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10 Years: 7 Hours - A ratio worth considering. Especially after seeing Gatz, the breathtaking staging of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (every last word of it) that Elevator Repair Service just graced REDCAT's stage with. Epic? Yes. A marathon? Yes. But only for them. The 13 players who strut, scuff, and waltz their dingy office space into the New York and Long Island of the Roaring Twenties. And roar they do. For those of us in the audience, the seven hours wafted by like smoke, like silk. With episodes of chaos both jaunty and expansive.
Let's start with the 10 years. Director John Collins and members of the company first cracked open the process in 1999. They would, over a DECADE, pass through numerous creation workshops, rehearsals, and visions of the show. Being the American masterpiece that it is, the novel attracts artists like moths to reinterpret it, and a number of film and theatre enterprises tied up the rights at different junctures in Elevator Repair Service's ascent. They would have to stop. To wait it out. To circle back and try again. They finally opened in New York in 2010.
We live in a world that is geared almost entirely to immediate gratification. Our consumer habits, our news cycle, our globe trotting ease...have made ten year commitments, let alone artistic pilgrimages, rare. Clearly, the text itself was that good. To them, for them. It held enough meaning to sustain. Though you can't help but think MOTHEROFGOD, the FRUSTRATION!!!, part of the grace of seeing this production is witnessing that collective spirit of the company, that kind of dedication, and feeling, by extension, the richness of having something that you care enough about to sink those years into.
And then, the 7 hours. Elevator Repair Service often begin a project setting out to do something impossible. And you can see how this theatrical event would have seemed that. Been the impossible. But then it occurs.. It unfolds in front of you. The result of those years (aside from lead actor Scott Shepard's having the entire novel memorized!!) is an intimate, living and breathing piece of art. With no short cuts. There may have been people in the audience who didn't swoon over the show as much as I clearly did, but I'll bet that no one in that full house walked out unmoved by the passion, stamina, and fortitude of the artists. And, in a way, their own stamina for having given their attention to something unfolding live in front of them for that many hours.
So as the year comes to a close, and we look back on what we accomplished, and didn't, FOR THE LOVE OF GATZ, take a breath and re-dedicate, dig in, and put your back into it for the long haul.
Happy Holidays and BEST in the New Year