Around a table

Isn’t it delicious that so often a first rehearsal involves a table read?

That’s what I was thinking last night as Bill Brown gathered his cast, production team and other TimeLine family members  around for the first rehearsal of To Master the Art.

In theatre, as in life, stuff happens around a table. We start to figure out the world of our play, and as Chef Bugnard says about cooking, “It is not about fast or slow, it is about true … it is about the adventure … it should make joy.”

First rehearsal of “To Master the Art” on Monday, September 13, 2010.

Adventure. Joy. Truth. All of these elements were present in Julia Child’s life and art and I think they are what I first connected to when I fell in love with her in 2006. That summer I read her biography, An Appetite for Life, borrowed Mastering the Art of French Cooking from my mother-in-law, and found a hero.  I was impressed by the unconventional and adventurous path of Julia’s life before she discovered her passion for cooking, and I related to the awakening of possibilities that she experienced as a post-war American woman in Paris.

Julia’s cookbooks, her teaching and her programs span decades of a changing America, and she presided over a table for millions of Americans who learned from her that figuring things out takes time and practice and great communication. The kind of communication we practice around a family table, and the kind that I fear is slipping away in our world of instant, one-line communication and sound bites.

Maybe I’m extending the metaphor a bit too far, but my life at TimeLine has had the flavor of a family table. Here, over the last 14 seasons, we’ve tried to continue that dinnertime conversation. We’ve talked about passion and politics, we’ve tried on new roles as we’ve grown up with our audience, and we’ve invited hundreds of artists to pull up a chair and add to the conversation. And that, like a great meal with people you love, and a great first rehearsal , leaves you full to the brim. Cheers!

P.S. I can’t help but think about the first scene work PJ and I ever did together back at The Theatre School. It was a scene from a play called The Art of Dining. Our teacher was Bill Brown.

Juliet Hart was one of the six graduates of The Theatre School at DePaul University, along with Artistic Director PJ Powers, who founded TimeLine Theatre in 1997. It was her suggestion at a TimeLine Company retreat in the summer of 2006 — after she first read An Appetite for Life — that led to TimeLine commissioning the play To Master the Art from writers William Brown and Doug Frew.

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