December 21, 2020
Mr. Kistner, boys English teacher and director of the fall play, muses on the connections between adapting a play and adapting to our different, current reality.
In choosing the fall play this year, we knew we needed one that could be rehearsed and performed virtually, and received permission from a publisher to make changes to a show called “Mirror, Mirror.” But upon review of the edited material, we were told we had changed too much to use the original title, and were given the opportunity to name our adaptation. We settled on Happily Ever After 2020 Loading...
I want to take a moment and look at the pieces of those words. The first one is adaptation. Now you may cry foul as it's not even in the title, but isn't this what each and every one of us has been asked to do? “To a·dapt: 1. become adjusted to new conditions; 2. make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.”
Think about this. Some new conditions are chosen, while 2020 has felt much more forced upon us. So we in the theater world mirrored life and adjusted to our new conditions. We could have stayed in a dark place, bemoaning how things are not like they were before. That's true. It's also life. So instead the team modified and made something suitable for a new use.
Next up, I always liked to imagine that there was an unspoken break between Ever and After, and in reality, the title might have read Happily Ever (After 2020) Loading... so let's tackle the parenthetical. I don't think it's a secret that many of us have wanted 2020 to be over long before this point in the year. There is that optimistic thought that everything will be better “After 2020.” I think it's also a shame that many young folks have felt this same wish for some of the most pivotal moments in their life. Most immediate is our seniors--how does it shape their outlook to wish to just be done with high school and this whole thing? I would encourage them to look for the little joys they may find in their day, such as waking up a bit later, or having a bit more family time, or even as immediate as not having to endure a whole 90 minutes of an exam period. My hope was that this show (both the process and the product) brought a little happiness into everyone's life.
So what does it look like to be Happily Ever? One of my favorite less-than-fairy-tale moments is right before Snow White is going to be married: she hesitates and turns to her friends and asks, "Is it really Happily Ever After?" There was a chance to gloss over this, to have them both smile and reassure her that everything would always be perfect, that her nerves will be replaced with a nirvana eterna. But her friends, both recently married to royalty, don't do that. They hesitate. And the advice is, "You'll figure it out" and "Always put yourself in the other person's shoes.” Wise words. They verify that life is not always going to be a fairy tale. I hate to break this to the dreamers, but 2021 will not be perfect. Does that mean things can't/won't get better? Absolutely not! But we cannot just hold our noses for a time after 2020 to make things all better.
Which brings us to Loading... and those darn ellipses. I like this because it shows us that our future is in the process of being created, being a sum of all our experiences, and it's up to us, all of us, to use what we have learned to use the little "Happily" moments, to bolster ourselves with the courage to keep pressing forward. It would be easy to be the cynic and the naysayer, who points out the flaws of this year. We could even have fun doing it. But I like to believe that theater is a place to give us time to reflect and then react to what we see around us. It's okay if we don't get it right every time; we're not supposed to, but it's those ellipses, that dot dot dot, that allows us to brush ourselves off and try again.
I learned a great deal in the process of making this show. I saw people struggle with things that came easily to me, and I saw individuals less than half my age quickly solve problems I didn't comprehend. This new tech humbled me, it made me abandon my old tricks and try to create new ones on the fly--in short, it forced me to adapt.
I hope you find ways to not only adapt, but take joy in the changes you can experience around you, and know that this will all be over soon, "at least, that's what I tell myself."
Take care of yourselves and each other,