"WHAT THE SEEING PLACE MEANS TO ME"
BY DR. MARGARETTE CONNOR, Board Chair of The Seeing Place
|Our favorite patron and advisor, Margarette Connor!|
When Erin asked me to write a blog post about what The Seeing Place means to me, I jumped at the chance. I also thought it would be easy. But when I sat down to actually get some thoughts on paper, I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. It’s not that I don’t know exactly what this theater company means to me, but how could I get the depth of my love down on paper without sounding like world’s biggest theater geek or downright crazy? For me, The Seeing Place embodies what theater is about.
I come from a long line of show people. I grew up in metro New York and have being going to theater for literally as long as I can remember. Mom would take us to Broadway, off-, off off, community theater, everything. My grandmother, a retired singer, would “volunteer” to do costumes and make-up for shows done by the Catholic school run by her best friend’s sister, Sister Anita Rosaire. (The quotes are there because sisters ask, but refusal is useless.) She’d do the same for community fundraisers and whenever her grandchildren had class plays. She’d whip up costumes, as well, as she’d always done her own. Being backstage with her are some of my happiest memories.
While I have done turns onstage myself, I’m happier as a teacher of drama, a director and occasional playwright. I love working with college students, many of whom have dreams of stardom, some who just want to have fun. So for me, theater is community, family and where love is. It is also a sacred space, quite literally. In the hushed dark, watching the drama unfold, I understand why the ancients saw theater as a form of worship. Theater is about emotions, the things that make us human, and when my emotions are stirred, I feel closer to my god than anywhere else.
Four or five years ago I found my way to The Seeing Place, not for one of their productions, but a one-man play by Aaron Calafato about for-profit colleges. As I was working for one, I was intrigued. Their old venue, in a former cop shop in Hell’s Kitchen, beguiled me with its quirkiness. The play was great, and afterwards Aaron was in the small lobby, very accessible, ready to talk. Soon, a bubbly blonde came over, and I met Erin. Little did I know the Light that had entered my life. Like many who teach and perform, I am actually an introvert, but Erin made me feel welcome.
That was the beginning of a love. Years later, I’ve been to many Seeing Place productions. Some have made me laugh; a number have made me cry. All have made me think. I love how they bring the best modern plays to the stage, addressing important issues facing our communities as well as stage classics, presenting them with an intimacy and freshness that brings them to bold life. One example, I don’t know how many Hamlets I’ve seen, but seeing it almost close enough to touch the characters made this iconic piece more personal. Pairing it with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with the actors playing the same roles in each highlighted the brilliance of Stoppard’s play. It was also the funniest production of this very difficult play I’ve ever seen.
I love how The Seeing Place nurtures talent, allowing actors to experiment and grow. Organic storytelling brings plays to brilliant life. Because many plays cast ensemble members, I’ve seen actors growing in their craft, going from strength to strength. I’ve gone to productions that have included actors I know through my son, an actor, and I can see how working with The Seeing Place in workshops and rehearsals has honed their already strong craft.
As someone who knows that art heals, art teaches and art changes lives, I love that The Seeing Place works hard to keep its ticket prices reasonable and donates tickets to senior centers, low income housing and ticket clubs. I’ve seen first-hand the faces of people who have attended their first play. They are transformed.
Finally, I love the passion that Brandon and Erin bring to The Seeing Place. While many people make up the company, these two are its heart and soul. I had gotten to know Erin after plays, but I didn’t get to really talk to Brandon until Erin asked if I might be interested in serving on the board of directors. At a meeting, Brandon spoke of his earliest ideas for a company through to his future vision; I realized then that I was listening not only to someone who was incredibly passionate about theater, but to a visionary, as well. The two of them work incredibly hard to not only keep their now-shared dream alive, but growing and vibrant. I learned that both Brandon and Erin are Lights in this world, fueled by Love, determined to change things for the better through the healing and teaching power of art. Little do they know, but they are heroes to me, inspiring me to keep on my own path.
I knew then that these two were part of my tribe. They collect around themselves other people, some who stay, some who pass through, but all part of my extended tribe. I had found fellow travelers, kindred spirits, family, Love. All together, for me, these things are the Sacred. And that’s what The Seeing Place means to me. It is community, family, catharsis, sacred, a home to return to when possible. My biggest regret is that my peripatetic life does not allow me to be as involved as I’d like. I’ve left New York, and am now in Tennessee by way of Dubai. I wish I could be there to more actively support this wonderful company. Someday I’ll be back in New York, and all I can hope for now is that I can at least see their shows on a regular basis.
Learn more about Margarette on Twitter.
To help create new work with Margarette and The Seeing Place by contributing to our campaign, visit www.TheSeeingPlaceTheater.com