Friday, April 18, 2008

The Times They are A 'Changing

Here's Jeff selling heartdogs at intermission of Heart-A-Rama '08. For Jeff and a few others, this is a totally new experience. He has fallen into place nicely, volunteering to take on jobs before the show and during intermission in addition to his roles on stage. For our new cast and crew, this is all fresh, and their perception is that this is just the way things are.

Heart-A-Rama spent the majority of its 38 year lifespan at Jacks 'R' Better, and now we have moved to Two Rivers. Fear of change is natural, and one result of our move to Two Rivers is that we must alter some habits, and work to establish new traditions. Last week, I watched groups struggling to recreate comfort zones from our past. Part of the draw of this show for the cast and crew is the reunion with those who have become task companions over the years. At Jack's, the make-up people had their table where they played cards and board games while waiting to handle quick make-up and hair changes. There was the round table where tickets and money were counted and sorted throughout the night. It was the backstage drop-in table, and the faces and conversations rotated as cast, crew, family and friends stopped by to chat. The 7 o'clock club met every night at the bar for a ceremonial pre-show shot of something, and the bar was also a traditional gathering spot for many cast members.
Change is so very complex. It marks both an end an a beginning, setting up an emotional conflict. The way I see it, change puts us in step with truth, since everything changes. Most changes are so subtle and incremental that we don't notice. They are processes, rather than events. Not so for our cast. Last year we were all together at Jack's, with the stability of 36 years to rest upon. Suddenly, we asked the cast to switch gears and perform in an unfamiliar venue, knowing full well there would be no ticket home.

The good news...the wonderful that we all did well. The transition was smooth, and by the second night, the community house felt like home. The psychology of change has been examined by just about every philosopher, psychologist, writer and artist imaginable. My long time impression of Andy Warhol was that his avant-garde persona made him nearly impossible to understand. I have been doing some reading about him, and discovered that the simplicity of his work reflected the clarity with which he expressed himself. In commenting about his approach to art, he questioned "Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?" That's sort of what we did. When you shake it all out, was moving to Two Rivers so dramatic or traumatic? Didn't we just shake ourselves around a little, point ourselves north and end up with essentially the same show? Once we all learned that the move was in no way counterproductive, and the build up anxiety dissipated, the result was a frenzy of energy that exploded on stage. It was great fun to watch it all happen!

David Bowie sang about ch-ch-ch changes; so did Bob Dylan and Donavan. They celebrated and encouraged change. And, we can't forget that snappy little tune from "Grease" - "Magic Changes." The changes have indeed been magic for Heart-A-Rama. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief, look forward to four more nights of HAR '08, and then head on to 2009, when we will continue to flourish and change, and build upon a tradition of goodwill and good cheer.