It took me about a month to try to approaching words that might explain even a part of what the experience of ‘Fun Home’ brought to me. But when I saw this video it was easy to find a word to start with, because I could see and remember what I was feeling– and that was freedom. I got to feel freedom.
From December to April, a team joined together to tell a story. For 4 months, I felt free to feel everything...so it’s been daunting trying to think how I can put ALL that ‘’everything’’ into words. That sort of apprehension brings a kind of emotional tangle that I'm often really scared of, but what I’m realising, is that what this show did, is show me exactly how OK those moments are. I wasn’t free from overwhelm and stress and anxiety, but I was able to feel freedom alongside them...simply because the show encourages the freedom to feel.
I’d loved this show for years already, and I felt I knew the story in many ways. It had been present in the background for so long, and then it got to emerge into something real for me. One of the best parts about theatre is it pops up for just a limited time, though for actors, it can feel frustrating knowing that we don’t have much control over what opportunities come our way. We keep trying, and waiting, and creating in our own ways while we keep a hold of the hope that we will fit into a creative project in the right way. I’d felt I hadn’t quite fit in to a lot of things in many ways. But then this show came along. It was close to actual magic, because it came at the exact time I needed it and at the exact time I was able to appreciate it with a distance that felt close, but still safe.
I was excited and grateful to such extents that I felt I needed to hold back my attachment. In the beginning, I was so cautious that this couldn’t be everything I hoped it might be. Then as rehearsals began, I was able to see it was going to be more. The leadership of this team was so solid, that I was able to let myself relax into secure reassurance knowing that what I was experiencing was wonderful, and I didn’t have to be scared that the wonder of it was going to be taken away.
The wonder of it all came from the people. Dhanish and Katie Gorham created security in this dreamy cast family. Because of that, our cast family of 9 has known a creative process that was a dream come true. We cared about what we were creating, we cared about each other and we felt cared for.
One of the reasons I feel that this show came at the perfect time for me, is that I was already very much in a mindset where I was learning from my past self. In Fun Home, adult Alison looks upon her younger self knowing the hardships coming her way. Stepping into the story as an adult who has been going through a similar process, it was amazing to speak to my lost younger self. Being able to speak, sing, and hear these lines taught me that it’s not about being free from your past, but feeling free with it. Each night, in the finale, I got to spin unchoreographed circles while sharing the stage with the wonder women, Michelle and Ruth, who played the older versions of Alison. That space shared together let me breathe knowing that each stage of growth matters.
This experience was going to stay with me forever anyways, but it’s special to know it was recorded as well (Thank you David Vassos!!). Already, I’m past the place I was in while performing. Now as I look back at those moments of ‘Small Alison’, I get to watch knowing what was happening in my head at the time. I see it and remember ALL those feelings I had while singing and I can now also see ahead to what’s coming. It’s so nice it’s a hopeful thing right now.
As I try hard to explain what this freedom means to me, and how it erupted through me... I realize that actually, the best way to see what this feeling is to me, is to watch the part in the video where I take manymany tiny steps backward and just about explode with the joy of being on that stage in a story that I’m so grateful is being told, and heard. In that moment, I’m feeling a lot. In that song, ‘’Ring Of Keys’’, Small Alison considers identity through identifying. That’s a good reminder to me about how to deal with a certain type of familiar overwhelm. When I come across new information that I’m excited about, I sometimes get so swamped that I feel I can’t process what I’m trying to understand. This happens especially when I love what I’m learning. But as I learn about the freedom to feel, I think about how in this song, Small Al moves through her initial speechless bewilderment and begins to identify the parts of what she sees, and what works. She names the components, builds an image of what makes sense, and latches onto the realization that this new wonderful, very FULL feeling does not need to be locked away because she has seen a glimpse of freedom. In that moment she knows that it can be possible for us all to find the keys we need to unlock the strength to show who we are.
So, to do the same and identify through identifying, I had to break apart the pieces, the ''swagger, bearing, and just-right clothes'' of what it was that worked together to create this magic for me.
Reading the graphic novel and seeing that people care about stories like this,
Being so familiar with each note and realizing I was going to get to sing them out loud,
Realising that a Key works really well to link up 'Fun' and 'Home'
Looking at our schedule and seeing these song titles and already loving that time,
4 months where I looked forward to rehearsals all day,
Sitting in a circle for check ins,
Watching people listen to people during check ins,
Blocking scenes I'd seen drawn as comics in the graphic novel.
Changing the orientation of the stage in different rehearsal spaces, and feeling like the world was inside out,
Re-watching the video that shows Alison Bechdel's face when she realized the show won a Tony, and re-remembering how important this story is,
Telling everyone that I ran into about much I love the show and cast and how lucky I felt to be a part of it all,
Seeing everyone latch on to this story and realize what we were sharing was important,
Cast chats in the Theo basement before being loaded into ''the cage'',
Dhanish rerunning transitions because he's a star director,
Giving Patt and the band the ''THREE'' beats they deserve,
Seeing the Key I'd drawn on the Show Shirts,
Jumping around, singing and GRINNING with Aislyn and Sam, and ending ''Come to the Fun Home'' completely happy and completely out of breath,
Drawing a weird little map each night onstage, and including little smiling Aislyn and Sam ''in bubbles'',
Basking in the love and smiles during ''Raincoat of Love'',
Finding my lost shoes on opening night,
Wondering why there's a toothbrush in the writing desk,
''BaBahh buhbah BahBA babahh bahBAh buhbah bab ahh babaBaaaHHH'',
Wheeling around in a coffin for what felt like just SUCH a long journey across the stage,
Watching Cooper, Michelle and Kristina appear out of the FOG and LIGHTS,
The quiet moment in my track when I ran to the green room and had tea and honey,
The quiet moments in everyone's track where we chose to sit silently backstage and appreciate the brilliance of the three song solos in a row as Sarah, Ruth, David sang with full hearts,
Looking at the stunning floor. Then looking at the stunning floor some more. (WoW. Thanks Nicole Groen!!!),
Watching the working chandelier turn ON (WoW. Thanks Michael Lang!!!),
Watching Dhanish think about things (heheheh),
Katie Gorham giving hugs and tea, and caring with such a full heart,
Running out for ''Flying Away'' because Small Alison reminds us all of hope after a lot of sadness,
Finally locking eyes with Ruth during the last notes
...It was feeling the ''I know you...I kno-oww you... I know you'' of okayness, familiarity, and comfort.