This is Eavesdrop, a series of conversations between artists, playwrights and audience members. Today we listen into a dialogue between Timothy McCracken and Maduka Steady about their experience performing in The Firestorm, which ends a celebrated run at Dairy Arts Center on Sunday, Nov 13. We asked them to reflect on their time in The Firestorm. Get tickets here
There are so many things that I have either learned or re-learned and confirmed during the past two months rehearsing and performing Meridith Friedman’s The Firestorm. Of the many, the first is that relationships are complex and so very, very layered. It can be difficult to be truly, truly honest, even with the person you are likely closest to in your life.
I have also learned many things in regards to race… a greater understanding of its role in our society. Race is challenging for people to own, consider and discuss. It can—and has—caused such great divides. I believe the primary driver of that divide is fear, and the hesitance of individuals as well as our greater society, to discuss these issues.
I know I still feel so cautious when the topic of race is raised and discussed, mainly because I fear that I might say something “wrong,” or have something misinterpreted, or not accepted. Working on this play, and because of the environment that was created by Pesha Rudnick and the Local Theater Company team, we have been able to be more transparent in thought and dialogue. I have seen this resonate to audiences, in our facilitated audience conversations after the show, and even with individual people I meet in the lobby or on the street.
This production has also reminded me, Tim, of my own relationships in life. I’ve thought a lot about why I get along so well with some and not so well with others. My thoughts always lead to the same word: communication. Whether we do it verbally, or non-verbally, we’re always in conversations with each other. Those conversations impact our behavior, which impacts the way we’re perceived.
My character, Jamal, may be a made-up character in this play, but my job is to get closer to him, in order to play him on the stage. I feel like a rehearsal is an actor’s way of having a conversation with their character, and a performance is an audience’s way of having a conversation with an actor. Like the characters in the play, I have tried, failed, and tried again to keep the conversations going in my personal life. My conversations usually lead to more questions than answers, but at the same time, they also bring me closer to people.
Yes, Maduka! It makes me think about why I wanted to be part of this story. The driving force for me was Meridith’s words, intelligence, and boldness in telling the story. It is so engaging. Her use of language and punctuation is so specific in this very “naturalistic” type of dialogue—which is a great challenge as well. I was fortunate to be a part of the workshop reading during Local Lab 2015, and hoped at that point to be able to do this play. I think my character, Patrick, is such a wonderfully rich, flawed, character. So many layers! As an actor, that is a great challenge and pleasure to work on and uncover—even as we head into our final weekend of performances.
I agree with you, Tim. Meridith’s voice as the playwright was the biggest selling point in joining this project. New plays float around this industry all the time. If you read enough of them, you become extra-sensitive to good writing because you don’t get to read good writing every day. Meridith’s work is as familiar as it is challenging, and it gave me all the ideas I needed to try to get this job. When I met Pesha, and the rest of the team, I saw that we were all inspired to bring Meridith’s story to life on stage. It’s been fascinating to see that the audience respond to seeing her work in the same way I responded to it the first time I read it.