We’re in full swing with Cabaret this week.  We’re starting to rehearse every evening after dinner (throwing folks out of the dining room at 7 on the dot and then transforming it into our theater, moving the chairs and tables off the “stage” (oh, to have a real stage!) and into the section of the dining hall that in 5 days will be filled with audience members.

I spent all of yesterday working on the show, and I never left home.  The community is bustling with work for the performance: the band is transporting sound equipment and instruments while actors sit on the back deck of the community center rehearsing lines and practicing choreography.  Pieces of the set are at different stages of completion outside the woodshop, and here in the computer offices my stage manager flits back and forth between her computer and mine, clarifying details and reminding me of important questions still unanswered.  I just trekked down to the dairy barn to chat with the person in charge of the set, and as I was walking back up the path and looking out over the garden and the courtyard buildings glowing in the slowly setting sun, I was filled with awe.  We’re creating an amazing theatrical production among a group of friends and family, here on our farm, in our home.  Most all of our costumes and set and music are coming from our own caches of resources (Commie Clothes is a fantastic costume shop!).  Apart from the commune itself as a “group project”, we rarely have a community-wide event that so many people are involved in creating.  It feels amazing to participate in such intense collaboration.  That’s why I moved here in the first place…

And yet, there are some really frustrating pieces to this experience, too.  For many of the people in the chorus (there are 17 Kit Kat dancers!), this is a fun project to devote a few hours to each week at dance rehearsal.  Now that we’re into the final week of performance, they’re feeling allergic to and resentful of three-hour rehearsals every night.  For those of us who have already been putting in more than 20 hours each week to the show, this final push is what it takes to make all of our work worth the effort.

In daily life on the commune, we’re used to having free reign over our time and a high level of choice when it comes to stopping doing something if we aren’t enjoying ourselves.  And we’ve set up work environments and schedules so that most of the time we’re enjoying ourselves.  Putting on a show is hard work, especially such an ambitious project like Cabaret.  It’s long and dark and weird and there are long stretches of time that the dancers aren’t onstage, but are needed to move props and change the set.  I understand that it can get boring backstage, but that’s a part of being in a show.

I’m getting a sense that folks who have never been in a show are frustrated by how much time they’re spending just standing around waiting until they go onstage next.  Some people left rehearsal early last night to go to a movie, and when we got to the final scene of the night, the stage was half-empty.  I was furious, and in this non-violent, egalitarian community, I didn’t feel any “appropriate” outlet for my anger.  People can do what they want; we don’t control each other here.  That makes the role of “director” very tricky.  All of the responsibility and seemingly none of the power.

In my ideal world I would talk to all of the people who left and tell them how I feel and they would understand and recommit themselves to working their asses off for the next week.  I can try this (I probably will).  I’m skeptical about its effectiveness.  If people don’t want to do it, they won’t.  I don’t have much confidence in my ability to convince people… oh, this is bullshit.  I actually do have confidence in my ability to talk with people and tell them what’s true for me, listen to what’s true for them, and work together to find a “solution.”  That’s what I came here for (stealing a line from the show…), because I believed that that method of conflict resolution was possible.  And it is, I’ve experienced it.  In moments of anger and feeling disrespected, I don’t feel that possibility.  I just want to scream.  It’s a lot easier to scream than to seek out these people and spend the time and energy talking and listening, and it’s important enough to me to do it — this is the world I want to create.

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