Monday, 27 January 2014

"It is good to rejoice in our commonalities."

Over the weekend, Seattle Playwright's Collective mounted the fourth of the Medicine Ball series, in which I pick some poets, Dan Tarker picks some playwrights, they write to a theme, and the audience votes on which artform is superior. We started about 2 years ago, the voting thing has always been pretty tongue-in-cheek (winners get 2 buck chuck, losers get warm PBR) but it tends to be a hook that gets more folks in. Slams, etc. This time the Playwrights took it by 5 ballots over the course of a three day run.
The Medicine Ball is consistently different from all the other things I've been involved in putting together-- essentially it's introducing poetry into a theater context. In the past we've done staged readings, this time it was full staged, costumed, propped. Though it's a bit strange to be involved in such a conceptual way in such a physical undertaking ("hey guys! here's some poets! poets! write a thing, send it to these guys. see you at the show!") each time out the dialogue between playwriting and poeting seems to get more nuanced. Especially as we've got people hopping sides-- Robert Lashley wrote an incredibly powerful one act, and playwright Craig Kentworthy sent in a strong, multifaceted poem that worked on multiple levels (kind of funny they were working from the same prompt. Hmm.)
This time we also incorporated visual cues from local artists, specific word cues, and let the writers see the faces of the actors they'd be writing for. Interestingly, this led to the most serious Medicine Ball to date. There was plenty of humor, sure, but the overall tone of the night was contemplative, desperate, and punchy. I could go on about the specific choices made by writers and directors (though I gotta drop a shout out to the way Dan turned Ryan Johnson's surrealist pastiche into a helpless shrug on the ubiquity of oppressive masculinity) but ultimately, I was just stoked on the evening as a whole, and occasionally forgot I was even involved. That's one of the better parts of organizing, when you can just enjoy something as an audience member.
Of course, you get reminded reaal quick when it's time to strike the set. . .

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