Last night, I walked onstage, with a prop I didn't know the purpose of, to perform a play I knew nothing about. Cheryl Kimmi, Executive Director of the Kansas City Fringe Festival and producer of the play I was going to do, right then, handed me a sealed manila envelope with my name on it, and took a seat in the audience.
I was alone onstage, with a few props and a couple of set pieces that I hadn't known about before arriving, and didn't know how they were going to be used. I opened the envelope in front of the audience. I knew that it contained the script, and that's everything I knew about what was about to happen.
Moments before, I was alone in the Green Room backstage, pacing and drinking honey straight from the bear, trying to calm down, loosen up, and coat my scratchy throat. I felt very alone. Then I looked around at the show posters around the room. I saw a photo of my dear friend Marcie.Then another close friend, Parry. And sweet Amy. These are people who are very close to my heart, and one reason for that is that they've been part of some of the most moving artistic experiences of my life, all at Fringe. And there was a photo of Coleman, an actor I hold in high regard, who was in Red Death last year. And there was darling Karen, whom breast cancer took away from us a few years ago.
Suddenly, weirdly, and very sappily, I fully realized that I wasn't alone. Everyone in that theatre was rooting for me. Even people who couldn't come to the show, like my aunt, Jean, in Salt Lake City - they were rooting for me too.
So I opened the envelope, and started reading: "White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour."
In 1994, someone asked me how many plays I'd done. At that point, I counted around 200. Of course, I've done far more since then, than I'd done up until that point. I can't begin to count, but that was over 20 years ago.
The point is, I've done a lot of theatre. Add to that the number of plays I've seen and the number of scripts I've read... I contain a lot of theatre experience.
And White Rabbit Red Rabbit was an experience like none I've ever had before. Nothing even comes close.
I took a journey last night. I'd never seen this land, so I had to trust the playwright, Nassim, a man I've ever met, never heard of, in another country, to keep me safe. I also knew that Cheryl never would have asked me to go on the journey with him if it meant I'd be in danger.
Trust is a very fragile thing. We've all been badly burnt by putting our trust in the wrong people. But going into this play, I had to choose trust. For no good reason other than Nassim and Cheryl chose to trust me.
They chose to trust me. At least Cheryl knows me, and knows how I work. But Nassim doesn't. Still doesn't. It's a fair bet that he still hasn't heard my name, even though I somehow feel very close to him now.
I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to him. Even as a playwright myself, I've never felt this sort of responsibility to someone's work.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit, in my opinion, is a deeply moving piece of theatre. Nassim sets out to accomplish a number of things, and does so with a surprising variety of tactics and emotion. There was a lot of laughter last night. And though I can't speak for anyone else (because stage lights are bright), I know I cried many tears.
I had a transformative experience last night. Maybe because I let the play be what it was. Nassim was exactly right about how his work needed to be presented. Without any previous knowledge from the participants.
I hate being vague about this. But you need to know nothing about this play until you are there, onstage or in the audience.
My life expanded last night. And for that, I am exceedingly grateful.