A Love Letter to Ellen McLaughlin May 19, 2012
by Katie W
First, you have to understand that last weekend I got to play bocce ball with Ellen McLaughlin. And that our team won. It was an informal gathering for the annual Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival, of which she is a two-time alum. I was completely theatre geeking out. I surreptitiously snuck away to my iPhone at one point during the game to text a friend from college "OMG, I am playing bocce ball with the original Angel from Angels in America!"
And then she blessed my iPhone.
Ok, she didn't exactly bless it, but she spilled a little bit of red wine on it. I took it as a sign that the theatre gods and goddesses were particularly pleased with me.
"I have to wonder," you might be thinking, "if we have really started the blog post yet?"
Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Trimpin's The Gurs Zyklus, which featured the talented Ms. McLaughlin. She was one of three women vocalists that lent an eerie, chameleon-like chorus of sorts to the morbid sereneness of the piece. As an audience member, I was transported to a place where rain falls without clouds, musical instruments play themselves, and trees stand silent, refusing to tell their secrets.
The movement vocabulary of the piece was terse and universal. Feet tapped nervously, fingers crinkled packages as their owners were transported by train to concentration camps. We know the stories of the Holocaust. They are not new to us, they are indelible marks on the fabric of humanity. And perhaps this is what Trimpin and Rinde Eckert (the director and narrator) are trying to convey. An amalgamation of mundane things made poignant by their intensity in context.
The symphony that a roll of butcher paper makes while it is being unfurled can be sinister when you imagine that it contains the names of Jewish people who may or may not be executed. Class orbs suspended by chains knock into each other, making your flesh crawl a bit, because you are not sure what they indicate. Perpetual motion? That life will go on, regardless?
The piece may be dark in tone, but at the end, it instills a sense of hope and a call to action: that we must all share our single small flames with the world. An angel may not come bursting through our respective ceilings, but we all have the responsibility to incubate the extraordinary in our lives and the lives of others.