I went to see “Blackbird”, a play staged by the SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts this past weekend. I work in visual arts and I have a lot of experience as a musician, but I’m frequently mystified by other art forms like theater and dance that I can appreciate but have no formal understanding of how they’re put together. It’s been more than a few years since I’ve attended a live theater performance, and this was definitely a show worth coming out for.
The play is 90 minutes long and features only two characters and one set, making for an intense interaction and experience. My friend Marianna Bassham, who invited me to the performance, plays Una while Bates Wilder plays opposite her as Ray. There are many twists and surprises from beginning to end, so the only thing I’ll say about the plot is that these two characters meet up again many years later and reconstruct their previous relationship. Marianna gave a riveting performance that had me completely mesmerized and holding my breath the whole time. Her performance walked a very fine line between reality and theatricality that was powerful, sophisticated, and raw.
I’ve always thought that when acting is too similar to reality it becomes simply a boring replication of real life. On the other hand, when acting is overly dramatic and too exaggerated it becomes a caricature which loses its ability to be fully convincing. There is a similar correlation in drawing: when drawing is too faithful about reiterating reality it becomes a dull book report, but when drawing is too removed from a substantial reference or concept it can seem arbitrary and out of place. I’ve been mulling over Marianna’s performance since I saw the play last weekend, and I’ve started to think that perhaps it’s that same fine line that I want my drawings to walk as well. I’m thinking about how I can get my drawings to linger between reality and exaggeration, so that they constantly escape being defined as one or the other. It’s wonderful and inspiring to experience another art form and watch it influence and stimulate your own.
Bates Wilder and Marianna Bassham in “Blackbird” by SpeakEasy Stage Company