You want to come see Traveling Light. I haven’t been writing much lately, but other people have been, and the hard work of the production team and actors is coming to fruition in a delicate and multifaceted setting. Fortunately, so far our coins in the wishing well are echoing and rippling rather nicely. Playwrights work in planned obsolescence; you write and hope that your work will be handed off to others who will include enough of themselves that the piece can live on its own. So far, this theory holds up beautifully.
Last night, Kyle Cassidy came and took photos of the final dress rehearsal. Having a photographer present seemed to give the actors a strong sense of how they relate to space and each other and remind them of physicality. Kyle has an excellent ability to use light to create texture and palpability in his photos. It also felt like having Obi-Wan Kenobi with us, at the beginning and at the final dress, to bookend the creative process.
I’m going to put photos in a separate post, because they’re big and beautiful and speak for themselves, but for now, here’s a taste:
I promise, this isn’t going to turn into The Traveling Light Blog. Really, it isn’t. I really do have other things to write about besides this. But, when life hands you Good Collaboration, you shout it from the mountaintops as much as possible, as well as wrap it up in cool cotton blankets and feed it nice things and take good care of it.
Yesterday afternoon, the cast (or, three-fourths, anyway; Kyra, Doug and Bob), the director and producer (Liam) and photographer and man-about-town Kyle Cassidy packed into the back of Toshiro Mifune (our tough, versatile and quiet Honda CRV) for a drive through the back alleys of South Philly, Grays Ferry, West Philadelphia, and finally, beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery, for a photo shoot.
Mount Moriah Cemetery is one of those things that everyone should know about, but when you go there, you want it to be kept a secret and only invite your few close friends who will be inspired with the same wonder and respect you do. It inhabits a dreamlike between-space: its ownership is currently legally undetermined, it provides burial space to all faiths, its monuments are of many different aesthetic styles, and it’s wild and cultivated at the same time. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery have established a volunteer committee, responsible for cleaning, gardening and care. However, its 200 acres and decades of neglect can’t be fixed overnight, so despite its accessibility it still has some parts where the wilderness rules.
The forecast called for a 70% chance of rain, so Liam and I brought a total of six umbrellas, to be sure that we wouldn’t need them. It worked. The sky was just cloudy enough to give us diffuse light, keep the temperature not unbearable, and give the sky some rich color.
Kyle specializes in journalistic photography, portraits, and fast improvisation. I’ve participated in one of his photography workshops, and he is extremely good at taking what’s available in a space and using it to great effect. He’s efficient as heck and carries around a positive attitude and sense of humor that is contagious.
So, we turned off of the road and the sight of a lush green hill dotted with stones, punctuated with columns and framed by mausoleums (mausoleii?) made us all squeal like teenaged Goth chicks at a 2 for 1 sale on black lace fingerless gloves.
LINDSAY: I don’t know, you guys, is this grave-y enough?
BOB: Is this grave-y enough?
I turned the car onto the least-beaten path, and then again, and within a minute or so, we were surrounded by Mid-Atlantic Jungle.
On what must have once been brick platforms, rising to either side of the path, were clusters of rich green forest, and a vine-embraced tree that was twisted in the way trees will when their roots defy stone and their branches combat for light. It made a canopy around a granite memorial column from probably the late-Victorian era, and we said, “Yep, that’s it.”
You know you’re making risky art when you’re changing your clothes by the side of a car, using a window for a mirror and someone is offering you bug repellent. The lantern I’d brought was deemed not period correct (I agreed, but it was the closest thing I could find), so Kyle made some magic happen and slid an electronic device up Kyra’s sleeve, and voila: the illusion of a period-currect flashlight.
We played around the monuments for a while and Kyle took pictures, Liam was the Cheez-Itz powered voice activated light stand, and it was a lovely evening in the land of the dead.
and then we packed it up, and went home to brick boxes in which people live.
I don’t think there’s anything better than having good collaborators. There’s a quote about writing, often attributed to Dorothy Parker, which goes, “I don’t like writing, I love having written.” The first draft, and second and third, are always a bear, a tiring process of grunt work, made worse because it’s lonely. But, when you get together with creative collaborators and actually do something with what you’ve written, and they bring their own ideas and resources to the project, that’s the real reason that I write.
TL:DR; Another life peak experience. Coming soon: Real Photos!