Artistic Director, Andrew Gall, talks about why he chose ARCADIA.
Good works of art and literature linger with you long after you have experienced them. They can subtly or substantially, inform how you see yourself, your community, and hopefully provokes meaningful reflection. For me, my first encounter with ARCADIA was such a moment.
In the mid 90’s when I was living and working in Chicago, ARCADIA was the first play I read after getting out of college. I read the play on the commuter train; missing my stop, I was so wrapped up in reading it. The big ideas, florid language, and inventive and unpredictable characters melded into this romantic, funny, and “nerdy” play were so clearly etched in my mind. I read the play again, a two years later when my mother was in the hospital; dying as it turned out. That sounds depressing and maudlin, I know, but my mom would have LOVED this play had she been well enough to read it or, even get to see it. (My mom taught the classics, and had a fondness for poetry and gardening….) For me, at this time, the play continued to be a source of inspiration, and optimism. One of my favorite passages in the play is this one:
“We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. but there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.”
This quote, like much of this play, fills me with optimism. For nearly twenty years I have felt like Tom Stoppard wrote this play just for me. I have been holding it close to me as a sort of secret totem. Because I had such a deeply personal attachment to the play, I was never sure if I could fully realize the production I envisioned. Until now, ARCADIA has been something I have carried around in my heart as a sort of “bucket list”/dream-show. On top of that ARCADIA is a complex story where characters deal with abstract things like: poetry, math, literature, the passage of time, and physics.
It also has a tortise. Pay attention to the the tortoise references….
So why do ARCADIA now?
For the past few years, I have been encouraged and heartened by audience response to new and challenging work we have introduced at Parkway Playhouse. This set the stage, so to speak, for a conversation in which it was basically inferred that actors and audiences in Western North Carolina were “not ready” for a play like ARCADIA. This comment deeply offended me and I was highly motivated to prove this person wrong. The production that on our stage now is a fine production and is expertly wrought by a cast of regionally based actors who leave their guts on stage every night. As a director, I could not be more proud.
More importantly, good theatre is meant to inspire, illuminate, and challenge as well as entertain. The best plays and musicals do this and leave us feeling fuller, lighter; we are transformed in some way by the performance. The questions and feelings that stay with us at the final curtain we take with us into our lives and relationships. The questions and ideas at the heart of ARCADIA are not nearly as complicated as the characters who give voice to them. In fact, the most profound notion of the play comes in the last few minutes, and it is in stark contrast to the verbal and intellectual and verbal density of everything else in the play. It transpires with few words and an exquisite waltz. I won’t say more, other than to suggest, that the satisfying intimacy, in which ARCADIA concludes is a feeling that I hope all who come to the play leave with.
photo of Andrew Gall by Chanse Simpson, all others courtesy of Parkway Playhouse
Parkway Playhouse, located in the Appalachian town of Burnsville, NC, is a haven of theatre talent. While people come to the mountains to get away, Parkway Playhouse is a natural gathering place to connect. Likewise, we are an extension of traditional mountain talents: singing, dancing, and, foremost, storytelling. By giving rise to energetic new voices and through a wide variety of plays and musicals, we invite our audience into experiences that are thought-provoking, adventurous, and entertaining. Together we reimagine the world in every live performance, creating dynamic conversations that last far beyond the curtain call.
This blog is will feature stories, helpful information, insight and features about the performances.
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