Bittersweet opening: Grieving and Directing “HG”

A few months back I wrote a blog post entitled POST-MORTEMS, PRODUCING ROGUE, AND PREPARING FOR MOM’S DEATH. It was about how I found out that my mom could go at any moment just a few weeks prior to Rogue Festival, my biggest event of the year.

tragedy_colorWell, as is the case with my mother, she fought much longer and harder than anyone knew she could. She held on in advanced kidney failure for another six months. It got to the point that my brother and I did what we’ve done for years when hearing about my mother’s imminent death (which has been imminent at least five times in the last 14 years): We lived our lives. We made plans knowing that eventually the time would come, whether it was a “good time” or not.

And so it was that a summer project came along called “Hedda Gabler”. I had been needing an opportunity to direct, a friend needed a director, it was a classic play and I’m partial to the classics, and so I signed on with the caveat “Knowing that my mother could go at any time.”

And she did. Right smack dab in the middle of the rehearsal schedule. We were three weeks in and there were three weeks to go until opening.

I think I was waiting for it, honestly. I approached the project with excitement, but not a little bit of trepidation. It’s a big play, full of a lot of layers and depth. And I felt a little out of mine, truth be told. But we went through the difficult rehearsal schedule in the first few weeks, doing the work the best way we knew how at the time.

But when my mother died, I took a few days off of work and we were on a short rehearsal break. I kind of got myself together, but nothing quite felt real. I spent the next week of rehearsal in a fog, just completely unable to engage fully in the process. I did what I could, but I I felt my notes were impotent, my leadership lacking. I could find no insight to contribute and I was terrified I was letting the cast down. But it also took everything I had to get myself into the room each night.

I hope I got myself together in the last two weeks. Tried to double down on giving specific notes, ask clarifying questions, fix problems, make sure every beat was textually driven. . . even if I didn’t feel like what I could give could meet anyone’s needs.

Thank goodness for a cast of experienced professionals and passionate actors with amazing instincts. Probably the best decision-making that happened in the process was the selection of our amazing stage manager and these actors – these director-proof actors. Because of them and the drive of producer/actor Brooke Aiello, this production has found legs. It’s a testament to planning well and getting good people to come along.

We’re at opening night tonight, and I’m in awe of what this group of people has accomplished. A lot of people helped along the way, sacrificed time, donated money, helped us move the entire theater to a new space right before tech week. It’s a been one helluva summer.

I’m still exhausted and emotionally reticent for fear of the flood-gates opening. I’m ‘planning’ my breakdown for after closing (my mother’s memorial is two days after closing). But I also know I’m in the midst of a very long, slow grief-process. . .it bubbles to the surface a few times a day to let me know it is there and it is happening.

But in the middle of it, there was art in the form of “Hedda Gabler” and a friend who needed a director (such as I was), and the summer was everything and nothing I could have wished for.

Goodnight and godspeed, Mom. You would have hated this play, but loved that I was doing it.


One comment

  1. Servetus · · Reply

    I’m very sorry for your loss and I wish you all the best for your time in the fog and your way out of it.

    [Love this poster! and really like the play, too. Break a leg.]

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