When Bobbin first asked me to become a member of The Horse in Motion, I instantly said yes. A chance to work with some of my closest friends from undergrad while doing what we love? It never occurred to me to say no. What I did not take the time to truly consider was the amount of hours I had just signed myself up for.
When we started out on the adventure that is BrechtFest, we began by reading. By reading a LOT. We read through more Brecht plays than I would care to count and began the painful but necessary process of narrowing the list down to only three. This translated to several long nights writing down pros and cons on huge black boards and fiercely debating the necessity of the plays we most identified with. We passionately squabbled over the topics we felt were mandatory for us to address through this piece; women’s equality, racial discrimination, minority representation, income inequality, white privilege, male privilege, white male privilege, you get the idea. Topics that daily haunt our facebook pages and news headlines. Ultimately, we were able to agree on three plays: Baal (Brecht’s first play), The Good Person of Szechwan, and The Threepenny Opera. We also mutually agreed that the through line of this whole enchilada was “The Game is Rigged”, and yes, that does deserve to be capitalized.
We chose Baal for its “fuck the system” seemingly appropriate millennial attitude, chose Good Person for its strong female lead who is unable to succeed in her society under the guise of her gender, and Threepenny Opera for its exploration of the low and high in society, and let’s be real, the music kicks ass.
Then came the behemoth that was our script. We broke out into three groups (one for each play) and began cutting away without looking back and we continued to cut a week before we opened! We continually asked ourselves if we were cutting the unnecessary fat or losing the artistic heart of the play’s essence; a line we walked down to the end. The script existed! Now we needed some seriously passionate people to actually be IN the thing. And we actually found them. The first couple of rehearsals showed us that we had not only found people, but talented, smart, thoughtful, dedicated people who have made the show what it is. I am immeasurably grateful and (if I may) a smidge proud.
Having one foot in actor land and one foot in producer land was illuminating for such a huge undertaking. Nothing but a pure and somewhat naïve passion could have supplied the energy to propel this machine forward. We were fortunate to find a venue that actually supported Brecht’s underground vibe: the Can Can Kitchen and Bar under the Pike Place Market and home to some of Seattle’s best burlesque dancers. We had stumbled upon something special here; as rehearsals and tech and performance were underway, I would often find myself gazing up through the ceiling of the lobby which also serves as the sidewalk above (like I said, the venue is quite literally under the market) through the thick glass panes cemented into the concrete. Through their opaque faces you could make out the outline of a pair of feet or a vendor’s cart rolling by. I couldn’t help but laugh at an all-too-real metaphor for an artist trying to make their way in large, bustling and overwhelming city. It got me thinking: artists are strange beasts. We stay up late, work insane hours, accept little pay, cry and laugh and glorify and despise our often self-induced poverty and all for what? For a slice of joy, I suppose. A single, often brief, experience or moment or memory that reminds us why we do what we do. Speaking only for myself, I have found that reminder in BrechtFest and surprisingly, or maybe not, I’ve found most of those moments offstage. (There is nothing like taking three loads of costumes, props and band equipment into a sketchy storage unit at midnight, in downtown to really bring people together).
My grandparents recently visited Seattle to celebrate my sister’s graduation from law school; they are a product of a post-World War II upbringing and their traditional 1960’s family unit (Grandpa was a successful businessman, Grandma stayed at home and raised five children) shows it. They had the big white house on Main Street, the Buick, the neighborhood barbecues and Fourth of July gatherings, you name it. They were doled their share of hardships but nonetheless were the picture of the American dream. Therefore, I think they were a tad confused when I called them to up to say that I was majoring in theatre… there was a long pause on the other end of the phone line when I made this pronouncement. When visiting Seattle, my Grandpa leaned over at dinner and asked tried his best to politely ask why I had chosen to do theatre (trust me, it’s a question I ask myself daily). I sighed. How do I explain this to him? I thought about it and said “Well, why do you like breathing?” at this he laughed and responded, “Well that’s not the same thing, you have to breathe to stay alive” to which I responded “Exactly”. The only reason any of us would endure the long hours and the almost nonexistent pay and the rejection is because the theatre is where we feel most alive, most creative, most challenged because those tiny slices of joy make all that other less joyful stuff worth it.
And so, I raise my glass to Bertie himself. Thanks for the ride.
Hannah is the Social Media Manager for The Horse in Motion. She also serves The Seagull Project as a Producer and Fiscal Manager.