On January 11, I started rehearsals for the world premiere production of the show I may be more passionate about than any other: ERNEST SHACKLETON LOVES ME, which will start previews April 12 and officially open at Seattle Rep, under the auspices of Balagan Theatre Company, on April 18. (Have I mentioned how excited I am about this??) Brendan and I, along with the brilliant and hilarious Joe DiPietro, have been working on this piece off and on for about five years – first as a solo show for me to perform, and then in its much better version as a two-person musical. (As our astute and ingenious director Lisa Peterson said, in a show featuring Ernest Shackleton you have to SEE Ernest. How right she is.)
It feels like all the stars are aligning to make this happen the right way: various random delays made it so that we are now premiering the show in the 100th anniversary year of the start of Shackleton’s historic voyage, so that Shackleton awareness is at an all-time high; Lisa’s demanding schedule made it so that we have a nearly-2-month hiatus between rehearsals and tech, so that we can fit in some rewrites and improvements (and banjo practice!); the original venue fell through, so that we are now at the much-better-for-us gorgeous, intimate-yet-grand Leo K Theatre at Seattle Rep, an ideal space for our premiere.
Matthew Kwatinetz, impassioned theatre revolutionary, is our lead producer, bringing together vast numbers of disparate pieces and personnel to make this happen for real. Wade McCollum, chameleonic and transcendent performer whom we have adored since he played Woody in our first TOY STORY workshop, is my co-star and it is thrilling to share the stage with him.
We rehearsed like mad at ACT in downtown Seattle, and ended our initial Seattle stint, just as the city was erupting with joy over the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory, with 3 workshop performances February 2, 3 and 4 (fully staged, but with no tech: meaning there was tape on the floor instead of platforms, lots of piano playing by our excellent music director Ryan O’Connell instead of full orchestrations, and a descriptive speech by our director instead of video projections).
I don’t think I’ve ever stuffed so much information so fast into my brain and body before; probably because I’ve never done quite as much movement/acting/blocking as this while playing – for example, leaping from ice floe to ice floe while playing a hoedown…it’s been hugely challenging, immensely inspiring, and one of the best things I’ve ever done. And it’s gonna be even better in April.