What She Means by Rebecca Tourino
Sunday, May 16th 7pm
The Barrow Group Theater
The Garret Studio
312 West 36th Street (at 8th Avenue)
New York, NY 10018
($5 suggested donation)
Although my grandmother is still living she is, to me, already gone. I don’t really see her anymore; looking at her, there’s hardly a trace left of the woman I knew. Alzheimer’s disease has taken her, and with her, a wealth of tenderness, a volume of knowledge, a hundred impressions of my younger self. Growing up, she was both my memory and my mirror. What do you do when your mirror breaks?
As an artist, my work had always smoothly reflected me just as my grandmother had. I knew who I was and what I had to say, but mostly because she'd always been there. After losing her I forgot, for a time, how to write. It was disorienting. Maybe I became as confused as she was. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I couldn’t make sense. I wrote the play for her.
I’m a mother now, trying to balance professional and creative aspirations with the most challenging full-time gig I’ve ever known: the care of my two-year-old son. My grandmother always made it look easy. I’m learning, of course, that of the many adjectives one could use to describe the parenting of young ones, “easy” is not one of them.
What She Means is about memory, childhood, grief, and the bewildering process of creation. It's also the first of my plays that I've acted in, and, as such, it's become personal in a way that's new to me. The main character is a writer trying to write a play about someone important to her. Five adult actors play children helping to tell her story. Writing the play, I found myself asking far more questions than I answered. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because the story is personal? Maybe because it deals so directly with feeling small and powerless in the face of a big loss? Or maybe simply because I was immersed in transcribing the voices of five kids? Anyone spending extended time with children, of course, had better get comfortable with questions quickly.
How do you tell a sad story? What if nobody cares?
How can you make a gaggle of ten-year-olds do what you want?
Is it even possible to form words from a place of mute grief?
And what's that cabbage doing onstage, anyway?
Some losses are almost too big to handle, even if you're a grownup. I'm not sure I've come to terms with my real-life loss yet. By the end of What She Means, my counterpart has managed to strip artifice from art to reveal a few hard-won personal truths. The most straightforward conclusion I can draw from my own work, this time, is that I think my grandmother would like watching it. For me, most days, that's almost enough.
Rebecca Tourino is a teaching theater artist living in Brooklyn. She’s written two other full-length plays: The Naked Eye Planets, awarded the Coyote REP Moon Award and produced at the American Theater of Actors in New York and Quickening, produced in Los Angeles by Lucid by Proxy and in New York by the Albertine Theater Company. As an actor, Rebecca’s credits include PCPA Theaterfest, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Cabaret Theater, Rogue Music Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the East Bay Actor’s Collective, among other regional credits. She’s also happily nudging her way into the directing area, working most recently with Coyote REP and Invisible, LLC. BA, UC Berkeley; MFA, UC Irvine; Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts.www.whatshemeansblog.com