Elevator Repair Service | Time is on our side... Sep 22, 2007

by Michelle

(I should say a quick hello of introduction to the Blog the Boards devotees—long time/first time, as the kids say on the call-in radio shows. And I happen to be the new On the Boards development director. Is it trial by fire to have my first blog post be on the 7 hour+ show? Maybe. But I think I can hang.) I’m going to work from the outside in—from what it feels like to have people converging on the theater at 4:30 on a Friday, each with a glint in his or her eye that said there’s something different happening here... We were one audience, banded together to take a journey. By the third intermission, past midnight, after a drink or three (or five) had come and gone, eyelids hung heavy in the women’s restroom line. We didn’t talk. A hand motion, a thumbs-up— “Keep on keepin’ on ”—was all that was needed. Because we worked our asses off, too. Don’t get me wrong—Elevator Repair Service is conducting a master class on that stage. But we needed to do calisthenics, to hydrate, to check in with each other like you would mid-hike—How’s your climb? Need a rest? My climb was pretty good, thanks. I spent a fair amount of time during the show trying to trace back the work these actors, director, and other co-creators had to do to bring the play to its current place. (In interviews—including an audio interview on this very site—they’ve given details on their process, including that they didn’t set out from the beginning to perform the whole book.) Why that choice, I wondered? And that one? Because when I’m sitting down to watch a play that I know will ask something new of me, I need to grab on to signposts as I go, to rules that begin to emerge: okay, this guy here reads from the book. Check. These people work in his office, but will emerge as characters from the book. Got that, too. So when established rules slip, cascade into one another, I need to hang on for the ride. And it’s in these moments that there is the greatest potential for magic—as one expectation crashes into another, a flint can spark into real beauty, into the moments where I must literally chase after the breath I just lost. In six hours of performance, Elevator Repair Service is repeatedly setting up its own conventions—because there is truly not another play like this—and then aligning the pins to knock them down. Us watchers put in the good work, and we’re rewarded with moments where it all comes together. There was a post-dinner break payoff where every single thing at ERS’ disposal was put to its best use: skilled performers were in action, as one; I fully understood why Scott Shephard must have been reading the book aloud, in its entirety, and not skipping a syllable; and I knew why this piece had to be performed in a theater, in front of an audience. And why I was there to take part in it. I don't know if I can explain it more than that. I got there. It just took a little time, is all. Thank you to ERS for providing it. -Michelle Lewis