After a scenic two days, with a few stops, I finally landed in Louisa, Kentucky! Hooray! The hospitality in this quaint, little town is unrivaled. I’ve been accepted with open arms 🙂 As I’m writing this, I can say that we’ve staged the entirety of Steel Magnolias, but I’ll get to that process shortly! To start, I’ve been introduced to wonderful people and I’m surrounded by a cast of talented, diverse performers, from all backgrounds. Upon our initial arrival, we settled into our residence, ran some food related errands and decompressed for the next day.
This cast of women is extraordinary!
I wanted to detail my “first day of school,” which was this past Monday, April 11 2022. This was our first official working day with Mountain Movers Theatre Company. Typically on the given “first day,” we’re inundated with formal introductions, meetings with those that coordinate the inner workings of show functions- like the stage director, costumers, props master, set designers, administrative staff, etc.- in order to get a better understanding of the company core values and show vision. Then, the cast dives headfirst into the material. The staff and administration want to get an idea of the artist’s understanding or preparedness (remember that?) and where there may be room for improvement. For theater, a read-through of the play will suffice; for operas, a sing-through of the entire score, with the conductor and rehearsal pianist. That’s usually how it goes.
As for MOMO, our orientation was very welcoming and refreshingly unique. As I’ve mentioned in my first blog, MOMO is part of a conglomerate, umbrella organization called Addiction Recovery Care, or ARC. The organization was originally founded by the friendly CEO, Tim Robinson. Mr. Robinson and the core ARC staff held a wonderful introductory breakfast for us to introduce ourselves, tell us more about ARC and our function as artists and give us a great start to our day of rehearsal.
A motivating highlight of this breakfast was the personal message of hope and how we, as artists, manifest hope in our work. It’s an important concept for the community of Louisa, people of Appalachia and those working through addictions of all types. Furthermore, ARC uses the influence of MOMO to encourage those in recovery to seek out careers in the arts. Exposure is all part of their process. They aim to build up their community. Art is an exemplary vessel. Their message to us that morning solidified their personal experience and connection to the organization and the opportunities provided at ARC. I was deeply moved to hear staff testimony and recovery stories. My time at this breakfast reinforced my own belief that “stories” heal us all. As Mr. Robinson professed, “we’re all recovering from something.” That’s the truth. There’s catharsis in what we do. I find that I grow everytime I perform. I’m shaped. I’m healed and I heal. It’s magic. Overall, the orientation reinvigorated my purpose for performing M’Lynn in this production of Steel Magnolias. She’s a mother that heals her daughter, heals her community and in a time of devastation, is healed by the women around her.
After our heartwarming and nourishing breakfast, we took a small break and then reconvened to read-through this iconic work. I’m sure everyone in the English speaking world is familiar with Robert Harling’s classic, or at least the Julia Roberts, Sally Field intrepid film adaptation. During our read, we stumbled, laughed, navigated, twanged, cried and embraced…as a team of women, rallying for an uproarious first presentation. I, myself, dug into the crevices of my heart to portray the grieving pathos of the steadfastly loving and loyal M’Lynn. All of us, from all different places and experiences, created art…on our very first day.
As an actor and singer, I really enjoy the first day of any new production. I understand that what we produce will morph and transform into something completely different by the final show. It’s the quintessential before and axiomatic after. But, the magic of the first day read-through…the unsteadiness of it all, is like opening a present or breaking in a new pair of shoes. It’s fresh and exciting, save for a few quips and stumbles, and can never be replicated.
After our reading, we all furthered our introductory period over margaritas at the nearby Mexican Food Restaurant… as you do. We discussed our characters, general likes and dislikes, our thoughts on the first day, etc. I’m excited to get to know these wonderful ladies, and spread hope through this stunning production!