Moving Toward Happiness

Moving Company

a review 


Recently walking past a housekeeper with my bags, we left our hotel on the 23rd floor of a room in Manhattan. I nodded good-bye and thank you, and she smiled for a moment but I wondered how long the grin remained the second we went around the corner. I didn’t stop to think about what goes through her mind on a daily basis as she cleans up after me and everyone else that nods to her along the way.

In The Moving Company’s current production of The 4 Seasons, at The Lab Theater, the lives of three human beings caught in the trappings of their own seeming mendacity of hope suggest an essential value we often like to avoid. Like the housekeeper we know exists, yet they are gone when we disappear in our own lives, the three characters in this fictional hotel experience life through the poignancy of summer, fall, winter, & spring, and inside each season, the human condition speaks to the turmoil we all experience no matter our level of responsibility or status in society.

These three clean up after us daily, they unplug our used toilets, gather our soiled linens, and bathe in our afterward when the season wanes and they are left alone with their own simple lives. Each character has a question and while driven by the music of Vivaldi, their actions speak to the pain that exists when hope is just out of reach, when the light disappears, when happiness cannot be attained within the mundane reality of trying to survive. There is a rhythm to their world, and the music allows us to imagine their truths are as complicated as anyone’s own. The everyman is brought to life.

The Moving Company speaks to the reality of a generalized world, while exposing our current political turmoil and the hypocrisy of the haves when measured against the have nots. The judicial system is brought into question, while the seeming confusion of how leadership is chosen by ignorance is explored in the eyes of three normal lives.

We walk past the housekeeper every day, and the spirit of always seeking the beautiful despite the disdainful existence of their lives is played out on stage with a quiet humor. The talents of Heidi Bakke, Joy Dolo, and Steven Epp  play out the illusion we choose or do not choose to maintain when carving out our own lives. The balance of live theatre under the direction of Dominique Serrand once again compels and demands an audience to think, rather than simply walk past the reality of our own existence. In a world where hope is easily forgotten, is it still attainable? Will we remember two or three hundred years from today about the purpose of our lives?

The Moving Company raises the question with a blend of delightful humor spread thin by the painful struggle within the human condition. We are left entertained yet in a constant with silent wonder.



 

‘The 4 Seasons’ performed by The Moving Company

The Lab Theater – November 1 – December 2, 2018.

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‘Speechless’ by The Moving Co.

speechless

Last night we went to see the play ‘Speechless’ performed by The Moving Company at The Lab Theater in downtown Minneapolis. I wanted to see the show (Best Play of 2017 – StarTribune) because it is being produced by former members of Theatre De Le Jeune Lune, namely, created by Steven Epp and directed by Dominique Serrand. In reading a preview I was further intrigued by the premise, no words, only movement interwoven in the music of Brahms, Schubert & Tchaikovsky.

In reading the synopsis, “SPEECHLESS follows five brave souls as they navigate through grief, loss, and disbelief” -The Moving Company, I found I was immediately drawn by the history and creative nature of Jeune Lune and these players’ ability to demonstrate an avenue of experimental theatre often missed by many, but for those that dare, the reward outstanding. Last evening was no exception.

The night began with the company of players, five actors walking out into the stage, and intermingling with the audience while the lights slowly fade, their expressions all appearing earnest and welcoming, almost lonely in their need to connect, to only simply, say something. One actor as they centered, slowly opened his mouth for a certain utterance, and then simply backed away in pained disbelief. They all then lighted accordingly began their performance with the music moving their soul.

What transpired over the next 90 minutes was rather incredible in this relevant statement upon our society and its loss of ‘hope’ as would be one of the only tangible motifs I could easily draw conclusion upon. Throughout certain movement and precise acuity the actors then told the story of a society lost, grieving, finding relief, looking for motion, looking for someway to seek comfort inside a world of crumbling and disheveled chaos that only continued to unravel. Everything they touched seemed to fall away and even shatter in literal testament of the destruction their lives would now endure.

Yet, the beauty of ‘Speechless’ is that as their world tore apart, they kept finding ways to mend, even realizing that while the best of their world lay in fragments if they brought their energy together, there then, people could somehow find some new grounding to within the magic of the human condition piece together their lives.

Through a remarkable array of dance, acrobatics, layered meaning and finally the utterance of body and soul that had me imagining Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ the players slowly found themselves together and with the meaning of hope, they did discover spring again, and planting seeds finished the night in a spectacular rainbow of meaning that showed the audience, once again, love is everything.

