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Opening Remarks to Summer 2011 Workshop
Director Stafford Arima delivered inspired words to the cast and team of ALLEGIANCE on the first day of rehearsals for the 2011 Workshop

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If one looked at the thousands of women, men and children who were affected by the internment, there would be myriad of stories to tell. Where does one begin?  You begin with the human heart.  The authors of “Allegiance”, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione made the decision to tell a human story about transformation and change against the backdrop of one of the silent stains on America’s tapestry. 

Finding that human story within the politics of the internment has continued to be an exciting challenge for our authors.  Distilling the story to its purest form has been an exciting task over the various drafts.  Development has led to change and change has given insight into the narrative Jay and Lorenzo want to tell.  Thanks to the process of development, we are here together in the middle of Times Square, exploring “Allegiance”.

Recently, I was listening to Pandora Radio and a haunting song began to play. The lyrics by Bernard Ighner made me think of “Allegiance”:

Everything must change
Nothing stays the same
Everyone must change
No one stays the same
The young become the old
And mysteries do unfold
Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged

 

There are not many things in life
You can be sure of
Except rain comes from the clouds
Sun lights up the sky
And butterflies do fly
Winter turns to spring
A wounded heart will heal
But never much too soon
Yes everything must change

All of us, I think, look back over the chapters of our lives and marvel at the change that has occurred within our lives.  Change, or movement, can be large or it can be small.  All of it counts.  It means that we’re alive. 

The character of Sam in “Allegiance” is “us”.  The universal “us”.  A human being stuck… feet firmly rooted in the ground.  Haven’t we all been stuck at some point in our lives?  But Sam learns – late in life – that change can happen and that second chances are possible.  Sam goes through an extensive metamorphosis that truly rocks his world.  He finds love, and he learns about the simple act of forgiveness – not only in the act of forgiving others but most importantly forgiving himself.

Our story is told through Sam’s eyes as well as his spiritual tour guide, Gloria.  It is their collective memories inspired by photographs, letters, pages of a journal, and trinkets found in a box that ignite and propel the journey.  We see Sam’s history through the psychological landscape of memory.  Memory is fleeting, visceral, hazy, colorful, dense and ambiguous.  We are on a triptych of sorts – an adventure of movement and awakenings.  In an attempt to recreate the internal maze of memory, the authors, Lynne Shankel, Christopher Gattelli, the designers and I are exploring a vocabulary where the abstract and the impressionistic meet the literal.  Where space and time ebb and flow, and the invisible and visible find balance. To really honor the intelligence of the audience is to build theatre that doesn’t limit the viewer to what she or he is looking at, but releases the imagination to see what is invisible.

As theatre artists, we have the opportunity to let go to the magic and mystery of our craft within these sacred walls.  You were chosen to tell stories. To enlighten, educate entertain, and instigate change.  What an incredible responsibility that is.  Think of the young people who will be seeing their first show – who are learning about the internment for the first time – think of the adults who may have forgotten where memories can take us or how healing it is to forgive. 

The journey of development of any work of art can be filled with trauma, drama, disappointment, frustration and victory.  For many of us who have traveled down the road of a new musical before, those brief descriptions only touch upon the adventure of creating a musical.  What helps us all in this process is the generosity of the artistic spirit that lives within us.  Together, we can combine all of our creative wealth together and pour it into these 5 weeks together.

“Always We Begin Again” is the title of a book that was given to me by one of my mentors. Don’t you just love that title? Think about it, “Always We Begin Again”.  The book is a contemporary interpretation of the Rule of life written by the designer of western monasticism, Saint Benedict of Nursia. This monk lived in Italy during the sixth century.  His words ring so true centuries later.  As we enter this room every morning, as we have this morning, I’d love to share a few words from “Always We Begin Again” for us to ponder:

…Listen with the heart and the mind; they are provided in a spirit of good will…  The first rule is simply this: live this life and do whatever is done, in a spirit of thanksgiving. 

Abandon attempts to achieve security, they are futile, give up the search for wealth, it is demeaning, quit the search for salvation, it is selfish, and come to comfortable rest in the certainty that those who participate in this life with an attitude of thanksgiving will receive its full promise.

At the beginning of each day, we must resolve to treat each hour as the rarest of gifts, and be grateful for the consciousness that allows us to experience it, recalling in thanks that our awareness is a present from we know not where, or how, or why. 

When we rise from sleep let us rise for the joy of the true work we will be about this day, and considerately cheer one another on.  Life will always provide matters for concern. 

Each day, however, brings with it reasons for joy.  Every day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven; have the courage to expect good from it. 

Be gentle with this life, and use the light of life to live fully in your time.  If we adopt an outlook of confidence and trust and perfect our experience by care for others, if we live in the certainty that we are heirs in the providence of the outermost mystery, we will begin to change into the persons that we have the potentials to be.

– Stafford Arima

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