For years, I’ve concluded my program notes with “Thanks for coming to see live theatre and to see theatre live.” And I always mean it I am genuinely grateful for this community’s appreciation of the ephemeral experience that theatre offers. But Seeds added a unique angle. Because the show is “verbatim theatre,” a form of docudrama that recycles words actually spoken during the unfolding of a real-life story, this theatre really is live! And, since it’s also meticulously crafted by a skilled playwright, it’s also highly theatrical. Maybe that’s why the cast and crew had such deep involvement in this dauntingly wordy play. They stepped into a true story and, through our shared work, that story lived anew.
Science teachers and art teachers provided invaluable contributions to the process. And the process, in turn, offered benefits to teachers. A language arts teacher said, “I can’t wait to use this in class! ‘Verbatim theatre’ could be a great way to teach writing!” Doing an American premiere was a thrill for us all. Perhaps an even greater thrill was developing a relationship with the playwright. While we were rehearsing our production, a professional production was being mounted in Montreal. That meant two things: one, our play’s Epilogue was written just days before we opened, thus giving the show an up-to-minute relevance; two, we took a photo of our company on our set holding a big “Break a Leg!” sign and sent it to the Canadian theatre for their opening night. So, MVPS now has a Canadian fan base!
After every performance, people shared their stories with me: a minister who held hands and prayed in a Dakota farmhouse with a family ruined by multinational firms accusing them of stealing patented-gene seeds; parents who reflected on their years growing up in farm communities with profound connection to the land and the food that grew on it; a student’s excitement that McDonald’s is now serving GMO-free apples! And the cast was surprised by the impact of starting each performance by interviewing the audience: “We always sort of held our breath to see how people would answer the question, ‘What is life?’ That was cool.”
Many audience members had rave reviews of the unique production, Hank Kunath stated, “The ability of the cast to weave the dialogue of a real life drama is incredible – at the end of this day, I will have experienced Seeds over 6 times and every time I become so involved in the presentation of the story, truly amazing adult theater and so competently presented by a high school cast – Hats off to Clark Taylor and the MVPS Allstars.” Chris Willoughby said, “This play makes me so proud to be at MVPS!”
A few other quotes from audience members that posted on Mr. Taylor’s facebook page:
“I went to see the US premiere of “Seeds” by Annabel Soutar at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School tonight. Yes. High School theatre. First off the live Docu-Drama that Ms. Soutar has created is lively and educational AND enjoyable to watch. Most importantly though, the young actors and actresses at MVPS made me feel as though I were watching a Wes Anderson film. Kudos to them and their very dedicated director Clark Taylor.”
“Actors hate to hear the comment,”How’d you remember all those words?” These young thesps nailed a good two hours worth of extremely dry very detailed scientific and courtroom jargon along with the dramatic portions and made it very enjoyable to take in. Well done Clark and Company.”
“In addition, the live sound, media and light cues were all run from the stage by costumed performer/technicians. Dozens and dozens of cues almost flawlessly delivered. Overall a very enjoyable evening of theatre. If you missed it … well you missed it. Closing night.”
The next show, Little Shop of Horrors, is at the other end of the theatre spectrum: hilarious horror filled with music and dance. See you then!