I currently have the pleasure of collaborating with an inspired creative team, committed production staff, two gloriously organized stage managers and four wonderful actors on a production of Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still, which will open on May 3 in the CenterStage. We have only been rehearsing for a few weeks, but I am happy to report that so far, the process has been fun, funny, and—most excitingly—full of surprises. Rosenstock is a sneaky playwright; on the page, her language seems simple, the action of her scenes straightforward. But as soon as we start rehearsing, the complexity that lies just underneath the surface begins to emerge, thanks in no small part to the nuance that the small but mighty cast brings into the room.
Of course, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that a comedy about depression (it’s not an oxymoron, I promise) would not reveal itself to me entirely (or even mostly) on a first-reading—or any of the many other readings I did on my own in order to prepare for the design meetings, production meetings, and rehearsals that now occupy my afternoons and evenings. This process has reminded me of why I love making theatre, as opposed to other kinds of art—the input of others, be they actors, designers, or technicians— constantly challenges my preconceived notions about the play’s characters and themes.
Starting to work on the play has also reminded me of why, back in the Fall when I proposed Tigers Be Still, I thought the story it tells would be such a fantastic one to share with the Williams community here and now. Williams is a small place. We all know (or think we know) one another. It can be so easy to feel trapped in a way of behaving, or a mindset. Every character in Tigers is stuck in some way. The play shows us how these four people get up the courage to make changes, but more importantly it helps us understand that the process of changing is simultaneously scary and hilarious, and that we shouldn’t let fear hold us back. The play shows us that process of changing is inevitably full of missteps, embarrassments, and misunderstandings, but a willingness to laugh at oneself and with one’s companions can make changing a task that is not quite so daunting.
I am grateful for the chance to tell this story at the end of the academic year—a time when we naturally reflect on how we have spent our time, when we look back and ask what we might have done differently, and how we might like to change for the future. Until then, the lessons I am learning from Tigers about change will serve me well in rehearsals; rather than let hesitation or fear take over, the cast and I will continue to cultivate the evolution of the the play, which should (and will!) be changing constantly as it evolves into the performance you will all see in May.