From Our "It's Raining, It's Pouring" Dept.:
As is usual in the arts biz, I'm entering into another of the seemingly endless cycles of "feast or famine", but with a decidedly upward trend for the next few months.
In addition to my normal duties as Equity Liaison, VITA income tax site coordinator and reviewer for TheatreSeattle.com, yesterday I was offered the director's chair for Nanawatai! at A Theatre Under The Influence, which will open the end of April. It's a very timely play written by William Mastrosimone, dealing with a Soviet tank crew pursued by Afghan Mujahadeen during the early part of the Soviet-Afghan War in 1981. I read the script about 12 years ago, and it really knocked me out, but it had one seemingly insurmountable problem in that it requires the presence of a Soviet T-62 tank onstage, something that most theaters lacking a multi-million dollar annual budget would just find too difficult to tackle. Fortunately, ATUTI hasn't let something like this get in the way of deciding to produce the show anyway.
I had originally submitted a proposal to direct the show when I first heard about it being on Influence's schedule, but was passed over for another director. As a consolation, I was offered the position of "dramaturg", an opportunity upon which I immediately jumped.
For those not in-the-know, a dramaturg is a peculiar sort of animal in the theatrical jungle, someone who can wear a variety of hats, depending on the needs and circumstances of a particular production. Essentially, they serve two functions; to act as an advocate for the playwright (living or dead) to ensure the production seeks to fulfill the writer's intent, and secondly to develop a body of research that assists all the various people involved in the production reach the fullest understanding of the world in which the play exists. This may include research on a certain period of history (in the case of Nanawatai! this would mean specifically the period of 1979 - 1989), background material on the playwright themselves, references to specific events and issues dealt with in the play -- among other possible avenues of investigation. There are several other possible functions the dramaturg can serve, but these would be the most relevent ones for this production.
All of which boils down to the fact that for the past two months I've been compiling information on the Soviet-Afghan War, Pashtun tribal customs and social structure (Pashtunis representing the largest ethnic community in Afghanistan), historical and geographical data, down to nitty-gritty details like how to operate a Soviet-made Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and what types of military uniforms would have been worn at the time. Needless to say, all this gives me a pretty good handle on the world in which the play is set.
So, I was surprised, but not unprepared when I got an email from one of the producers yesterday informing me that their first-choice director had bowed out of the production and would I be interested in taking over? Well, I thought about it for about a nanosecond before firing off an affirmative reply.
Which made the phone call I got from Village Theatre about three hours later a bit of a problem. They want to see me for a role in a developmental production (sort of a try out of a script that may or may not be in some final form) that naturally would go up at exactly the same time as Nanawata!. And despite the fact that I haven't been onstage in a major production in more than TWO YEARS, I'm now put in the unfortunate position of having to turn down the callback, because there's simply no way I can do both of them at once -- nor would I even want to try. It's going to be tough enough scheduling around six weeks of income tax preparation, my regular spate of weekly meetings, plus one or two shows to review each week, without adding yet another four solid weeks of rehearsal and performance into the mix.
And guess which one would pay the most?
So, for those of you who've ever wondered -- this is just one of the many manifestations collectively known as, "suffering for your art".
on 11:08 AM