“Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians believed that no soul could justify itself after death unless it could say: ‘I have never let anyone suffer from hunger. On this point, the human conscience has never varied.”
So wrote the young, brilliant female philosopher, Simone Weil, commissioned during WWII to write an analysis suggesting how best to rejuvenate life after the war. Full of insight and feeling, she continued:
“But there are other needs, analogous to hunger, which form, like our physical needs, a necessary condition of our life on this earth… a certain form of food necessary to the life of the soul.”
One of these conditions necessary to the life of the soul is ART - making art, experiencing art, sharing art. Simone Weil also stated that any organization deserves respect insofar that it “provides food for a certain number of human souls.” At the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency, we fully embrace this standard. We feel the necessity of creating and sharing art very strongly; this belief is the heart and soul of everything we seek to share. Our goal is to share art - in all of its manifestations - with you, through your participation on stage, backstage, or in the audience, providing “food for the soul” of our community.
This summer, we were honored to share four MainStage productions - Hamlet (directed by Artistic Director Sabra Jones), Kiss Me Kate (directed by Associate Artistic Director Charles McAteer), Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead (directed by Myriam Cyr), and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (directed by Tony nominee and GAAR Artist-in-Residence Marla Schaffel) with our community. The latter production, featuring twenty-five children between the ages of 4-13 from throughout the Northeast Kingdom and elsewhere, culminated GAAR’s three week Musical Theater Day Camp. During this in-depth process, the students studied acting, singing, and dancing as we participated in the evolution of putting up a full musical. We asked our young participants for their experiences to share with us for this blog, and received this reply from our Snoopy, Daisy Bee, from Quechee, VT:
Hi, this is Daisy you wanted to know what my thoughts and feelings about “you're a good man charlie brown"? well if you did...here are some: I thought that the production was amazing, fun, NOT stressful and it was Inspiring to me beacuse I felt like I learned alot about acting and it was a great growing experence . so in all ...I had so much fun!
This summer of 2015, we employed over 40 Vermonters, bringing their art into GAAR’s creative process in every capacity, from building our stage and set to creating costumes to playing as musicians. We received the following words from the gifted Sonia Dunbar, who brings her talents to GAAR in myriad ways, from Wardrobe Mistress to musician. Here she writes of being a court musician in Hamlet:
As I sat with the musicians during the performances of Hamlet I was struck by the number of gifts of skills that were utilized in the course of the summer. Many were obvious: actors, musicians, a physical stage, lights, sound. Others were meant to be unconsciously contributing to the whole: the presence of banners on the wall intended to convey a particular location and mood, the particular tone of the paints on floor and backdrop, the sounds of joyous vs. melancholy music. If we allow it, the epiphany can be visceral when we consciously recognize that this Hamlet, our Hamlet, would not have existed without every one of those gifts being offered.
We love when our friends from the community choose to share their special individuality as actors on the GAAR stage. Part of the magic of a GAAR performance is seeing our community members, who have very varied focuses in their daily lives, acting side by side with performers who have devoted their lives to the craft of acting. Another special aspect is the camaraderie which develops between all involved. Our Board Chairman and Greensboro summer resident James Sowles, who played the caring court priest in Hamlet, speaks of these opportunities (with a special shoutout to a Greensboro local and GAAR veteran of 5 years):
What a treat it was to see and work with those great actors and actresses both professional and local. The back stage help was also great. I especially appreciated the help I got from [Greensboro local and GAAR performer] Krissy Ohlrogge who reminded me when my many entrances and exits were as part of the background crowd.
In the same wonderful vein, Hamlet musician and actress and beloved Greensboro resident BJ Gray shared:
What a fabulous experience to work with professionals who treated you like family. As a first timer I was amazed by the hard work and comraderie involed. Hamlet is now a part of my life language wise. Thank you [GAAR Producing Artistic Director] Sabra and GAAR.
Thank you, BJ, and all of wonderful participants for your hard work and the camaraderie created through our shared efforts in the pursuit of creating an artistic experience. Because, at the end of the day, we at GAAR seek to create art for YOU - our audience, our actors, our crew, our community. We want to involve you on a dramatic journey, we want to explore with you the human condition. Ultimately, we want to share with you, our friends, the passion, sorrow, and, most importantly, the JOY of being alive. If we can, in any small part, accomplish this creative act with you, we feel we have contributed to the life of our community. This is our goal. This is what feeds our soul.