We went with the theme of “The One” to celebrate our first official season. A few company members – not including myself – and some invited storytellers in the Baltimore theatre scene prepared tales. Being the least performance-based of the group, I designated myself to live-tweeting the event–#GMT360, if you’re curious, or see the embedded Storify story below–which I thought would be a fun social media effort; I didn’t quite realize what I would be recording.
The independent bookstore felt more like a quirky intellectual’s large living room, creating an instant feel of intimacy. Strangers wandered into our 360 rough run-through, and a few of us expressed concern. My honest thoughts were “Oh crap! Now they’re not going to stay for the event!” But they did. And more unfamiliar, interested faces wandered in. As a member of a budding theatre company, sometimes there’s nothing better than those faces you’ve never seen before. And when those faces become storytellers who immediately become more than just acquaintances…
As the event began, stories ranged far and wide – estranged and regained family relationships, a hilarious meeting with Bill Clinton, telling off Paris Hilton, getting interrogated in Chile for Benadryl, and more. And there I sat – in my chair on my phone with my face to a screen but peeking out for the stories – I experienced parallel real-time technologies. Face-to-face the first immediate art – and then, only a recent real-time technology, with hashtags and absurdly named actions and small amounts of characters. “Real time” is trendy now but theatre artists, I believe, have always understood its value. I loved sharing and recording the vibrating energy between storytellers and the listeners. Face-to-face is our art’s beginning, technology is our art now and onward, and I felt honored to be the intermediary between the two.
As the open-mic night portion began, I suddenly felt the urge to share one regarding my grandma and my love for theatre. And, for someone who hasn’t acted in quite awhile, having a casual audience was the least bit intoxicating. But it was different than a typical audience – because instead of revealing elements of a character, we revealed our own character. And then, more unrehearsed folks told their stories, and it simply was an evening about sharing, laughing, tearing up a bit. Many of us went out to eat afterwards, with people who otherwise would have been strangers. The 360 started as face-to-face performance – I helped make it current with technology – but the relevance, even and especially in 2011, is and will always be in those live stories.
Credit is due to my colleagues Elizabeth Galuardi, Jay Hargrove and Sarah “Flash” Gorman who organized the event.