Going Dark by Elizabeth Keel
A Second Production
This Is Water Theatre, Spring 2014
Why this show?
This was the play that launched This is Water Theatre. A high-energy sci-fi/fantasy family drama about people who can manipulate and read certain emotions in others; as you might have guessed, it also involved battles with invisible orbs of emotional energy. Because, um, duh.
I chose to direct this show because it was high energy, had deep opportunities to tell a familiar story of pain and loss in an unfamiliar and new way, and fit the ensemble I had at the time. I was also looking for a show that could capture the attention of a generation raised on special effects action movies, and this one fit the bill big time
We mounted this production inside of a working brewery, so we constructed and dismantled the set before and after every show. We built the set so that the audience members could move to different spots around it throughout the show - all of the walls were completely see through, and I purposely chose to stage moments so that they were very different depending on where you were watching. It was a really cool challenge, and one that mostly paid off. Our younger audiences loved it; the folks my parents' age were a bit less thrilled with the lack of seating. It was my attempt to give the audience agency, which is a concept that I think is incredibly relevant in the current zeitgeist.
It was also an opportunity to explore the way that actors embody the physicalization of something as ephemeral as emotion. Since these characters could create orbs of pure emotional energy (invisible to the audience, but visible to the characters), it was important to me to focus heavily on how these orbs were conjured and how we differentiated between different types of emotional orbs. Perhaps our greatest accomplishment was the fact that every performance, at least one audience member flinched when an orb was thrown because it became that real to them.
There were a lot of uncertain and downright scary moments during this show, like when one of our cast members had walking pneumonia and we chose to cancel our final dress rehearsal because it was rainy and cold and we didn't want to risk her getting even sicker. But it was experiences like those that confirmed for me that people matter more than projects. Ultimately, if you take care of your people, the projects will flourish.
P.S. If you ever get a chance to produce a play written by Elizabeth Keel, just do it.