Production week gets a bum rap. When I was working in professional theatre, one of two terms were generally used to name it: “tech week” if you were looking forward to it, or “hell week” if you weren’t. And believe me, when you’re doing shows in rep, there are those you favor.
When we decided to produce Shaken, Not Heard, we intentionally created a program that was stripped of glitz and production elements. We sometimes call that a “stand and sing” concert; and while SNH has evolved into more than just standing and singing, the element of simplicity we originally sought to keep is still present. There’s no dramatic lighting; the audience will be in full view the entire time; there’s no curtain, no pit and nothing to accompany us but our wonderful pianist. Short of a few numbers that have some festive movement, it’s pretty much bare bones.
Yet, SNH is highly theatrical. I remember working on several productions in California (mostly Shakespeare) where there was not much more than a ladder or chair on the stage. And if you saw the revival of “Sweeney Todd” you know what it means to take in the power of a story without the bling. I think that’s what we’ve achieved with this piece.
So all in all, this week is going very smoothly. We can’t really call it tech, because there’s not much to tech, and we’re certainly not in hell. In fact, the opposite is true.
Christian de le Huerta is already in town for the weekend. Yesterday he and I spent a wonderful afternoon together talking about the script, how it came together, and hitting the highlights. This afternoon we’ll work on the narration in detail and assemble it with the chorus in our final dress tonight.
As Christian brings the character of David to life, even with book in hand, the impact of these stories is poised to affect our audience deeply. We witnessed it in Marietta last week when our own Rob McDowell gave him a fabulous premiere. Moreover, David is supported by five additional characters that bookend the concert. Together, they illustrate the universality of David’s story and bring it full circle in a powerful finish inspired by the writings of Christian himself. The final moments of the evening contains, in my opinion, the best sermon that gay, lesbian, and transgendered people could ever hope to hear. It’s preaching of a different kind — one that inspires, uplifts, and calls all of us to reclaim our heritage.
Homosexuals were revered by society in earlier times, but Christian’s research shows that it was through us that a homophobic patriarchal society inevitably developed. As he was saying to me yesterday, it’s through us that the matriarchy can return. Empowering women and the feminine side in all of us means that wars will end, peace can rise again, and love will abound.
So if you think Shaken, Not Heard is about a bunch of gay men putting themselves up on the cross, think again. Be there for an experience that will change lives.
And bring Kleenex.