Curating the Lightrail Plays by Xanthia Walker
Entry One: The Rehearsal Room
View from the Tracks: The Lightrail Plays is a site-specific community-engaged theatre piece. But what does that mean?!?! To me, creating community-engaged, site specific theatre means committing to making something that is of a particular place in a particular moment in time, and with the people of that place and time. Thus, for this project, it means we are making theatre of the lightrail.Theatre of Central and Roosevelt to Central and Camelback. Theatre of travel. Theatre of commute. Theatre of scenesters, elderly ladies in elegant linen pant suits, Diamondbacks fans, comic-con attendees, students, folks moving to and from work, people going to the grocery store, people without homes, park and riders, the amateur rapper freestylin’ at the Camelback stop, and tourist riders who take lots of pictures. Creating with the lightrail means committing to a mix of audiences who come to see a show and audiences who will be blindsided by the theatrical arts. All of this becomes the root of our creative process.
The lightrail becomes our chief rehearsal room. True, we also create at our homebase Phoenix Center for the Arts (just off the Roosevelt stop) but we’re quickly discovering that we can’t know if something works without trying it out with our traveling community partner. Watching our one-on-one teams of youth and adult artists engage with the lightrail has been weird and moving and exciting. Some of our youth and adult artists had never ridden it before. Some ride it daily to school or work. As we are beginning to create, we are noticing the connection and disconnection of people traveling together. We are noticing the clean, efficient, sometimes futuristic structure of the train itself. We are noticing the sun shade structures shaped to look like ocean waves when they cast shadows on the ground. We are noticing what happens when you smile at people on the train. Or, when you ask someone why they are reading a film book and discover that it is a copy of the Bible wrapped in a film book cover (because people might think it was weird to read the Bible on a train). The pieces that are emerging are based on glimpses of a person, whole conversations, what existed before the train, and even the train itself.
If you ride the train on Wednesday/Thursday evenings or Saturday afternoon you have a solid chance of catching a work in progress rehearsal.