Just Plain Dead


There is no fatigue like theatre fatigue.

It’s like getting caught in a riptide. At night. In cold water. You just have to ride it and hope you’ll stay afloat until it lets go of you, and you can drift back to shore, which, depending on the show, will be opening or closing night.

Which is to say, I’m deep in the wild of rehearsals, press, phone calls, e-mails, and errands for Dead of Winter and, actually, having an absolutely wonderful time. (Only people who have been there understand the pleasure of hearing themselves say, “Do we have enough gels?”) If you don’t fight the riptide, you can enjoy the ride…like you can enjoy riding a motorcycle on wet pavement. It’s still tough, tiring work, but it has its pleasures, and one of those is watching the play (or plays, in this case) take shape, rolling into focus, the actors taking your words and building people out of them. I’ve been doing this for…for some time, let’s say, and I still marvel at images and sounds swirling around my head ending up as words on a page, then becoming characters who you care about, hate, laugh at, or, in the case of these ghost stories, creep the hell out of you. It’s seriously weird to be watching something I wrote and feeling the hair rise on my arms. At one point, if anyone had been looking at me instead of the actors, I probably would have seemed stricken because I was pretty much thinking: Jesus, what kind of sick bastard wrote this?

All good signs, but I’m way too close to it to judge. I do marvel, however, at the director’s craft, which makes all these various elements somehow come together. I have an idea how it works and I’ve directed a time or two, but it’s just fascinating to watch someone who knows what she’s doing (in this case, Lisa Abbott) make it synch up, connect, and work. I can roughly imagine how it’ll look, sound, and feel, but the director knows, and she’s shaping the clay in four dimensions. It’s amazing.

And I know my company, Pavement Productions, is the co-producer (with Portland’s The Bluestockings), but damn if this thing doesn’t feel like it has potential. The actors are working like hell, the designers are coming up with great stuff, and, well, I’ve said my piece about the director. When all the elements come together….

Though it sounds like a cliche, given that these are plays about ghosts, it feels like there’s something spooky going on here. Some kind of…voodoo. And that’s what theatre’s all about.

Now if I can just keep my head above water.

Nineteen days to go….

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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