This is certainly a special piece of theatre playing through the 10th of June. If you are curious, I assure you, there is reason to find out why. Go.

There’s a Song About It Too

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I think it’s the Counting Crows,

well now I know it is,

just being stylish,

setting the tone,

the moment when everything matters,

inside the look of a photo.

 

I woke to this image in the morning,

it represents something,

a journey I suppose,

where all eyes come together

to find some peace,

waking only to see ‘Omaha.’

 

I went to sleep with that last night,

having visited our future,

a couple of kind young souls

that inspire my chances

to watch them grow,

seems silly now, they’re both young adults.

 

I woke up this morning,

looked at the sign out my hotel window,

remembered how blind I’d been

the night before to purpose and reason,

and suddenly came to terms with a world

far beyond just my own sense of matter.

 

To them, the two students I cherished,

one being certainly the breath of my oxygen

with an energy driven toward happiness,

a positive soul,

a wonderful heart.

 

And he,

a magical young man,

with talents beyond the norm,

pick up a guitar,

stand in for a character,

draw a line and give it purpose,

 

They walk the sands together,

shaping the mold of steps

left behind for others

to notice, to understand, to wonder,

their’s is a special opportunity,

the human condition in genuine smile.

 

I drove miles to observe and then wake to Omaha,

and tonight I’m at peace, a sweet simplicity in awe

My America (written for contest)

To understand, My America, I wanted to embody a lifetime of experience that could speak directly to my concept of living as a white man in the Midwest. I was fortunate to grow up with conscientious siblings all of whom were driven by values instilled by parents just trying to keep up with the norms of their day. My folks raised five kids, most of whom came of age in the sixties, experiencing the death of JFK, RFK, Shirley Chisolm running for President, the assassinations of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., and countless other life changing events wrapped around the atrocities of the Vietnam War. My sad claim to fame was that in 1972, Kent State had occurred on my birthday. These events all of them tragic had a huge impact on who I am today.

 

I love America, I truly do, I am a patriot by all accounts, thankful for my freedom and the many men and women that sacrificed their lives to help maintain our free society. However, there are times when I am made physically sick by the actions of many, all of whom could find more peace in their lives by just opening their eyes. There is a systemic method of discrimination in our society that permeates every aspect of our lives. Interestingly, as a white person in this time, it seems I would be just fine if I ignored everything around me that is hostile or demeaning to my way of life. I wouldn’t have to deal with it because I am of the color of skin that these realities do not impede. For me personally, that is a problem, it always has been and is resultant in my writing this story.

 

When I was a young boy, I took a trip to New York with my family. I was 12 years old. One night a group of us went to the corner grocery store. I noticed a number of black kids playing about outside the store, and I asked the person I was with if they knew any of them, as the market was only a couple blocks from their home. They immediately responded with, “I don’t mess with any (n-word).” It was at that moment I was struck with fear. I had never felt this way, I didn’t know how to feel. I was raised in the whitest of white America in the Midwest and had never experienced any aspect of the African-American culture, beyond my readings about MLK and X, and my mother’s insistence we recognize authors of color in all of our studies. I was scared for the first time in my life of something I had no control over, I felt threatened without knowing why. It wasn’t until the next day that I could understand my fear was based upon the person I was with and not the people at the corner store who left me feeling curious.

 

The next morning our family was given an auto tour of Manhattan and several surrounding Burroughs including Harlem. As we drove past The Cotton Club and I noticed the streets were filled with black people, I said emphatically to my mother, “That’s who I saw last night mom, black people.”

 

She looked out to the gatherings of people going about their morning, turned to me, and provided me a life changing suggestion. “Thom, those aren’t black people you’re seeing, those are people,” and then she smiled and continued to finish her Tareyton cigarette, like Katherine Hepburn standing with a foggy backdrop, showing logical purpose.

 

Fast forward 30 years, and I am a teacher in a high school classroom. I finish my licensure and am fortunate to be given my first theatre program. During that summer, while working on the coming year, I scour multi-cultural scripts, the only one I know firsthand is Raisin in the Sun, and I keep it on my shelf for future consideration. I can’t find anything I like or understand. I’m having a hard time maintaining my goal of becoming the ‘multi-cultural teacher of the year’ if all I can produce are mainstream script ideas. I call a friend at a local high school with a unique demographic and ask for her suggestions.

