You know how when you’re walking you don’t really think about it? How it’s this habitual action only interrupted by the occasional trip, encounter, stoplight, etc.? For me, Passing Strange has been walking. Once the rehearsal process began, every song, joke, dance move and love scene seemed exciting as a glorious image of the show formed in my mind. Then rehearsals became the norm, blending into one chunk of time moving so quickly that when our director, Jo Ann Cimato said: “do you realize we only have twelve more rehearsals until tech week?” many jaws dropped. Then and, say, when an actor did something to emotionally obliterate my soul, made me stop and realize what I've been doing, how far I've come, and how far I have left to go. At times I feel as this production comes to a close I am rapidly approaching the end of my art. Unlike some of my peers in B’DAT (Beacon Drama Art and Theatre), I will not be attending college to study theatre. Thus, I find myself trying to soak up my privileged experiences on stage as incredible artists surround me, because more than often it seems like I only have a handful of these moments left. When Stew and Heidi Rodewald came to watch a run-through and speak with the cast, Stew said something along the lines of: “I've never met an artist who said ‘Oh boy, what a relief to not have to deal with my art anymore!’” [Insert my eyes tearing up.]
This production has allowed me to see, more than ever, that I've changed. I never knew I loved acting until my first B’DAT audition, nor did I even consider myself an artist until others later convinced me I was, and now I’m dreading letting it go. In the show, the Youth is constantly leaving—places, people, all which he, at least for some amount of time, believes to be “the real”—yet it seems as if he only ever truly holds onto his unconditional love for art. The Youth’s character comforts me because I like to think I can do the same.
After first blocking a long Berlin scene in rehearsal, another actor asked me, “how do you just know what to do?” and I smiled in my dismay because I immediately knew the answer: it’s because of the previous B’DAT actors I had so intently observed, envied, and loved that I can navigate myself through a scene. I am eternally grateful to these artists—I learned everything from them, and though I was terrified as they moved on, their leaving gave me the confidence to be and achieve the things I’d always admired about them. Now when an actor in our cast is absent and their understudy goes in for them, I am filled with pride, joy, and relief that younger actors will learn from art and become greater people because of it. It makes me so profoundly happy to see art impact others with as much weight and complexity as it has for myself. And then I think: damn, this cycle is incredibly indiscrete.
While tech week commences and “PERFORMANCE #1” appears on the callboard, everything seems bittersweet. Passing Strange constitutes one of the most beautiful experiences in my life as I’ve witnessed it subtly transform everyone who’s a part of it. As Desi continuously says: “only love is real,” I think: when you love something you never let it go. I love this play, and because of it I believe I will never let my art go, nor will it ever abandon me. And if you come to see this play, I only ask the audience to let their souls follow the melody’s path, because whether you get it or not, it’s got.
- Julia G.