Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Gun Show - Endings and Beginnings

I've never had a show close in one city and open in another on the same day.  But that's what's happening today.  "The Gun Show" is having its final performance at Moving Arts, in Los Angeles, this evening.  And it's opening night for the Passage Theater Production of "The Gun Show" in Trenton.

Beginnings and endings.

Endings and beginnings.

It couldn't be more appropriate, really.  Because this play is all about endings and beginnings.  Beginnings and endings.  I go back and forth on the order, in my head.  This play is a door, and... I think I get to decide which direction to go through it.

Ellen Lewis and Juan Francisco Villa, in the 16th Street production of "The Gun Show."

I started this play in the middle.  By which I mean Chicago.  But maybe I mean more kind of middle than just that.  (Everything is a metaphor today.)  It's a rather intimate and personal play, and when it premiered at 16th Street Theater, I was still, in many ways, figuring out what it wanted to be, and how to manifest it up on stage.  I was very lucky to have Kevin Fox dramaturging and directing and occasionally holding my hand and propping up his overwrought playwright (do they teach that in directing school?).  I was very lucky to have Juan Villa up on stage, telling my story with all of his skill and empathy and humor and charm.

Chuma Gault in the Moving Arts production of "The Gun Show."

When I went to Los Angeles, to work with director Darin Anthony, and actor Chuma Gault, and producer Cece Tio who were putting the play on stage at Moving Arts, I knew more about how the play worked.  But it is a city where some of the major action of "The Gun Show" took place.  It is a place where I lived for a long time -- first with my husband, then alone.  It is the place where I lost everything, and began again.  It is the place where I became a playwright.  It is a place where a lot of people know me, and it was difficult to tell people I know and love this story.  But I'm glad I did.  Thank you, Chuma, for bringing all your ferocity and grace to my gun show.

Trent Blanton in the Passage Theater production of "The Gun Show."

Some of the action of "The Gun Show" occurs in New Jersey and New York, too.  I lived here for three and a half years, and made strong and enduring friendships.  Passage Theater in Trenton premiered my play "True Story" last season, directed by Damon Bonetti, and it feels very right to now be working here, with Damon, on this play, which *is* a true story.  (Funny how that works.)  We've had two previews, and already it feels uncomfortably revealing to be sharing this story with people who I know and love.  (Why are strangers easier?  But they are.)  Edward Albee once said that theater should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  I've always liked that.  Playwright Robert O'Hara once remarked that he was trying to create theater where everyone was welcome and no one was safe.  I like that, too.  And the playwright herself shouldn't be exempt from being welcome and afflicted and unsafe and comforted.  So it's very right to be doing this play here, and now.  I'm feeling all of those things.  I'm also feeling grateful for yet another wonderful actor who has taken up this story and made it his own.  Thank you, Trent, for the fearlessness and vulnerability and intelligence that you are bringing to "The Gun Show."

Here I am, standing in the doorway.

Open the box, Ellen.

Light a match.  For light, not for burning.

Begin a conversation about this.

Choose the direction that is forward.


Claudia said...

And ... I cried.

Yoga Girl said...

You are a brave and brilliant storyteller. I am in awe of your honesty and commitment to continuing to challenge theatre audiences and yourself. Thank you for sharing your heart, your soul and your mind. Many hugs to you Ellen. Many hugs.