The positive attitude of Ensemble member Laura Eason, writer and director of Around the World in 80 Days
From The Around The World in 80 Days Issue of ArtAntica
Mentioned in this entry: Laura Eason, Joy Gregory and Heidi Stillman
Years ago, I was acting in a play ensemble member Joy Gregory wrote and directed for Lookingglass called All Souls Day. She wanted a song to open the show, something melodic with the feeling of an incantation; something evocative of a Gregorian chant but catchy enough to launch the show. She turned to me one day and said, āGo ahead and write that song, Lauraā. Because she seemed so certain that I would be able to do it, instead of being scared or unsure, I just assumed I could, too. And I did. And it turned out alright, if I say so myself.
You see, Lookingglass has always had a bit of a punk, ājust go aheadā attitude; that you donāt have to already be genius at something to do it, you just have to try and see where it goes and youāll learn and get better and one day, you may even be a genius at it. The theatre company, founded by eight recent college graduates with only a tenuous grasp of what running a company would entail, was created by that āgo aheadā attitude. Inspired by what I saw at Lookingglass, I learned to play the bass at 21. I wrote and directed my first play at 25 and I became artistic director of Lookingglass at 26, all because of that attitude. I also became a full time playwright in my 30ās because of it.
I stepped down as Lookingglass Artistic Director at the end of 2003 to focus on my playwriting. Since that time I have written twelve full length plays, both original work and adaptations, four short plays and have three more in the works. I have had ten productions of nine different plays since ā03, four of them in New York. But Around the World in 80 Days marks my first solo writing effort for Lookingglass in almost ten years.
The last show I wrote and directed at Lookingglass was a show called 28 that we produced at the old Goodman Studio (RIP) in 1998. The show, if you werenāt one of the 197 or so people who saw it, was a bit half-baked. Thematically interesting with a wonderful cast and some nice moments but structurally a mess and not totally clear on where it was going, what exactly it was trying to say or the best way to say it. I knew the problems at the time but I didnāt know how to fix them. The issues with the show really mirrored myself as a writer at the time. I knew I had things to say, I knew I had the desire learn how to say them well, but I knew that I needed to add some tools to my toolbox. So my colleagues who gave me the go ahead to make the show in the first place, encouraged me to go ahead and learn to be a better writer, if I wanted to.
And, so, I kept writing. And writing. And writing. I joined writing groups and gave work to respected colleagues for feedback. I read a lot of books about writing and read a lot of scripts and worked really hard. And I got better. And, after a few years, theaters started commissioning me, actually paying me to write plays in advance of production. Then, theaters started to give me commissions with guaranteed productions before Iād written word one of the play.
After we opened the Lookingglass theatre in 2003, after many years acting and writing and playing music and directing sometimes and artistic directing, I knew I was ready to fully commit myself to writing exclusively. And Lookingglass said, āif you want to, you should go ahead and do that.ā
So I did. And now, after a whole lot of writing and a dozen more productions under my belt, I am back at Lookingglass, not only writing the play, but directing it too, ācause Heidi said, āGo ahead!ā
When I was writing the script, my dear friend Heidi Stilllman, our Artistic Director of New Work and one of the artists I admire and trust most in the world, said that I should direct the play, too. She thought I had such a clear vision of the production that it seemed exactly right that I should go ahead and direct it.
Out in the world, the writer and director jobs are almost always done by two different people. At Lookingglass, it is often the same person, which is reflective of the art we make and the vision behind it. But I hadnāt directed anything for five or so years. In really think about turning over the reins to someone else, however, I knew Heidi was right. I needed to direct the play and by Heidi simply saying, āGo ahead and direct. Itāll be greatā, I somehow felt it would be.
Even now, as I sit staring at my computer screen, wondering if I have fulfilled the assignment of this article as well as I could have, if this contribution is clever enough or interesting enough, the Lookingglass voice in my head says ājust go aheadā. And I did. And I do. And for that, Lookingglass, Iām grateful.