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Claudia is to Taxidermy as Flynn is to…

For my senior year thesis, I am directing a show called Trout Stanley. The playwright is Claudia Dey, a Canadian-born POWERHOUSE. Before I even begin, I want to tell the world that I have a crush on her. She is awe-inspiring. She is an actress, director, playwright, novelist, and clothing store founder all-in-one. Oh, and she most recently wrote a book called How To Be A Bush Pilot: A Field Guide To Getting Luckier, which is essentially a boot camp for the modern playboy—getting them to treat women right in the bedroom. She’s cool, right?!

Anyway, while doing my research I came across a quote that describes how she feels about the writing process, and I thought it was fascinating. Here it is (semi-paraphrased from a YouTube video):

“I often liken (writing) to taxidermy. I think taxidermy is the perfect simile for the writing process in that you comb the wilds of your world, you find a beast, you enter a darkened room with this beast, you scissor up the middle, you take out everything that could rot it, and then you create a mannequin, and you sew the skin back onto the mannequin. And the more time you spend artfully enliving this beast…so making eyes out of glass and eyelids out of clay and a nose out of plastic and lips out of wax, the more the beast comes to approximate life.”

I think this is one of the most original ways to describe playwriting, and if you ever read one of her plays it makes SO much sense. Her plays are beasts that she has gutted raw and then filled back in with love, but not so much love that it stops being a beast. Her plays are wild, but tender and cared for.

I began to think about my process as a collaborator (primarily as an actress and director). I wanted to fill in the blank: Claudia is to taxidermy as Flynn is to (BLANK). And then I realized that I already had an answer. For about a year now I have been comparing art to first dates. In both an artistic endeavor and a first date all parties involved must be willing to listen, learn, and grow. They should say, “Hey, nice to meet you” and then proceed with a calm, collected attitude that doesn’t have any agenda beyond serving the room. The first hello is the awkward beginning when everybody is trying to get onboard with what the play is doing and how to serve it best. The ordering of (and especially the receiving of) drinks is when everybody begins to loosen up into the process and gets a little buzzed at the prospect of something new and exciting. The meal is the bulk of the work—how do we manage to eat and continue conversation at the same time? Can we do this eloquently? Do we forgive each other if we can’t? The dessert is opening night when the job is done and now it’s time to test the whole thing in the real world. And the potential kiss or plan for another date can be the marker of success one wants to gage his or her performance on.

On a first date, there is the same kind of excitement and need to figure out how you work with the other person. It is a collaboration that only works when the two parties are equally engaged and passionate about finding a way to fit their individual puzzle pieces together. When I step into a rehearsal process, no matter what my role, my favorite thing to do is to figure out how my puzzle piece fits with all the other puzzle pieces in the room. The only difference between a rehearsal process and a first date is that in a rehearsal process I must find a way to make my piece fit…on a first date I can go to the bathroom and never return.

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