Four months ago, I wrote a blog entry following the first rehearsals for Mariette in Ecstasy, with every intention of handing over new entries on a regular basis to report on our progress, both through the rehearsal process and the run (two very different animals). Obviously that didn’t happen! There are variety of reasons, primarily increased pressure at my day job and a lot less time for anything other than sleep, work, and rehearsal, but also because both the rehearsal process and the run turned out to be unexpectedly very personal. I’ve done a lot of shows, and sometimes one experience is a lot like many others. This one was different, in such that it was more difficult to comment, share, or otherwise dissect. I love reading blogs, but I’ve learned that there’s an element to blogging and reading blogs about experiences that can diminish or pigeonhole those experiences. Mariette was special, and I wanted it to remain special and personal while we were rehearsing and running the show. We closed the run one week ago today, to excellent critical acclaim and box office success, so I’m feeling a lot better about sharing.
Katie McLean and Brenda Barrie in Mariette in Ecstasy. Photo by Paul Metreyeon
Religion is a sensitive topic, even among friends. In portraying a person of such profound faith that she has dedicated her life to God, I had a great deal of personal exploration to do and many questions to answer. Sometimes a rehearsal hall is as safe a place as a therapist’s office to do that kind of soul-searching, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. This time, however, it was. And while my personal religious beliefs have not significantly altered because of this process, my understanding and tolerance of others’ beliefs has broadened, and my understanding of faith has deepened and become more meaningful to me. I am not inclined to expand or include specific details of my faith, but I am indebted to this production, and the people I was surrounded by, for fostering the kind of peaceful and reflective atmosphere in which one can open a door long believed closed, have a look around, dust off some shelves, sift through the drawers, and then just sit awhile, mulling things over.
It doesn’t make for the most interesting blog entry but I have to emphasize that everyone involved in this production was at the top of their game, was deeply passionate about their involvement, and gave of themselves above and beyond the call, whenever the opportunity arose.
When you work on a successful production, it is usually because everyone involved contributes in the ways I stated above, but it would be remiss not to single out the contribution of our director, Elise Kauzlaric. It wasn’t her first directorial effort, but it was her first MainStage at Lifeline, which I know from experience can be an overwhelming position, especially when you are juggling responsibilities at your day job, your friends and family, and other commitments you’ve made to the community at large. Elise handled everything, from the very first read-through to our closing night party, with her usual grace, aplomb, and elegance. She managed to convey what she was looking for while still welcoming everyone’s input, empowering the actors to develop their own characters while maintaining the overall tone, pace, and style of the piece. I want to mention that Elise’s success in the position came as no surprise to anyone. Her professionalism and talent shine through whether she is coaching dialects, playing the lead in a MainStage musical, or adapting a beloved children’s novel to the stage.
Being a member of the Lifeline ensemble affords one the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and do things we wouldn’t normally get to do anywhere else. Dorothy Milne asked me to adapt The Mark of Zorro though I had never adapted anything before. The actors in the ensemble aren’t guaranteed roles, shows aren’t chosen because the designers want to create lights or costumes for them, but we are all given the chance to explore new opportunities in an environment where the freedom to fail is balanced by the great cushion of ensemble support through every step of the process. The most exciting part of being in this company is when someone steps up to a new challenge and hits one out of the park.