On a Saturday afternoon a few years ago I went to Prairie Theatre Exchange to see a reading of Joan MacLeod’s Another Home Invasion (part of PTE’s Carol Shields Festival of New Work).
From the description I’d seen, I knew the play was about an 80ish year old woman, that it probably had something to do with a home invasion, and that it was going to be read by Doreen Brownstone. I liked Joan MacLeod’s writing, and I liked Doreen Brownstone’s acting, so I thought I’d go.
There was an armchair and a rug and I think some kind of a coffee table on the set. Doreen walked out and sat in the arm chair; Bob Metcalfe introduced things, and sat down off to the side. Perhaps the lights changed. And then it started.
I was so utterly taken in that I didn’t even notice it was being read, and by the end, I was crying. Hard. As a general rule, I have a harder time getting completely immersed in a reading than I do in a full production. But, as they say, exceptions prove the rule. As is often the case with theatre, it wasn’t a single thing, but a number of elements coming together that turned this reading into a seminal moment for me.
The first was the play itself. I will resist the urge to synopsize the plot, or say much about it at all: if you want to read a well-written, pretty spoiler-free description, you can do so here (it is published, and I own a copy—I bought mine at McNally Robinson).
The second element was the production/performance. Doreen’s reading was so simple, so absolutely perfect. Part of the magic was that she wasn’t playing age, she was just playing the role. But the biggest part of the magic was that Doreen is just a really damned fine actor. And what struck me that day was that she seemed to just be getting better and better. And why not—she keeps racking up life experiences, and performing experience—there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be continuing to get better, right? And yet just how excellent her performance was surprised me, which brings me to the third element: me.
The themes of the play resonated extremely closely with me because of my work as, and what you could call my world view as, an occupational therapist. The excellence of Doreen’s performance filled my actor-self with admiration, and transported my audience-self into Jean (the character)’s living room for the hour of the show, and also spoke to everything I believe in as an OT (the topic for another blog post, perhaps).
I left the theatre thinking and feeling a lot of things but the one that overrode the others, and has ultimately come to inform what I’ve chosen to spend my time on for the last few years, is that Doreen Brownstone is an excellent actor, and I wanted there to be more opportunities for audiences to see her, and for people like me to get to work with her.
So, that was the more recent beginning of this project.
It is also why my next blog post is going to be about a fabulous opportunity to see Doreen perform, which is coming up in less than a week, for only four performances, which I think anyone in Winnipeg should take the opportunity to see.
More about that later this weekend.
Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Please post them below–I’d love to hear them!