Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Laramie Project. Strawberry Theatre Workshop.

I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1998. I had the hand-me-down Mac laptop that had gotten me through high school and a narrow single room in a suite of five girls (there should have been six of us, but one never arrived). I wore my hair in a long braid down my back. I had spent the summer studying Italian, and had now moved on to Russian. I was 18 years old and 3,000 miles from home. I cried when I said goodbye to my father in Seattle and again when my mother left me in Rochester, New York with a brand-new down comforter that still covers my bed, twelve years later. These are the things I remember.

Sitting in the audience at the Strawberry Workshop's production of The Laramie Project I remembered other things, too, things I didn't remember I had known at the time. The description of the wounds on Matthew Shepard's body. The statement his father gave at the trial of one of the two young men who beat his first-born son to a bloody mess and left him tied to a fence to die. I had remembered the part about the beating and the tying to a fence but I had forgotten, or thought I had forgotten, the fractured skull, the lacerations around his head. And I wept.

The Laramie Project is an ensemble piece in the truest sense of the word, and it was seamlessly performed by the eight actors on stage, shifting between interviewers and interviewees, between past and present, memory and truth. It is the fourth production I have had the privilege to experience here at the Erickson Theatre off Broadway, the present home of Strawberry Theatre Workshop. Some of these actors I know from previous plays at other theaters, which is what I love most about Seattle and its closely-knit theater scene. Again and again I am reminded about how lucky I am to live here, to witness the closeness and creativity that we have here.

On the back of the program is this note:
"How many times have you been encouraged to buy locally grown food whenever possible? By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. The same thing is true for the arts."

I'll be coming back.


Friday, July 23, 2010

the lost art of writing letters.

I don't write very much, anymore. My life has been swallowed up by Facebook, by Twitter, by photography. By weekly breakfasts with friends and impromptu dinners with these same friends, meals where I can barely eat for laughing. There are bookclubs and plays and field trips to strawberry fields. My circle of friends has grown, split into different groups that nonetheless bump against each other and intersect, the way they do in a small town dressed as a big city, which is what Seattle is. Last year M. found me on Twitter, after 20 years apart. We had not seen each other since fourth grade. Then I found A. again, who I have not seen since we were 11 or 12 and I was visiting her grandparents one summer, in Massachusetts.

A. and I used to be pen pals. Her grandmother was a dear friend of my mother, and as I had no grandmother of my own I felt lucky to have her in my life. We wrote letters back and forth, me on a succession of girly stationery (I recall one was pale blue paper printed with a teddy bear with a heart and flowers) in my childish scrawl, and Gigi in her impeccable handwriting on cream paper. I still have some of her letters. I still remember her address. She died early last year, and I miss her, even though we did not communicate in recent years. Now I see A. often. We are grown-ups in the city of my childhood. We are friends by choice now, because we love so many of the same things and not because her grandmother is a friend of my mother.

Lately I have been writing letters to friends again, inspired in part by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which is a lovely epistolary novel that I read about a year and a half ago. A. and I had not met up yet, we had only been exchanging emails. M. had not yet found me on Twitter. My world was about to change, was already changing, and I didn't even know it. How lucky I feel to know these people, who I talk to every day, on Twitter, on Facebook, on the phone, at the farmer's markets, at parties and dinners and breakfasts. How lucky I feel to find a perfect card in my enormous stash of stationery, and curl up on my bed with a book for a writing desk and a pen in hand, to tell them, I love you for being here.