I’m nearly too tired to write tonight, and yet I feel some mixture of desire and obligation to write about this weekend’s show.  In a word: extraordinary.  We exploded onto the stage, which most people usually just experience as a crowded and noisy dining room.  We danced out from behind the curtains (which just weeks before had been scraps of fabric sitting in Commie Clothes) in quantities of lacy lingerie never known to exist in one place on this commune ever before.  Cabaret came to life in our dining room this weekend as broccoli-growers and hammock -weavers and tofu-makers metamorphed into (mostly) polished actors and dancers and singers.  We blew away an audience accustomed to communized versions of cheesy musicals and sloppy scene changes.  People who rarely talk to me have been stopping me on the path to tell me how much they enjoyed the show.

A special thing about doing theater on the commune, or any art really, is that our labor system is designed to incorporate projects like this almost seamlessly.  I spent nearly everyday last week working on the show.  I just blocked off time during the days and evenings so I didn’t get scheduled for any work.  Earlier in the year, folks voted to give a slew of “labor credits” to putting the show together, so I got to claim work hours for the time I spent working on the show.  It became my major contribution to the commune, on par with the folks working in the garden, cooking meals, fixing toilets, and making hammocks.    We credit work on a basis of time, rather than by job.  Any job that is “labor creditable” (and most are, everything from taking care of children to cooking dinner to decorating for parties) is given one labor credit for an hour of work, regardless of the job.  So, once the community voted to make Cabaret labor creditable (we got about 500 hours for the whole show), we got to claim labor credits for rehearsals and set building and costume meetings and choreographing fantastic dance numbers.  I suddenly became a “professional” actress and director and choreographer again… living in the middle of the woods!

I’ve been enjoying the experience of an “artists’ collective”, where we all work to create and support the fulfillment of our basic needs like food and shelter, and then intentionally use our collective energy beyond that to create art, sometimes seperately and often together.  I think of Sean, who recently had an art opening at a gallery in Charlottesville, and the Vulgar Bulgars, the klezmer band that plays regular gigs all over Central Virginia.  There’s something about living here that makes the creation of collaborative art a natural mode of expression and engagement.  I think it’s one of the ways that we process our experience together.  We share so much, it makes sense that we find additional richness in sharing the self-reflective process of art.

Pictures of the show coming soon, I promise.  I didn’t take any on my camera (except at the cast party, which might be too racy for viewing here), so I’ll have to get the best from friends who were in the audience.

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