A Silk Purse Emerges from God’s Ear
Blogs by Tara Karsian | January 13, 2012
When I wrote an article for LA STAGE Times last year, it was as a producer of Mark Shultz’s Everything Will Be Different. This time it’s as an actress. I know — you’re asking yourself, “Is there ANYTHING this woman can’t do?” Yes…sing. Yet I’m being forced to do so in front of an unsuspecting public (my apologies in advance) in Echo Theater Company’s Los Angeles premiere of Jenny Schwartz’s wonderful play, God’s Ear.
Well, who knows if it’s wonderful? We’re not opening until Saturday. As I write this, we’re in the middle of tech and dress rehearsals. Our set isn’t finished, props are missing and costumes have yet to be completed. The actors are doing what actors always do at this point in the game: questioning choices, their talent and why they said yes to doing this show, why they ever decided to become actors in the first place — and is it too late for medical school? Yes, it is. But medical school’s loss is this production’s gain.
I’d be lying if I said I loved this play when we did a public reading of it last year. I thought the piece was beautiful, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought it was akin to lyrical poetry. I don’t like poetry. I like linear. I’m a traditionalist — you know, three acts and a happy ending. I do remember thinking that it could possibly be more fully realized in a staged production, but I expressed my concerns. As usual, no one listened to my concerns.
Once every 10 years or so, I find myself in the awkward position of being wrong. This is one of those times. From the first table read, I gradually began to open up to Jenny Schwartz’s play, her words and the strange world of grief she has created. Now, I’m madly in love with it. if God’s Ear were a person, I would beg it to marry me. No pre-nup necessary.
The play is about a couple dealing with their grief over the death of their young son. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking that you’ve seen this one before. It was called Rabbit Hole. Now, throw in G.I Joe, a transvestite flight attendant and the Tooth Fairy (yours truly) and a couple of other unsavory characters and try and tell me it’s Rabbit Hole. You can’t. You won’t.
At the beginning of the rehearsal process, we all (including our director Rory Kozoll) found ourselves stymied by the play. Seriously, we had no clue as to what the result would look like. It was as if the writer had shown us a picture of a beautiful house, provided us with the land and all the building materials but left the blueprints out. This show allows for a wide range of imagination and experimentation. No two productions of God’s Ear will ever be exactly the same.
It was incredibly exciting to have that kind of expanse to play with as actors, joining as one, forging new acting territories together. That is — until we realized how terrifying that prospect was…about five minutes into the first rehearsal.
By the end of week one, I was looking at all my fellow actors and wondering how any of them had been cast! My God, were they really going to make THAT choice THERE? Had (insert name here) ever even read the play? Did (points to fellow actor) realize what a colossally stupid road they were going down and how they would destroy the entire play with that one ridiculous cross down stage left? Was the director actually going to allow them to do it? Perhaps they felt they same way about some of my choices? Not probable, but I was trying to show some humility. By week three, I was longing to just scrap everything and see if it was too late to get the rights to Barefoot In The Park.
Then it happened.
Those same actors and that director, who for weeks had been so horribly misguided, started to build that house that Schwartz had shown us. As it rose, it became more and more beautiful. Now my colleagues strike me as fearless, magnetic, funny, touching. I am grateful and proud to be allowed the privilege of sharing a stage with them.
I love theater. I don’t love every theater experience, either as a spectator or as part of a production. As in any relationship, I have gone in hoping for the best and as in some relationships, I find myself slowly disillusioned as it plays its way out. But I haven’t this time. I’ve learned to expand my narrow little linear world and give in to the theatrical machinations of God’s Ear. I’m not sure if it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but we’ve all had a hell of a time brewing it.
Our artistic director Chris Fields told me after the public reading last year that I was wrong about this play. He was right. I was wrong. I’ve never been so happy to be able to say that.
God’s Ear, presented by Echo Theater Company. Opens Jan. 14. Plays Fri-Sat 8 pm; Sun 7 pm. Tickets: $25. The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., LA. www.echotheatercompany.com 877-369-9112.
***All God’s Ear production photos by Megan J. Carroll
Tara Karsian is an actress who is also associate artistic director of the Echo Theater Company. She makes her living doing television and films, and then cheats on them both by doing theater. It’s the best affair she’s ever had.