some press prior to opening weekend. Tickets are on sale and I’ve been really trying to encourage people to reserve seats early, the direct ticket link is: http://click4tix.com/showdates.php?rtt=1&domain=NCTC&s_id=NCTCPANSY
I was so delighted to hear that since PANSY is technically a “Special Event” and The Emerging Artists Program is underwritten by NCTC Producer’s Club, The San Francisco Foundation, Grants for the Arts and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation…that means PANSY tickets are cheap! I was worried that half my potential audience wouldn’t come because of ticket cost..but now there’s no excuse! 😉 Ten dollar tickets! Holler!
My main concerns right now are understandably related to my own performance. Script and production details aside, I’m running up against my old hat “habits” as an actor and battling with my “writer-self” that wants to have such-and-such effect on the audience and deliver this-or-that meaning. It’s important that these characters exist in real time and space and that I fully inhabit their specific characteristics. Some things I’m realizing are that my “understanding” of these characters really needs to get chucked out the window. I can hold onto my ideas as a basis or foundation, which will inevitably inform my actions and choices as an actor..but I need to live in the and stay open and vulnerable to every beat and discovery. It cannot be a cerebral performance. This show demands a high level of attack in regards to the physicality and my energetic relationship to the space. It’s difficult because I often feel compelled to step back and see the piece as a whole and lump all the choices occurring all around me together..It can sometimes feel incredibly overwhelming and in those moments, like he has for years now, Ben brings me back to the task at hand. It’s clear he’s the “sensible one” in our collaborative relationship, often keeping my “what if’s” in check and grounding me, keeping us on track. At the same time, part of the joy of being an actor/creator of devised performance work are those big picture inspirations and we’ve been making adjustments to the rehearsal script by swapping out lines, adding sequences and incorporating new images entirely due to this all-hands-on-deck approach. In fact this approach was best illustrated three nights ago when Eli (aka drag performer Elijah Minelli), our Costume Designer, stepped in as a “Drag Consultant” and helped us plan and execute what will likely be one of the big highlights of the show, the moment when Peter Pansy performs his manifesto-like performance piece on the first night of Club Neverland.
Talking to Chad Jones from The SF Chronicle made me really think of this whole PANSY process and the adventure Ben and I have been on since June of 2010. Telling my story of moving to the city and all the experiences that brought me to this point in my life was really gratifying. I even got a little choked up thinking back on my first play ever produced, “California Here We Come: OR Put Your Brussel Sprouts Where Your Mouth Is” at 12 years old at The Poverty Playhouse melodrama house, back in Pollock Pines, CA. I wanted to make theatre that would provoke audiences to laugh and think and escape the everyday for as long as I can remember. I think PANSY will be a real conversation starter and I look forward to the face-to-face chats after the show. For now, with bubbling up nerves and waves of “holy shi%t! I got so much work to do!” I’m just trying to take Peter Pan’s flight instructions to heart and remember always to: Think happy thoughts.
I hope to see everyone there at the show! Next blog post will likely be opening night!!
With love and humble gratitude for following my journey,