 

She states calmly, “I’ve never used a multicultural script.” And I think about that for a moment, and I’m suddenly thrown off wondering how that could be possible. When I asked her why not, her response was my first lesson of a new cultural awareness that I suddenly realized had nothing to do with race and more to do with talent.

 

“I cast only the right person for the character or role,” she stated, and I was in the moment humbled. I suddenly felt like a racist, because rather than focusing on the content, I was centering my aim upon the color of every students’ skin that would eventually audition to be on my stage. Years later that lesson echoes in my mind every time I hold an audition. However, I wish that solution could remain that easy.

 

In today’s world there is a greater need to understand diversity and how it works in our society. Gone are the days of suggesting that issues only apply to one minority. They apply to everyone, and right now as I write this I am questioning my own ability to be an open minded citizen of America that recognizes and respects every culture that I have the opportunity to encounter in my daily life. It’s not easy, but I didn’t come here to whine.

 

In recognizing My America I try to look to the future, given the present turn of events since our last election. We are in the middle of a crisis, that one group of people would suggest is overstated, while another group will cry out, ‘when will it ever be enough?’ Today, my focus is on racism and how it permeates our society to a greater level than even I was kept sheltered from in my formative years, beyond the television and books. Through my family’s eyes, I did experience Civil Rights and I did value its importance on our society. Today it seems all those battles in the 60’s have been summarily dismissed and we are faced with re-tooling our ability to open our minds to an incredibly diverse and beautiful world of people.

 

I don’t have the answers, but I do certainly have the passion and that desire and hope remains with me in every waking moment. My dreams are what fuel an idealism that allows the world to imagine being one.

 

In the words of John Lennon and Malcolm X, with liberties to merge ideas:

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the sixties, that’s his problem (Lennon) … I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation” (Malcolm X).

While Eyes Were Walking

So many waves of opportunity

we stepped inside without knowing

only hopeful,

perhaps somewhere, sometime,

we might,

we could possibly

land here.

 

There were smiles all around,

we wondered in silence if it was real,

could this be

this way that provided a happy

medium,

a place to stay,

stand near.

 

Well I took a chance and noticed

you stood nearby me to, we were together,

create we did,

a memory to serve our time,

forever,

in this place in life,

sans fear.

 

I do know I will recall this time,

we danced the fire of magic in sphere,

circling our lives,

stand before a stage of peer,

always,

we can return here anytime

time is dear.

 

To the class of 2016, and all of their future believers.

©Ammo 2016 All-Night Drama Lock-In

 

In A Short Minute*

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Life ends

simple bitter finale

minutes before our ideas

thrive in the mind

of the present

For the nether

a mystique in soul,

deep resonate despair.

We want control of that

scope beyond, infinite magic.

Sweet mystery is love,

realistic to the wakeful eye,

more impactful in fear,

when our lives become

measured.

A life spent

entertaining the seats,

mentoring the masses,

forgiving the ill,

now manifests a timely

farewell,

one sure to confuse

a following,

heart-wrenching pain.

 will us all say good-bye

now.

~

*we lost a master of the stage to tragedy today.

The Message of Camelot and high school theatre

Today, I am reflective. This weekend our students performed Camelot on the Shakopee High School stage. This is a show that has been with me since as a child, my mother brought me to see my first production in Wausau, WI as our neighbor was performing in the ensemble. I remember being immediately drawn to the atmosphere, the nuance, the beauty of the stage. I knew at five years old, the stage was where I belonged in some capacity.

I have always wanted to perform this show, and now we are blessed to have the gift of such a talented group of students, to afford the opportunity to attempt such a prolific musical. The dialogue is eerily timeless in our era of border disputes, and haunting terrorism that merits a world misguided by fear, greed and envy. There is a dialogue profound to our needs today. “We are civilized” in the words of King Arthur.

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As we endure the pain of Paris and all of the hotspots of real torment in our world today, I take pause in knowing that theatre allows us to imagine the illusion of a peace that is attainable, is though far-reaching, within our grasp, if we might take the time to ‘think’ as Merlin tried to instill in King Arthur. I wish only love and peace to our neighbors and that we do understand the meaning of a borderless world brought on by an inherent grace in our lives today.

When writing these words, I am immediately drawn to notions of my mother, Jane Amundsen, who taught me idealism as a child and through her spiritual guidance today. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful group of students to bring these ideals to the stage, if not for the span of a few hours of our lives. I hope all of you can find the time to come and see Shakopee’s production of Camelot on the high school stage.

~

*photo credit – author