Friday, April 8, 2011

Taking On A New Challenge

Rehearsals start soon for STRONGER THAN SILENCE: surviving our secrets, and I am beyond excited to participate as an actor in this very special show. This particular event is full of firsts for me - it's my first performance as ETD's newly minted Communications Director; it's my first time performing at Center on Halsted; and, most significantly, it's my first time performing a story that I edited myself.

The editing process has been very eye-opening for me. I've had the honor of bringing several different stories to life onstage during my 5+ years as an ensemble member with Erasing the Distance. The stories have all been rich and varied and touching, and I realize in retrospect that I've always just accepted them as a fully formed gift. I knew, of course, that most stories require trimming for time and/or shaping for narrative flow. But I hadn't given much thought as to exactly how the job was done, or even what an incredibly big job it was.

I agreed to edit the story I'm performing in STRONGER THAN SILENCE without having any real concept of what I'd just committed myself to. However, I soon found out! I am performing Sarah's story in the show, and the transcript of her interview was over 13 pages long. Single spaced. My task was to edit the interview down to 3 typed pages without losing the essence of her story. Immediately, I panicked. This is embarrassing to admit, but in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that when I actually saw what a huge responsibility paring down this story was going to be, I tried to back out of it. Needless to say, that little maneuver was not successful. So, I set my mind to the work before me and jumped in.

After several hours of agonizing edits (I believe I went through 12 drafts before I was brave enough to show my progress to anyone), I had a performance piece that fit within the show's time constraints and (I hoped) still honored the storyteller. But I was terrified to show it to Sarah. We at ETD take our responsibility of honoring our storytellers' words very seriously, so I certainly did not want Sarah to feel that her story had been compromised in any way. Thankfully, she didn't feel that way at all. She sent back a few tweaks, and we were in business! I was beyond relieved that she was pleased and comfortable with the final product. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that, for me, the act of shepherding someone's story from its first to final incarnation was very rewarding. I felt like Sarah was with me, guiding me, as I poured over her words. I feel connected to Sarah's story in a way I wouldn't have if I'd not had this editing experience, and for that I am so grateful. And I'm more pumped than ever to bring her story from the page to the stage.

Now, on to my next task...memorizing all those lines! And rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. So that when we present this and other stories on April 28th, hopefully the audience won't hear Jen Mathews. They will hear Sarah - her story, her struggle, her journey. Because Sarah's voice, like those of countless others, is a voice that deserves to be heard.

I hope you can join us. To reserve tickets, please click here.

Happy day to you and yours,


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Jen! I really appreciated hearing about your process and i can't wait to see you in performance.