I remember the first time I saw a calf be born. We were driving along the road less than a mile from my house and we noticed something different about one of the cows in our neighbor's pasture. My dad slowed and said, "you should watch this." I sat part disgusted, part fascinated with my nose pressed to the glass as a gooey indescribable little creature came into the world. Soon, its mother started licking and gradually it morphed to resemble the lively calves I'd seen running around.
Not that creating a play is "gooey", but it always goes thru this period where it is hard to see the shape of it, the edges are blurred and there is the anticipation of what it will become. Then there are those rare times, that what emerges is miraculous.
Circle X Managing Director Camille Schenkkan keeps referring to HOLE IN THE SKY playwright Octavio Solis as, "some kind of mad genius." If I told him this, he'd just laugh and shake his head saying , "No, Katya (a nickname he's given me), no, no." Yet having grown up in Siskiyou County, Camille understands how miraculous it is to capture even a fraction of the complexity of our community.
Siskiyou County has more land-mass than Connecticut but only 40,000 people. Our hometown, Etna, has a population of 715. But, within that small community is a wide-range of beliefs about how we should use our land and especially our water. Who deserves our dwindling resources? The farmers & ranchers that feed us? Or the fish that Native American tribes and fishermen need for their livelihoods and environmentalists and government agencies want to protect? What happens when every year fires loom, threatening to burn it all?
That is the situation Octavio was asked to represent in a 2hr piece... Oh, and I asked him to use Anton Chekhov's masterpiece "The Cherry Orchard" as inspiration as well. No biggie.
This last September we did a reading of Octavio's play in Siskiyou at the community theatre where I performed as a kid. I was nervous, but not the normal play-about-to-open nervous. In the audience were the people we'd interviewed for the piece, the people who'd mentored Camille and I as children, the people whose lives we were attempting to reflect. I paced behind the audience in the same place my childhood theatre teacher used to pace while I performed. At certain points there were knowing laughs, at others the tension was thick. By the end, I could tell the whole audience had ridden on the journey. We'd made mistakes, and I was grateful we had the right people there to help us correct them. Still, it felt like something happened in that audience.
When I was back in Siskiyou last week looking for a site to perform Octavio's "mad genius" creation, I was reminded of the fact that even though there are large conflicts within my community there is also great generosity. Even though everyone is scared about the low rainfall this year, people still offered to open their barns for our performance and their homes to our actors. Throughout my life in Siskiyou I've witnessed that when tough times happen people let go of politics and offer a helping hand.
As I was walking out to a barn where we might perform, I noticed a little sticky creature next to one of the cows. A baby calf had just been born.