by Wes Grantom
A wise alien once said to a guy named Woody Allen in a fairly obscure movie called Stardust Memories, “You want to help mankind? Tell better jokes.”
Throughout my career, I’ve been drawn to comedy, especially farce. So I was thrilled when Karen contacted me about this play. But the process of working on it has felt a bit… surreal. It seems almost wrong to be directing a farce during a time when world events have been anything but funny. The cast and I enter the rehearsal room each day focused on ways to provoke laughter, and we exit to news feeds that provoke tears. The schizophrenia of trying to make people laugh in the wake of tragedy after tragedy makes it hard not to question all my life choices. There is flooding, violence, and political strife gripping the country; and I have chosen to spend my days in a rehearsal room asking people, “What’s funnier, slamming the door or tripping on the luggage cart?” To make things worse, we’re doing a comedy set in the opera world. I’m making art about art. Could anything be less relevant?
You may be starting to ask yourself, “Is this guy trying to talk me out of seeing this play?” No! This cast is genius and you want to experience them. But I’ve been torturing myself with these thoughts, and it occurred to me audiences might have similar questions.
This is why I think you being here tonight is a really good thing. Comedy was created to help us cope with the types of horrors we face today. Going all the way back to the Greeks, we have been using comedy to deal with things like loss, grief, famine, injustice and corruption. Farce in particular depicts exaggerated, ridiculous situations that help us take ourselves a little less seriously and realize we aren’t the center of the universe. As I move forward and direct more comedies, it’s a comfort to know (or at least tell myself) that comedy serves a singular purpose in our society. It’s the necessary antidote to the unimaginable. Moreover, this show is a great reminder of the beauty that human beings are capable of creating – music, opera, art, theatre.
So when things get rough and I start to question the purpose of comedy, I try to remember that making jokes is important. That’s what the aliens told Woody Allen, and that’s good enough for me. With that in mind, I head back into the rehearsal room ready to make better jokes.
By the way, I couldn’t choose between slamming doors or tripping over the luggage cart. So get ready, you’re getting both.