Saying 'Yes' to "The Great Work"
“The Great Work Begins…”
-Angels in America, Tony Kushner
This quote has been my mantra in a variety of situations I’ve found myself in; I’ve used it with friends to describe my feelings right before diving into a Costco mac n’ cheese platter and have also used it as a personal mantra for more important things (although I think we can all agree on some level that few things are more serious than a good tray of mac n cheese).
One of the reasons this quote always resonates with me so deeply is because it encompasses two meaningful ideas: that the work ahead as people and artists is great in scope, challenge and reward and that the work we do in our lives is always in progress yet somehow never feels started or that it’s never fully done. I love the painstaking progress, but progress nonetheless that the quote implies. I love the idea that the great work is always nearby, even when we have to restart—that it’s right in front of us, always an inch ahead, welcoming us back into its challenging but warm arms.
This week, we’ve taken our structure and fine-tuned transitions and internal moments. The biggest question that the week left us all with is what do these ideas now mean in their new contexts? We all found that we had to say goodbye to certain moments so that we could greet a better whole, just as our assistant director reminded us. As we all sat silently at the end of rehearsal, turning over what this meant, I found that my mind kept wandering to the first few, heady weeks of rehearsal, during piece creation. I had to remind myself that these kinds of questions and reckonings have always been a part of the process and if they weren’t, it would mean that we were doing something wrong.
The best art to be involved in and witnessing is the kind that’s a challenge to have created and consequently, a challenge to experience, during and after the performance. Reminding myself of the age-old improv mantra “yes, and…” is what a beautifully challenging process like this demands and deserves. This process has forced us to say “yes, and…” and only through that could we grow as artists and grow together within this piece. To quote the 80s hit by The Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”, this process and the people involved have truly picked me out, shook me up and turned me around. What it’s meant to me has been hard to articulate and I’ve found that the most potent way I’m able to express it is within the art itself, with all of the truly extraordinary people surrounding me, onstage and off. Some of the most powerful feelings are best expressed within the abstract, which we’ve been working toward.
We so look forward to lovingly wrapping you in and striving with you toward the “Great Work”.