A Standing Long Jump


I’ve been trying my hand at some more joint storytelling lately. My current partner is someone with a great deal of acting experience, but not much in this particular discipline. Our first time working together, I asked her how she thought it went. She stated that she thought it went well — but also expressed frustration that she didn’t know the text well enough; she was referring to it too heavily.

Yeah, see? It’s not as easy at it looks!

Not to re-open the whole “working-from-notes” debate — but the point that I’m trying to make is that, while a lot of audiences dismiss it as “lazy”, it’s a hell of a lot more difficult than it looks. Working from text requires an intimate knowledge of the material, in order to continue drawing the audience in.

So, yes — they work from notes here, and, yes, there’s a number of audience members for whom that’s an absolute I’m-done-I’ve-lost-interest-see-you-next-Tuesday. Emphatically not a problem for me. The performers do pretty well, although there’s a few frustrating points where one actor gives a feed-line and the other has to fumble through to find the appropriate response.

The play definitely got off to a slow start for me — it was in a coffee shop and there were these characters talking and stuff was happening and my attention kept drifting. It wasn’t until we got to the meat of the play — a girl, finding a man lying in an alley — that suddenly my attention was caught. And that was the meat of the play — the remainder of the action takes place there. Which left me wondering, what was the purpose of all that setup? All the key events that we witnessed are discussed, at length, later in the play — and that can be the place that we discover them. But that sight, of the old dude lying in the alley — yeah. That’s one hell of an opening image. That’s where, I think, the play needed to start. I would have preferred to hit the ground running (so to speak) and catch up later, than to have all of that exposition to wade through at the top.

I will admit, as well, that I didn’t find the subject matter of the play hugely intriguing– love stories are usually a pretty goddamn tough sell for me, and I frankly wasn’t that interested in the resolution of this one. (The grander ideas about youth and age were definitely the stronger hook for me.) Which segues neatly into the fact that I found the ending incredibly anticlimactic. I’m hesitant to even mention it, because that suggests that I have a better idea for it, and, well, nope. Either one thing was going to happen, or another thing was going to happen, and then, well, one thing happened. And the play ended. The fact that I’m phrasing it in these terms suggests that I lacked sufficient emotional investment.

(For which, of course, my stunted sense of empathy may be entirely accountable. I also belong to that section of the populace that thinks that if someone is going to leap off of a building to prove some sort of romantic point, well, I struggle to dredge up sympathy. All of which suggests that I’m simply not the core audience for this show.)