Today. Burnie, Tasmania. This is the final lesson, the final post about what I’ve learnt over the years. It has been a difficult challenge (Jill, I feel that you’re getting your own back) and I struggled with each post. Every morning I’d sit here, fingers poised on the keys, wondering what to type. I’d make a start, read it, delete it. I’ve just done that five/eleven/fifteen times already with this post. These words may not even make it to the final post.
What have I learnt? When I ask that question my only response is: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I sometimes wonder if I’ve learnt anything at all.
The whisper of an idea, elusive and ephemeral, slips through my mind and is gone. A story hovers nearby, but not near enough to grasp. A learning glistens, tantalisingly close.
1977. Bomaderry, NSW. I am a dead woman in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and am so engrossed in the play, sitting on my chair in the cemetery, that I forget my line. Whoops.
1995. Launceston, Tasmania. Music blares from the speakers outside the door of A024. The classic tune, Funky Town, by Lipps Inc, spreads an energy through the audience, while also keeping them guessing.
It’s third year uni and Ashley and I decide to pair up for our final drama class. The task is to choose a playwright, and perform excerpts from some of his/her well-known plays. We choose The Chairs and Rhinoceros, two plays by Eugene Ionesco, a Romanian/French absurdist playwright. Desperate, last minute rehearsals see the move from absurdist to absurd and from there it wasn’t much of a leap to funky, hence Lipps Inc setting the scene for us.
Our performance is imaginatively titled The funky side of Ionesco. I pretend not to see the lecturer wince. Ashley and I are more absurd than absurdist, doing Ionesco’s work no favours, but somehow it works. The funk/disco theme continues throughout, pulsing through the tiny auditorium at odd moments as the chairs fill the tiny performance space. Not necessarily rehearsed moments, mind you, but it adds to our brand of absurdity. We finish, look at the audience, and leave to the gentle strains of Wild Cherry.
The audience responds in a wildly enthusiastic manner. Even the lecturer looks impressed.
What have I learnt then? I feel like I should be sitting on a porch in my rocking chair, with my knitting on my knee for this bit!
I’ve learnt that sometimes we have to take a risk, we have to think beyond the boundaries that might ordinarily confine us. Forgetting my line in Our Town just meant that someone else said it – the play didn’t stop, the world didn’t end, one of the cast members picked it up and the show went on.
Thinking creatively about Ionesco’s work and being in the moment while we were performing gave an edge to our performance that may not have been there if we were highly polished after hours and hours of rehearsal. Adding that edge might have been possible if we’d been great actors, but we weren’t. Our desperation acted like a piece of apple cutting through the flavour of strong cheese … not something we would have thought consciously about if we’d been more prepared.
As I reflect on the stories I’ve told over this past week I notice a consistent theme: there are times in life when we need to spread our arms, hold our breaths and always trust our cape.
Thanks to Jill for the challenge, thanks to all those who have tuned in to read my daily posts, and thanks to those who have commented either here or on Facebook. I’ll leave you in peace now, until I begin my new challenge next week (no more posts this week). My next challenge is travelling through France and Italy.