Oh, y’all, I don’t even know where to start. The theater is a a real live theater tucked in between a McDonalds and a QDoba. There’s a box office and a skylight and the performance space itself is intimate and theater-y feeling (those of you who’ve attended plays in Chicago where you suspect that you’re in some guy’s living room, just brought up through the back door while his parents are out can appreciate that, I’m sure).
They brought me flowers, beautiful deep red and orange things I don’t know the names of. I was a nervous wreck and so deeply flattered that I about couldn’t stand it. I sat in the middle of the audience, next to a charming couple who eventually asked me about my flowers and so got to hear all about how I was here from Nashville to see my play.
Then the house lights went down, the stage was arranged, and the Divine Ms. B. came out onto the stage looking like some country music star wandering into her dressing room.
It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t even tell you. I couldn’t be objective about it if I tried. Ms. B. played Lucetta like she was the person everyone wishes Brittney Spears was. I don’t know if that makes sense, but you know how you could still root for Brittney if you thought that she was in the least bit self-aware? Ms. B. plays Lucetta like a woman who both knows how to play the game and feels gamed by the system. I imagined her more sad than angry, but when I saw Ms. B. letting a core of not-quite directed pissed off guide her character, I was like “Oh, hey, wow, yes. That’s exactly right.”
I had imagined Tracy Keene, the other character, as being some kind of mixture of Newscoma and Kate O’. I named her after Newscoma, after all. I wanted that kind of brashness coupled with Kate O’s ability to just walk in a room and have everyone in there suddenly convinced she’s someone they need to talk to. The actor (Do actors need pseudonyms on a semi-pseudonymous blog? I’ll have to ask Ms. B. when she gets up.) was nothing like that and so at first, I was all “Oh I don’t know about this.”
But she was perfect and now that I’ve seen how she’s done it, it’s hard for me to imagine it being done any other way. With as intense a character as Lucetta is, you really, as an audience, need an anchor a steady place to rest your eye and check back in with. I didn’t really get that until I saw how good she was at it. She’s just this tiny little thing, but she somehow spreads her energy across the stage so that she seems really to hold the thing together emotionally. It’s really noticeable when she’s talking about her girlfriend dumping her and you can tell she’s uncomfortable and she kind of pulls all that energy back.
So, I thought it was really fun to watch. The characters were so different, their voices were so different. There were just a couple of times when I was like “Oh, shoot, that’s totally more me saying that than the character,” but I don’t think the audience would have picked up on that. And I loved watching them play off each other. They both had such different seduction styles and yet, they really seemed very real.
And the yodelling was awesome.
I really liked it and I’m going back today and tomorrow. I just want it to stay at that level of “holy shit.” I’m not going to sweat worrying about what I could have done better. I was really just amazed at how much the whole theater crew added to it. Ha, isn’t that such a writerly thing to say? But I guess I hadn’t realized how much it’s not just two people on stage playing “Let’s pretend we’re Aunt B.’s characters” but a whole crew of people trying (and in this case succeeding) to evoke a whole world just for a moment.
And you know what the best part was? When I wrote the play, I totally thought that it was obvious that Lucetta decides to just out herself on national television at the end of that evening. But the way they perform it, it’s not obvious and I think you could go back every night and come to a different conclusion about what she does and about what Tracy does about what she does.
Oh, and y’all, holy shit, they made a rhinestone and sequined jacket that says “Lucetta” down the arm! It’s amazing.
I don’t know. I was thinking about what a Nashville audience might think of it. I was telling Ms. B. that I think I could stack an audience full of people who would like it, but I could also see a bunch of people not liking it. I kept thinking, as I was watching it, that it both seemed entirely plausible and yet, not at all something that would actually happen in Nashville.
But then I was like, well, fuck it. It’s not a documentary. That’s not what the backstage of the Grand Ole Opry looks like. The Scene as far as I know doesn’t send their reporters out to make out with their subjects (though think about what a treat that would be if they did!). I’m not trying to tell some deep truth about country music. I’m trying to get at some deep truth about a moment when a person realizes that she’s gotten exactly what she set out to get in life and she’s not sure she can live with the compromises that got her there.
I chose country music as a setting, but she could have had any job where the public persona and the private person are often so different.
The folks at Queer Soup, the theater company who put it on, could not have been more amazing. All awesome and friendly and talented. Sweet Jesus. At the end of the last play, when they came out to take their bows, I was all waiting for more people to come out. To think that they all performed so many roles that are so different, just between the five of them is really extrodinary.
I liked all the other pieces, too, but the last one was both amazing and so gut wrenching that I’m honestly not sure if I can sit through it again. It’s a piece about clean-up work in New Orleans and I was just in tears by the end of it. I think, for me, the worst part of it was knowing that what they were performing was not a story of the worst that might have happened to a person in New Orleans, but a very ordinary story. It’s funny because as much as 9/11 resonates with me, I know the closer you are to NYC, either physically or emotionally, the more that is probably still a gaping hole in your soul you work around as best you can.
But for me, that’s New Orleans. I cannot get past the knowledge that you can be a citizen of the greatest country on the planet and in your hour of darkest need, in this country, within the boarders of this country, and you will be abandoned by your government. I can’t bear that. That no one trained to help you is coming. I have to will myself to forget it.
Anyway, it’s interesting that the play opens and closes with pieces set in the South.
Also, Ms. B.’s cat is so soft. It would be wrong of me to make jokes about stroking her pussy, so I’ll leave them to you, gentle reader.
Afterwards, I had a call from my dad, so I called him back and he said, “Can you get me directions to Mack’s house?” and I said, “Yes, when I get back from Boston.”
“Oh, is this the weekend you’re in Boston.”
“Yes, I just saw my play.”
“Well, you know, I’m an old man. I forget this stuff. But if he really lives right off of 41, we may just hop over to Indiana, get on it and drive it down.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
“So, don’t forget to get us directions.”
“Yes, I know.”
So, you know, my folks keep me humble. No, I tease. I know he’s proud of me because he did his usual brag like hell all over the wedding last weekend until he was convinced that word would get back to me. He just has a hard time doing that to my face. Or my ear, as the case may be.
But afterwards, everyone showed up here and we drank whiskey drinks and smoked cigars. I wanted to say something about how much it meant to me having all of these folks, mostly strangers to me, take what I sent them and turn it into something compelling (I think) to watch. Everyone from Jess, who helped me so much with the rewrites, to the costume designer to the director to the actors and everyone.
But I being my father’s daughter, could not and so I’m bragging here all over the internet hoping that word gets back to them.