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The Changelings by TTT Theater, and Why We Love Theater

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The Quote of the Day comes from the Question in the Program for Ten Thousand Things Theater: Why do you do theater? Kimberly Richardson, who plays three characters in their latest new play, The Changelings by Kira Obolensky, says, “I love live performance. In real life, I’m pretty shy. But performing I feel directly and creatively connected to the audience. It’s a rare and beautiful way to be with people.” 

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For me, while I’m experiencing live theater, I have this strange and wonderful phenomenon of being both truly present, in the moment, and yet remembering events, places and people, as those memories are evoked by the story and performance. I’m also transported into the future, thinking of ways to use what I’ve learned. Sometimes, I think about the psychology of the play, what it’s saying about the human experience and how we treat each other, or cope with our world. Sometimes, I’m thinking like a director of a children’s theater program and get inspired about the use of simple sets, costumes, and easily manipulated props. Most of the time, I become so engrossed in the story that I forget that it’s not real. In fact, once it’s over, and I’m driving home, falling asleep, or even doing mundane tasks like the dishes or gardening, I remember the characters and their story and wonder how they’re doing now, as if they were friends of mine, and I need to check in with them.

Playwright Kira Obolensky responded to the above question: “Writing plays (especially for Ten Thousand Things) is a workout for my imagination, my brain and my heart. I write plays so that we can imagine new worlds together, think about big questions and laugh and feel together.” In The Changelings, she creates a world that is part fantasy, and in some ways raw and real. A son has gone missing, years ago, and another one shows up, older, yet longing for connection. Who is he, and how is he accepted? Who are the Changelings? Aren’t we all in need of change throughout our lives? What makes us stuck, and what will pull us out of that muck and make us whole again?

Kurt Kwan as Sharp in TTT's The Changelings.

Kurt Kwan as Sharp in TTT’s The Changelings. Photo by Paula Keller.

Words that pop out of Kira’s quote to me are imagination, brain, heart, and together. I’m most satisfied with my theater experience when a story makes me think in a new way, examine something bigger than myself, or introduce me to a part of history or experiences that are not mine. I know I love a play when I laugh my loud, high-pitched, let myself go sound, and especially if a tear forms in my eye. If I write about your show, “I laughed. I cried. I sighed,” you’ll know it was a hit. The Changelings evoked all this, and more.

Together, feeling connected, is the biggest and best reason to attend a live performance. I brought my four sons to The Changelings. They’ve accompanied me to various shows, and I knew this one would challenge them in a new way. It’s a bare bones performance. Ten Thousand Things (TTT) Theater takes their show on the road. They perform at Women’s Shelters, jails, homeless shelters, community rooms, and this time, a home for teenage mothers. They keep their sets simple and portable. They always perform with all the lights on and the chairs set in a rectangle around the room with the acting space in the center. You are up close and personal with the actors. You see every facial expression and drop of sweat. You can see other audience members and watch their reactions to the play, as they’re watching you and your responses. Sometimes, the action is so close, if you’re sitting on the end or in the front row, that you could touch the actors. Sometimes, they interact with the audience, looking someone directly in the eye, or getting a nod from one of us. It’s thrilling. You can’t help but be engaged. I think my boys were out of their comfort zone just a little, and yet, they were all talking about the play as we walked back to our car and started our drive home. They talked about the story and the characters, the use of symbolism, and Charlie said, “They all needed something.” I loved bringing them to this performance, and, above all, we experienced something together. We made a memory that we can go back to any time, and for me, smile, and say, “Yes, this is what life is about.”

Michelle Hensley is both the Artistic Director of TTT and the director for this show. She’s a brilliant artist. Her model for directing theater and bringing it to the people is beyond compare. She’s been to other cities to direct and teach, and has a book out called All The Lights On, which is my personal favorite for inspiration in the theater arts.

You can still catch a public performance of The Changelings at The Open Book in Minneapolis, June 3, 4, and 5, 2016. Go to the website for Ten Thousand Things Theater for more information on the theater and future productions. TTT is the most inclusive theater around, from their casting and storytelling to the audiences they serve. Next year, they’ll be doing Fiddler on the Roof with non-traditional casting. Thomasina Petrus will be playing Golda. She’s one of my favorite actors in the Twin Cities. Her voice melts glass. I’d go see her in anything. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: In what ways are you currently stuck? What needs to happen to loosen the grip? And, if you’re not stuck, what are you doing that propels you forward in your art/life?

  1. Beautifully thought. Masterfully written. Mary, you hit exactly the right notes in this piece! Thank you!

  2. Sounds like a very exciting performance and I’m glad you all enjoyed it! With the interaction, it’s probably more intense than watching a movie.

  3. I’d like to see more plays. My kids both participate in their school productions, so I think they appreciate what goes into putting on a play.

  4. Why do I love theater? Because its the only place where the room fills up from the cast’s emotion. The dynamic is soul quenching for everyone in the room.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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