As I entered into this Independent Study of Queer Persons of Color Critiques in an Ethical Producing process I was deeply intrigued and curious about what this experience would be. I wondered what practices and from where would we draw from as ethical producing practices or resources, established or otherwise, and how to best develop, support and manage a staged reading of play written featuring persons of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Knowing that it would be unlike anything I had encountered before, I felt a combination of trepidation and excitement, to be sure, I definitely had my apprehensions. Notably, what if anything would I have to bring as relational to this project as a white, pan sexual female, with limited experience in staging a play reading or being able to present full-fledged theater performance with actors. It felt important to deeply listen, and remain open to the varying interpretations, situations and individual stories present at any moment in the room. There were some challenging themes written in this play we were going to stage as this is a piece of writing that features and highlights a community, in past and present times, of queer, transgendered and QPOC individual elements and stories. I felt it was important to approach this work with an open heart and compassionate sensitivity the the unknown, that was all I knew how to do and that I was not going to be alone when and if there were questions, concerns and challenges that we had to work through.
And then there was the play itself, which to me initially on paper, read as somewhat shallow and potentially disconnected. As I expect with most plays, they are meant to be in active verbal representation, alive on the stage. In this work, both time periods and narrative cohesion switched at times which made it seem to be almost without reason or logic. But, once we had with our characters in the room, interacting together, the humor, nuance and reality began to show. I feel this was mainly because of the brilliance, dedication and commitment given by our beautifully diverse and supremely talented cast and my director, Zeynep. They rescued my hope over and over again, especially in that we could make sense of it both for ourselves and for our audience. There are multiple layers of important, untold and fascinating stories not given a place in the wider circles of creative expression, cultural communications, performance, and acceptable content outside what sells as the norm or the standard. But in this journey with this play, we had a taste of what that can be like.
I know that enjoyed the responsibility of success, in part only, for this final project. And, if given a second time to try again, I would have preferred to have a larger number of persons able to be with us, especially in the areas of assisting in the responsibilities, that Zeynep and I had to manage. The commitment level at times was quite involving and included various tasks that, were more time consuming than I had predicted. Specifically, I think I could have managed my ongoing awareness of personal scarcity, in learning to actively speak up, to ask for what is needed and, is a practice that I am working on continually in my professional life. I am also aware of my shortcomings, from my absence for some of the rehearsal process, and in clearly communicating my boundaries. In the end, the cost was my deep level of fatigue and emotional uncertainty. However, the shared joy of watching the actors develop, and experiencing an opportunity for investigation, understanding, and growth were absolutely worth the effort.
I have tried to reveal most of my reflections on this journey, it has been challenging and quite rewarding and I believe we worked very well together, especially that we all collectively were coming to this project with both time and availability constraints. It was a deep pleasure to be assisting Zeynep in some of the directing, development of actors and character work, in providing feedback during and after rehearsals and, building cohesive scene transitions. I also worked with Z and Ruthie for sourcing and making some of our props, costumes, accessories and, in organizing the continuity for scene and actor transitions. In general, I felt it was important that my focus be as present and available for numerous essential preparations for the cast and production components leading up to and on performance day. All of which built up to a heavily involved scenario which I had not imagined a stage reading process would involve. In conclusion, I personally feel that this staged reading was a successful journey of discovery, awareness and growth for our actors. I believe that it was a success also for the team that worked on it, for the playwright, and our audience because of the positive responses I witnessed from friends, colleagues and mentors.