Mission Drift

Mission Drift homework

One of the observations commonly made about the TEAM’s work is that there are a lot of ideas at play in our plays. A review of Mission Drift in Portugal’s Público called it “an intelligent, urgent, cerebral show”, which suits us just fine!  After all, the mission of the company is to ‘dissect and celebrate the experience of living in America today’, and that experience is, as any waking American might tell you, a complex one.  The job we are attempting to do is take what can seem like an inchoate mass of theoretical, historical, and editorial ideas, wrap our arms around them, root them in the hearts and pursuits of humans, add a dash or three of pizzazz for the stage and make it a play.

This is a post about the first part of the process (although it continues throughout, to be sure).  For any TEAM project, once we have selected the larger intellectual/experiential sphere in which we’ll be partying for the next 1-3 years of development (i.e., “What’s the deal with American-style capitalism?”), we put ourselves through a kind of immersion therapy in and around that subject.  So for Mission Drift we essentially had two arenas ripe for research: Economics and Westerns.  We read classic texts of economic theories, we organized lectures on the finer points of the mortgage-backed securities crisis, watched documentaries about corporate influence and malfeasance, and listened to hundreds of hours of economics podcasts.  And on the other hand we watched westerns!  And read them.  And read books about them.  And histories of The West.  And theories about the mythological underpinnings inherent in stories of “The West”.  And so on.  The shared bibliography of influences for Mission Drift contains dozens and dozens of essays, articles, books, and movies consumed by one, some, or all of us.

I know the classic axiom of writing is “write what you know”.  And I get that I think.  But for me half the fun of writing new theatre in this way is to tackle something truly huge and perhaps unknowable, learn as much as I can along the way, and then wrestle with what we find.

How much of what we read, watch, or otherwise absorb winds up in our play?  Hmm, hard to say.  The slightly cheeky answer is all of it, right?  It’s all in there somewhere, in the bones of the people directing, designing, and performing.  Can I point to the lines that were inspired by Cormac McCarthy or Adam Smith?  Surprisingly sometimes yes, for instance the moment where Catalina renames Joris “The Wealth of Nations” is probably in some distant way related to Adam Smith, but a lot of times it’s just about giving us the confidence to weave a tighter dramatic fabric, and when we come across a tear know that there’s a lot more material around to look to.

And here’s a collage of a small number of titles from that bibliography that took an embarrassingly long time to photoshop together.


The Road to Boston

I suppose they call it a MegaBus because it’s allowing me to sit in a seat on it’s second story, laptop on my lap (plugged in and charging!), and connected to the internet so that I can write a blog posting.  If that’s not Mega, then I assume there’s some other bus out there with a self-cleaning, heated-seat, solid gold toilet and if there is I look forward to pooping in it.  Until then, this excellent MegaBus will serve as Libby, Rachel, Mikaal, Heather, Amber and I travel to Boston to join the rest of the Mission Drift team who made the trip yesterday – and prepare to tech and preview the show at Emerson University.  We have spent the past three weeks and several hundred draft pages at our home space in Crown Heights chiseling the dialogue, crafting the scenes, dancing the dances and singing and re-singing the sweet, sweet songs. Tomorrow morning we will arrive on the set that the excellent folks at Emerson have built for us, and we will start to let the pretty pink snow fall.  Then after our extra special one-night-only preview performance next week, we will pack the set up and slowboat it across the Atlantic so it will be there for us when we start our European tour in July.

The creation and gestation of Mission Drift has been a long and interesting one.  Creating a play about capitalism and the American appetite during these particular years has left us no shortage of fascinating and pertinent real life stories to examine and bewildering research to pour through.  This process has had its ups and downs for me, for us all, but when we finished our final run through of the show in Crown Heights last night before hitting the road today, I felt a kind of total-body inspiration from the experience and awe at my insanely talented collaborators.  As I walked through Brooklyn, a matter of blocks from where Libby’s and my characters, Joris and Catalina Rapalje, lived 400 years ago, I had a feeling like we might really have hit something special here.  And as I ride a MegaBus from the tip of New Amsterdam to the heart of New England, I am so grateful to be putting on a play that seeks to tell a story of America.

B Hastert

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