Ode to The Pole

ode to the poleThe Pole is Gone.

How do I even begin to put into paltry words how I feel about The Pole? I’m surprised that my feelings are actually mixed. MIXED. For THE POLE! I mean, I knew this was coming. I was told this would happen weeks ago. But now. . . I just don’t know. It’s like a part of me is missing, somehow.

If you’ve never seen a show in the storefront space formerly known as The Broken Leg Stage (now under new management as Fresno Soap Co.), you might not be familiar with The Pole. You may have heard about The Pole, but you’ve never experienced The Pole. You see, The Pole is not a person of middle-European nationality. It is literally The Pole. That is Onstage.

For the last four years or so, every director who has worked in the “BLS” has had to contend with The Pole. Oh, the decisions that have to be made! Do I ignore The Pole? Do I make The Pole part of the set? Do the actors touch The Pole? Can we make entrances from that corner in the dark without hitting The Pole? Does The Pole block too much of this really important moment for that part of the audience? With The Pole there, where is the strongest position on the stage? Oh, My God, Why does The Pole have to be right there RIGHT NOW?

The Pole meets its end at The Fresno Soap Co.

The Pole meets its end at The Fresno Soap Co.

Yeah, every director I’ve ever known to work in that space has HATED The Pole. HATE HATE HATE. Nothin’ but hate for The Pole.

And there’s a big part of me that feels the same way. When I was informed that The Pole could, after all, be removed from the space without any structural problems, I was relieved. “Great! That makes things so much easier!” I said.
But there is another part of me, a part deep in the cockles of my heart, down in the subcockle area, where I had great fondness for The Pole.

You see, The Pole eventually became that thing that every artist truly needs in order to stretch themselves a little further on each project: A challenge. A problem to be wrestled with.

For me, that challenge came in finding new ways to acknowledge The Pole. To make it a part of the presentation and to have it make some sense- even if only in the minds of the actors playing in the space. Once I found ways to give The Pole a “role” in the staging or acting of the play, The Pole became a friend. A not-so-tiny structural innovation; a way for actors to connect to something tangible. It became another player on the stage, really.

I would often move actors on one side of the pole or another to show insider or outsider status. I’d encourage actors to imagine the pole is a tree, a colonnade, a doorway – anything to help them give their imaginations specificity and to give a scene a sense of place. The actors at The New Ensemble often took the challenge upon themselves to acknowledge The Pole and find interesting ways to incorporate it into their performance.

We had Heisenberg walk around The Pole every time he entered into a murky memory sequence, so Copenhagen had a movement structure that was hard to find in the script. We had Miss Fischer think of The Pole as the corner of a wall of paintings – paintings in her memory and also that she had confiscated for the Nazis-, so there was a sharp barrier she couldn’t wander past in A Picasso. The Governess used The Pole as a great English Oak that protected her and her wards, but also held her back from fighting the ghosts threatening them all in The Turn of the Screw. In The Pillowman, The Pole was a silent witness to every interrogation in the room, in Hamlet it was the “pillar of madness and violence”, and in Gross Indecency it represented prison walls and exile for Wilde and his young lover.

The team at {tne} has often prided itself on its acceptance of The Pole and on doing work well enough that The Pole didn’t really matter to audiences (we hope!). In a way, it was a part of our little troupe.

I know that I will once again direct a show at 1470 N Van Ness- Fresno Soap Co.- and there will come a point in the rehearsal process where I will say, “Wow, that is so much easier without The Pole there.”

But a part of me will be sad, too. Like missing a friend who has passed on. And I will sigh a little.

But just a little.

*

You can see a HIGHLIGHTS REEL of The Pole in action at our Facebook Page. Check it out here. 

Or here’s a gallery:

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