Upshag, Downshag, Kick, Cuff, or Box Feb 1, 2013

by Gillian

Look, I don't know if the title of this post truly has anything to do with what I saw last night, but of course it does, because it is something my dad used to say. He'd say it, and then he'd pull our hair.

Full disclosure: I love my father. Is that even necessary to declare? Not really: love is not a conflict of interest. It doesn't really matter what your relationship with your father might be on the scale of relationships. It's the simplest prep for a show ever: our parents are always swirling somewhere in our messy brains, always ready to burst forth in some sort of emotion or lack thereof. And that is one of the greatest strengths of this production.

I went in to the theatre thinking mostly about how I'd love to do something with my dad. At least, I think I would. I used to: get all dressed up and play in the orchestra for the community musical, set out to weed the soybean fields and end up in a dirt clod fight, argue about who would actually care where I went to college, measure canal roads for an airplane runway that would never be built, drive around until purposefully lost then find our way back home.

I realized this morning that becaue so many of these thoughts were occupying my attention, that She She Pop's structure of including information about their fathers and using rehearsal discussions as part of the performance helped me to simply watch the show and develop a relationship with their fathers. At first, I wanted Testament just to be the results of the rehearsals, just to show its work, to stop telling me about King Lear and just do something. But if they'd done that, I might not have been able to experience the clear personalities of these fathers. The simplicity of allowing us to watch them talk to each other meant that I was always aware of the true relationship of the people on stage, regardless of how much had been altered for dramatic purposes. Nearly every moment held a layer distancing it from the pedestrian: the fathers sat stage right in easy chairs, but their Lear images were projected center stage as family portraits; rehearsal discussions were recreated, but while wearing headphones so it was clear that they were relaying discussions without pretending to have them again; charts and graphs were projected as drawn while voices were amplified by microphones (in charming and maddening effect). This structure was repeated so specifically and regularly that when those layers were removed, even for a moment, we were left with a man...and that's when the tears came.

In the middle of technology, heightened discussion about inheritance, and old arguments, we saw these men for who they are: humans nearing the end of their lives. Men whose bodies had changed, but whose personalities were as vibrant as always. Men who had agreed--though it was clear through performance that the agreement was not constant--to head into messiness with their children and be seen by strangers. And why? I'm pretty sure it's because of love. According to their bond; no more no less.