I got there too early. WAY too early. It was my first shift, volunteering at the GCTC, and when I’m on a new gig and nervous, I’m early. Like, a good hour. So, I sat down in the generously ceilinged foyer and had some coffee, read my book, and geeked out while overhearing leading lady and acting jedi Kristina Watt ordering some chili across the fairly empty room from me. They come and hang out with us regular types, I remember thinking…SO cool And as I sat and waited, I was treated to glimpses of LIST superstar Tracey Ferencz, John Koensgen, and naturally, Kris Joseph. He’s just, you know, THERE.
Eventually I got tired of preparing to name-drop in my blog, and I wended my way to wherever it was I was supposed to meet my fellow volunteer and show captain. My co-volunteer for the show was the delightful Pam, a fellow rookie, even though we’d both been expecting to be paired with a seasoned vet volunteer for our first performance Still, we were both charming and gorgeous, so what could go wrong? Answer…NOTHING.
The Captain walked us through our stations (I got to be ticket tearer!!),I stood outside the door to the upstairs studio trying to look smart, and was really feeling good to actually feel USEFUL, just for a minute. It was nice. The doors oened,and I sprang into inaction, remaining stock still and tearing the tickets! Hello there, thanks for coming…hope you enjoy the show! Hey, is that Ray Besharah, G-Man Defective I spy before me? I believe it is! I won’t say anything, because I didn’t actually SEE that show at Fringe, but still…cool.
My pemiere duties go off fairly hitchless…I have to make a cranky older gal head downstairs to buy a ticket, which provides some momentary drama, and the very pregnant lady seems concerned aout the 90 minute runtime and no readmittance policy, but I think she’s soothed by the knowledge that they won’t even let us volunteers back in, should we leave for any reason. Like, say, escorting pregnant ladies to the washroom, so keep nature in check okay? I wanna see this show!
Finally, the Captain shuts the door and I take my seat (not to self: volunteers get sweet motherfucking seats), ready for tonight’s show: Third Wall’s production of David Harrower’s BLACKBIRD. It’s an award-winning play, but my good friend Denis Armstrong had forewarned me that this particular version would be winning no awards anytime soon. After seeing it (and in fact, less than half an hour into the show), I was wondering if dear Denis might not have a problem wherein he is full of shit? Perchance?
BLACKBIRD is a knuckle-punch to the cringe-centers of your reptilian backbrain. It’s a play that starts out awkward, and then rather rapidly becomes much, much, much more awkward. Starring Kristina Watt (As You Like It! The Women come and Go!) as Una, and John Koensgen (Heroes! Educating Rita!) as Ray/Peter, a couple who have been separated for fifteen years. And by ‘couple’ I mean ‘forty year old man and the 12 year old girl he had highly illegal sex with’. The separation involved a prodigious amount of jail, shame, self-pity, loathing, deception, and enough regret to fuel a dynamite ninety-minute kick-ass play. Una has, after all these years, managed to track Ray down at the plant where he now works under a new name, trying for a fresh start (arrested in the days before amber alerts and sex offender lists). We’re immediately thrown into their world like the trash strewn about the break-room floor they meet in, and get to revel in watching these two genius actors go at one another, haunted victim versus flustered abuser. The man who’d tried to forget it all, confronted by the woman who can never forget. Unstoppable force meets immovable object.
Both actors speak in Scottish brogue for the play, which always makes me nervous, but for what I could tell, they pulled it off grandly. And the back and forth between the two…God DAMN. This is a killer show, with not only no easy answers, it makes you wish for HARD ones. Watt is as poised and fearless as always as Una, desperately confronting her abuser/illicit lover for reasons only she knows. And Koensgen, trapped and confronational as Ray, is all-too sympathetic as he stammers his way through his convoluted reasonings and excuses. God, it’s a wonderful, horrible thing to see. I’m sorry I’m not seeing it again.
After the killer ending, I got up and waved and such as people left, and felt pretty great about just about everything. A fantastic show…my first successful volunteer shift (and I can hardly wait for the next one)…even ran into Andrew Snowdon downstairs coming out of THE LIST…we’ll have to compare notes later. Pam and I bothered the Captain with some chatter for a little while yet, before eventually going away. She was a lovely partner, and I hope to see her again soon. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve met at the GCTC so far…and this was a great first night. I hope for many more. And I think I did ok. In fact…great. I volunteered the SHIT out of that show! I volunteered that show so hard, that show’s grandkids are gonna look like me! I…
…Ah, whatevah. I gave something back, for one night. By my count, I’ve got a lot of nights left before I make up the good theatre’s done for me. But that’s okay. I’m just starting. And just in time…I start acting classes this wednesday! And if anyone’s reading this (which I doubt), yes, I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, go see BLACKBIRD, you fools! It’s the goods. Peace,