NOTES from the INCUBATOR (SIMPATICO): Entry One: The Collective Spirit

Lena Barnard and Meredith Sonnen rehearse Behind Bergman

Article courtesy of Simpatico Theatre Project, and their blog What’s in the Wings. See the original article, the first in a series of pieces written by artists participating in their SoLow Incubator, here.

Writing this play has been hard. It feels like squinting into the distance at an object that I think I should be identifiable but is just too blurry. Luckily, I have a cohort on this trek. If you met Lena (Barnard) and I, it would feel a lot like an episode of Gilmore Girls or the West Wing. We talk over each other and make obscure references and laugh at inside jokes that no one else gets. Being around Lena makes me feel entirely secure. I can be myself with her. I like to think the feeling is mutual. Who else will get all her Julie Andrews references?

I don’t always feel that way. Our play (we are still struggling with a title) is in many ways about not feeling like you can be yourself. I couldn’t write so much about it if I didn’t live it so much of the time. It was a pleasant surprise this year to stumble onto a group of artists who make me feel like I can get up and risk and fail in front of them, and do it again and again. SoLow Incubator has been like that every time.

Ingrid Bergman. Simpatico Theatre Project. SoLow Incubator.

Each time I see those people, I feel comfortable. Eric Wunsch will say something foul and uproarious, Asaki will light up the room with a smile, Sarah will make a perfectly timed wry remark, Jarrod will tell you a funny story from his week. The list goes on. I didn’t know some of these people at all before our first Incubator meeting. Some of them I knew a little, and Eric Wunsch and I go way back. I didn’t expect to walk in there and feel entirely excited to stand up and show them our play about Ingrid Bergman and identity theory.

I co-wrote a play sort of about feeling like I was not welcomed by the world as I was. It is very personal and while the characters are fictional, it lifts heavily from our lives. I am obsessed with Ms. Bergman just as much as these characters. I struggle with identity and sexism and the problematic elements of Casablanca. I speak mostly in comedy. I am weird and not everybody gets it. Coming into group meeting this week, one of the other artists told me that they had been excited to hear what we wrote next, and I felt perfectly at home and safe. I couldn’t wait to show them.

Our play is about three people who are in various stages of obsession with Casablanca and Ingrid Bergman in particular. They all get something out of it they can’t get anywhere else. Bergman was one of the first misfits in Hollywood. She was Swedish, didn’t wear makeup, or follow all the rules. Ingrid said “Be yourself. The world worships an original.” She is the inspiration. We can’t wait to show you.

SoLow Incubator showings will be March 31 and April 14, 2014. For more information, click here.

See the second entry in Simpatico’s NOTES from the INCUBATOR here. 

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