The Sky’s the Limit: Reflections on The Sky Festival, Part 2

Thursday, January 19, 2012

posted by Elyse Price, member of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2014
Our coverage of the 2012 Sky Festival continues with a post from Elyse Price, whose original work Noncents is one of the selected pieces to come to life over this vibrant two-week festival.
Thieves
L to R: Maggie Leigh and Elyse Price in Noncents. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Thieves
L to R: Noncents performers Maggie Leigh and Elyse Price, assistant director Lisa Kitchens,
and director Domenique Lozano. Photo by Kevin Berne.
The idea of The Sky Festival is such a fabulous one—its title mantra, "the sky is the limit," mixed with about 50 daring, creative, and energized artists, is dangerously exciting. And it takes place at A.C.T., no less, a theater company that pushes boundaries and wants to challenge its audience. When I found out about this festival during callback weekend for the M.F.A. Program, I was hooked, and already had ideas brewing . . . but when it came to proposal time, after spending my first five months in this city, I knew which one was the best.
I had been working on a short play called Noncents back in New York City, which was my home before making the big move across the country. It was inspired by the countless number of homeless men and women I would engage with on a daily basis in the city. I started wondering about their individual stories and what their lives used to be like, knowing that I would probably never know. Then one day I heard a line that knocked the wind out of me—someone selling a baby, desperately. I thought, "Could this be real? Am I really hearing this?" I hopped on the subway and made my way home. After a couple days of typing and typing away, my mind repeating that horrendous line ("Baby for sale!") over and over, Noncents was finally born.
After moving from one enormous city to another, I was really struck by the stark differences among the people who inhabit San Francisco. I have about a 20-minute walk to school every day, and after weeks of interacting with the people that inhabit these streets, I knew some editing was in order. My amazing classmates met several times with me to hold readings and offer input and insight on the plot, the characters, the circumstances, the language, etc. We experimented in all different ways—we paired up men and women, men and men, and women and women, just to see the difference, if any, it would make to a text that was originally written for two men in New York.
I don't think I could have ever imagined how helpful these preliminary meetings were! I realized that although it worked as a play between two men in a different place, the difference it made when pairing two women was expansive, especially in this new setting. It opened up a whole new perspective on this play. And I was very excited by this new point of view, as were several of my classmates who really saw this project through with me! It brought up so many topic of discussion: gender roles, sexuality, responsibility, perspective, need, money, appearance, love, desperation, and abuse, to name a few.
Once we got into the rehearsal room, a whole new and thrilling layer was added—Nancy Benjamin (Co-Head of Voice and Dialects) as our director, Lisa Kitchens (class of '14) as assistant director, and Maggie Leigh (class of '12) as my scene partner. We have all been collaborating every single day, sharing stories, closely reading the text, and building a real, visceral world in the rehearsal room. I continue to be awestruck by the personal experiences that reveal themselves in these conditions. We are all interested in the truth—telling the fullest story possible, while doing justice to the complex world of the streets.
It has been both challenging and incredibly fulfilling to wear two hats in the rehearsal room. I have learned so much about both writing and acting and am so grateful to have been given this opportunity. The support that I have received working on this project has been unparalleled and it continues to surprise me every day.
 
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