What Adam Learned on his Summer Vacation
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

What Adam Learned on his Summer Vacation

The entire production staff of The Cottage is anticipating this Thursday – First Rehearsal. This day the actors will join us to have a first read-thru  and with that take the first steps bringing this play from the page to the stage.  After last week’s post in which Sandy Rustin told us why The Cottage was written, this week we wanted director Adam Dannheisser, the man at the helm of this project, to tell us what influenced him most in thinking about the play; it turns out the biggest influencer was his summer vacation.
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Before I knew that I was going to be directing The Cottage at APAC, I’d booked a short summer vacation with my family to spend some time at…a cottage.

Kismet.

photo (5)We were going to the Berkshires to stay by the lake on which I had spent large swatches of my childhood . My grandparents, constant guides through the turbulence of my youth, had once owned their own small cottage on Lake Garfield, so I was filled with joy and nostalgia as I pulled our Mazda 5 into the driveway of our rental — just across the lake from my own “once life.”

I spent a lot of time that week thinking about cottages.  How could I not, having recently decided to direct the play? The cottage —  a home away from home, a place removed from time. Where the rules and rhythms of regular life do not apply.  The collision of old and new — past and present — co-habiting in this suspended realm. The portraits and pictures on the walls, the books, the fixtures and furnishings — a museum collection of lives lived out of time.  Yet not so long ago.

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My four-year-old son is obsessed with dinosaurs. I’m not talking T-Rex and Triceratops. Ha! He would scoff at their mere mention.  This boy has gone next level. His favorite today, for example, is Ornithodesmus because — that’s right — it had a protruding toe claw.  Quite unique, apparently. Now THAT was a long time ago!

Our play, The Cottage, is set in 1923 — a twitch of an eye from today when taking the vastness of history into full account. Things have certainly changed in eighty-five years, but we have not exactly evolved.  Our manners and methods may have altered, but our primal desires remain the same — to love, to lust, to couple for life, to run away. At The Cottage we sleep in the same beds as our ancestors.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

My most lasting memory of our week in the mountains was an evening spent on the lawn of the outdoor concert venue, Tanglewood.  On the bill: The Goat Rodeo Sessions. What the hell is that?? It was, in fact, some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard, played by a collection of some of the best string musicians on the planet –including Yo Yo Ma on cello. Yeah, that Ma.  No toe claw, but equally amazing.  He was joined not by other classical instruments, but by a fiddle, a stand-up bass and Chris Thile’s blazing mandolin. It was classical/ bluegrass fusion — an otherworldly hybrid of sound spilling into the cool night air.

I lay on my back on the lawn that I had lain upon with my grandmother, now with my eight-year-old tucked under my arm, gazing up at the dark country sky. The stars. The faces of my grandparents. My sons. The transcendent music. All melding in a perfect fusion of past and present.

The directorial conceit of this (by the way) insanely funny play by the talented Sandy Rustin is inspired by that idea: the blending of past and present.  We are here on this earth for a moment — a half of a moment. A moment that, held under the brightest light, mirrors almost exactly the moment before and the moment to come. Imperceptible clicks, like one frame of animation to the next.

It may be true that the future is now, but the past is now as well.

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