Wooo, well this week was a DOOZY.
A production I was in last February/March at school was invited to be a full performance at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF- I know, it’s a mouthful) this year! This meant we’d be competing against other school’s invited performances for a chance to go to the next level in DC with our show, and perform it at the Kennedy Center!
The show is called Who Will Carry the Word? It’s adapted from a memoir by Charlotte Delbot, a French holocaust survivor. It’s directed by Dr. Anthony Hostetter and Movement Directed by Melanie Stewart. Working with both of them has been really awesome and wonderful. The play tells the story of 20 women imprisoned in the Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camps. It’s an incredibly strong, movement-based piece that we worked with and played with and adapted, and have been for close to a year now. The show felt strong, but for me, it felt like the playing and good choices had only just begun last year. I was excited for this opportunity to revisit a lot of choices, and my character, and physicality! I could go on for seventy million years about the cast and how phenomenal they all are, and the group dynamic we had. But I will make a very long story short and say that these are some of the most connected, interesting, strongest women, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to work with them. Playing off of them and getting to know them has been an experience I’m so grateful to have had. I think I’ve learned the most from them.
I played Yvonne, a woman who suffered from dysentery. She was strong, courageous, out-spoken, and I think she was little…not cynical, but very realistic. In my opinion, she realized the importance of survival, but knew, due to her condition, and what she was handed in life, she would not be among the survivors. She accepted this, but didn’t let it affect the amount of care and energy she put toward the other women in her group.
Dysentery was definitely an interesting physical challenge. But, hey! Clenched butts in performance equals a niiiice butt in real life! So that’s exciting! I had forgotten how physically demanding this show was. I was fending off a cold when rehearsals started, and it’s like my body knew it couldn’t get sick, because the cold just stopped. But it hit me like a ton of bricks today, the day after the shows.
I kind of want to give a run down of the process, because it was interesting and a learning experience!
Friday, the 10th: I drove to school, and had rehearsal 5-9. This was a rough one, everyone was feeling really silly with reunion.
Saturday, the 11th:Rehearsal 10-6. An hour lunch break. We worked super hard. Everyone’s bodies were starting to ache.
Sunday, the 12th: Rehearsal 10-6 again. I got a two hour lunch break this time because I died an hour before lunch break! Wahoo, the joys of dysentery!
Monday, the 13th: Call at noon!! Yay! We worked some things out, and got a lunch break, and then were called for a dress rehearsal in front of a Contemporary World Theatre class. After the dress rehearsal, we broke down the set and got it ready to go.
Tuesday, the 14th: We left the school at 11:30ish, and got to the university that the festival is taking place in. We loaded in the set and put it all together. Then, we had a surprise run through, which was a little crazy cause none of us expected it, but it was good to be able to run it in the space! We left after our run and rested up for the shows the next day.
Wednesday, the 15th: Left school at a whopping 6:15 in the morning! (I don’t think I used whopping correctly in that sentence. Oh well.) Anyway, our call was at 7:45, and we warmed up and got ready for the first show, which began at 9:30. The audience was really attentive and they clapped at the end! I know that sounds weird, but when we did it in school, people were always really confused about if they were able to clap after such a serious show, but you could tell this audience was appreciative of the message, and really enjoyed the performance. It was lovely, and exhilarating!
After the first show, we got lunch, and came back to get ready for our next show at 2:30. We preset, warmed up a little, and did all that good stuff. This audience was also really attentive (except for a few people in the front row who were apparently sleeping umm). For our curtain call, we all came out with our pictures of holocaust victims we paid homage to, and stood in a line as a cast with our pictures. We had been told to remain on stage for the woman working KCACTF to give us a plaque. And as we stood there during the applause, a girl in tears stood up. Then another girl. Then a guy. And soon the entire theatre was standing up, and I was getting emotional.
I don’t know, standing ovations are a really emotional, lovely thing in general. But with a show like this, knowing that people were affected, people received the message we were trying to convey, people appreciated all the hard work and love that went into this show, and most importantly were able to empathize and be touched by the true story of these victims just really got to me, and I think the whole cast, in that moment. All the bodily pain and emotions and stuff were worth it.
There’s so much to mention about my time with this show, and it’s hard to all fit in one post! I want to talk more about the cast, and how we had 3 new cast members in JUST THIS WEEK and how they picked up the show and performed it WITHIN A WEEK. That’s a lot. And also, what is this show without our experience with Manya? Manya is a holocaust survivor we were fortunate enough to meet. She is in her 90’s and is THE most inspirational, sweetest, most amazing woman. She’s Polish, speaks with an accent that she says is a combination of many things, and has the most beautiful outlook on life.
I JUST LOVE THEATRE AND ART AND ITS EFFECT ON THE WORLD IT IS SO COOL AND HAPPY MAKING YES YES ART.
And that’s how I feel about KCACTF.