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From Emma – Time Keeps on Slipping

December 7, 2012

“Nothing is forever in the theatre. Whatever it is, it’s here, it flares up, burns hot, and then it’s gone.” – All About Eve

We’ve been incredibly busy, these last few months, and it feels like whenever you turn around, another week has rushed past in a way that didn’t seem physically possible. Two months ago, Lisa and I tried to schedule time to hang out and giggled over the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do it until after Follies opened, the distant future. Now, all of a sudden, hang out time was almost a week ago, and I’m not quite sure where the time in between went.

In such frantic times, it’s nice to take a moment to pause and look back at where we’ve been, during this mad, headlong rush. Or where I’ve been, anyway; I can’t speak for everyone else.

We begin our look back in the pre-season calm. After the back-to-back extravaganza of A Resting Place and Young Playwrights’ Festival, a much deserved rest was needed for us– not to mention our beloved building, which received some much-needed attention and shiny new windows.

See? Shiny new windows.

See? Shiny new windows.

The kick-start to the season is often the arrival of the apprentices, and this year was no exception.

Hi, new apprentices! Thanks for the kick-start!

Hi, new apprentices! Thanks for the kick-start!

And without further ado, we were off. First shows of the season were the two presented works for VegFest, The Little Farm Show and Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction. I had the pleasure of helping with tech on Cravings (both at Touchstone and at Moravian, which was its own challenge) while Jp hosted The Little Farm Show; both were a real treat and totally perfect fits for the weekend. I mean really, at the outdoor performance of Little Farm Show, a guy dressed up in a carrot suit wandered by to watch. How much more perfect could you get?

Not much more perfect, that's how much. Unless there'd been someone in a lettuce suit as well.

Not much more perfect, that’s how much. Unless there’d been someone in a lettuce suit as well.

The month of September was a rehearsal extravaganza, jam-packed with… well, a whole lot of rehearsals. We re-mounted our acclaimed production of The Tempest, adding Kayla and Kyle to the cast– a lot of fun, but very specific, exacting work, with long hours and a lot of physical strain for a three-person show. I can’t thank the two of them enough for their enthusiasm and hard work, both in the rehearsal room and in the months to come as we’re out on the road, taking the show to local middle and high schools. We also started the devising process for The Odyssey Project, which was much more open-ended, waiting to be created. Oddly, the sheer open-endedness of the project often felt as nerve-wracking as it was liberating. Now in December, with the “open-ended” time come to a close, Jp is working on wrangling it all into some kind of cohesive script.

The new cast of Touchstone's TEMPEST.

The new cast of Touchstone’s TEMPEST.

THE ODYSSEY PROJECT. Which also features tempests.

THE ODYSSEY PROJECT. Which also features tempests.

All of this, of course, was happening at the same time as the great god Pan was making his return to the Touchstone stage with In Pan We Trust. So much manic, high-energy fun! In the words of the big guy, “Baaaah.”

Baah, baby.

Baah, baby.

And at the same time as that, Christopher was directing his premiere production of Faust in France, over at Moravian. That’s right– directing two world premiere productions at the same time. Madness. I was lucky enough to have an incredible co-stage-managing team of Kyle and Lizzie for the process, but between Tempest, Odyssey, Pan, and Faust… well, it was an interesting time trying to manage my own schedule, let alone everyone else’s.

Thom Eiser from Moravian as Faust. Also what I looked like at the end of the night on most nights.

Thom Eiser from Moravian as Faust. Also what I looked like at the end of the night on most nights.

I confess, I’d been dually dreading and thrilled about Going Green the Wong Way since the beginning of the season– thrilled because it looked like (and was) and absolutely brilliant show, but dreading because of a very daunting technical rider. Jp repeatedly re-assured me– other presenting artists on the tour circuit had less tech-savy houses at their disposal; surely, Going Green would be fine here. Should have listened to him! Besides some difficulty with the projection screen, it was a totally easy, totally laid back, totally delightful time playing host to some really fun and talented guests.

The sexy and talented Ms. Kristina Wong.

The sexy and talented Ms. Kristina Wong.

And Young Playwrights’ Lab— I’ve felt like an incredible rookie, because despite having been here a couple years now, this fall was my first time working on a full-length YPL residency. Working with the kids at Freemansburg (some of them back for their second year of the program – these kids had more YPL experience than I did!) has been an absolute joy; I feel like no matter the constant schedule-crunching and time-slipping, walking into that classroom always makes me smile, and I always leave with my heart feeling a little lighter.

Seriously, these kids are pros.

Seriously, these kids are pros.

In the wake of last year’s incredible success with A Resting Place, the Ensemble has been in the process of brainstorming ideas for our next big community-based project. Themes that have come up so far included social justice, economic division, division of classes, oppression, and freedom. When former Steelworkers and other community members came together to protest the potential infringement of free speech in the new Town Square by the Steelstacks, it seemed like a perfect occasion to document and consider for our process. The event went off smoothly, free speech was respected, and the good people of Bethlehem were more than willing to share their stories with us.

Touchstone company members stepping out into Town Square to gather stories.

Touchstone company members stepping out into Town Square to gather stories.

And then there’s the merry, manic, freaky, festive, joyful, jubilant madhouse that is Christmas City Follies.

Even a week without power in the building, twenty hours less of rehearsal time due to Sandy outages, and no heat in the office for a week after the hurricane couldn’t keep us down. We worked on scripts from home, read them by candlelight, and even made plans to hold rehearsals offsite if the outage continued much longer.

No heat makes us sad...

But no heat makes us sad. Brrr…

There was a lot of schedule crunching because of this. Follies is already an inherently hectic show, but this year’s weeks leading up to production were especially wonky. We were all working ’round the clock, and despite our jolly countenances in many of the skits, we were all feeling the stress.

And yet somehow– in spite of the last second set fixes, last second prop and costume additions, on-the-fly re-writes, and occasional questioning of the material at hand– by the time the first audience steps into the theatre, abuzz with curiosity and holiday spirit, it all miraculously works out, into something cohesive and beautiful and brimming with joy.

We’ll be breaking in a couple weeks– after a final flurry of education work, pre-break meetings, and occasional rehearsals– going to visit with friends and family, taking trips, celebrating the holidays, or just catching up on sleep. No doubt, when we come back, we’ll be right back into the headlong rush of bouncing from one project to another. But it always feels good to end the year on Follies— because no matter the crazy rush of the season so far that brought us here, no matter how much time it feels like we’ve lost, and no matter the fact that the shows are sometimes hectic or still-evolving, when show-time comes around for Follies, it always feels like we can really, sincerely enjoy the time we have. And that makes all the lost time worth it.

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