Saturday, December 8, 2007

December 8 – Day 82

I can distinctly remember every theatrical experience I have ever had that has made me weep. It is a difficult task and while there were days when I would cry at even the slightly sappiest TV commercial, I have since hardened, particularly when it comes to theatre and it requires much more to bring me to tears. I will never be able to communicate in words the eerie transcendence I feel here. This place is so strange and so powerful, and in the madness I feel like I have some sort of direct portal to a higher being. My questions and thoughts once vocalized seem to be responded to by the universe in direct rebuttal. Not twenty-four hours ago I stammered out my realization that what I miss most in all this incredible theatre is the experience of the small space, the black box, theatre in the round or thrust stage. There is a different energy that is produced when you are in intimate setting rather than a massive auditorium. For years I resented not having more opportunities to play in a large space. Now I know it is not in my heart. I had barely wrapped my brain around the idea when I was informed that I had won the evening’s ticket lottery and was getting to see world famous director Kama Ginkas’ contemporary piece K.I. From Crime, which is based on a minor character from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. It was in a theatre I have visited multiple times but when I arrive I was told it was to be in the venue’s small space. This space was actually an upper level hallway where the 50 or so audience members were perched on random stools or benches before being ushered into a solid white room barely large enough to fit us all that was lit by horrific florescent bulbs and the street light pouring in through the windows. Throughout both areas the character of K.I. short for Katerina Ivanovna and her children ran back and forth creating what could only be described as a voyeuristic journey into one family’s personal hell. It was disturbing and animalistic, real without pretension or bullshit. The lead actress who slowly lost her mind throughout the course of the two hour emotional impalement used audience members as characters in her nightmare and chose me to serve as a role of someone I never fully understood (I believe she saw me as her German landlady from the rage she had against me.) She screamed at me in Russian, forcing me to move seats over and over again, then begged and pleaded with me, weeping harder and harder when it became clear to all involved that I had no idea what she was saying. Finally she began to shout, “You don’t understand anything!” and pushed the small boy who played her son towards me. He stood six inches from my face unblinking until I thought I might collapse. He was a small child acting a brutally painful role, being thrown about on stage and performing monologues that caused me to feel a tiny sense of relief in my ignorance of the language but all I could see when I looked at him was the face of my cousin Benjamin when he was six or seven, so sweet and innocent, and I just wanted to cry. The play ended with one the powerful images I have ever seen on stage. A white latter is lowered from the ceiling by a hangman’s rope and K.I. scramble up its rungs as it swings back and forth and is flailed from one end of the room to the next. It is ultimately pulled back up to the ceiling where in the darkness, she weeps and pounds her fists again spackle crying, “Let me in! Let me in!” I felt a surge of emotion stronger than at any of the other shows I have seen here and even though everyone around me was a mess, I could not cry. The actress and the children came out to take their twenty minute curtain call and were showered with flowers. In all that commotion she stopped the bow and presented me with her flowers. I started to bawl. I have never seen anything like that before. For two hours she gave of her soul more generously than any of the best performers I have ever seen and at the end when she could have basked in her applause she continued to give. She gave to me.