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  • Writer's pictureErma Duricko

Found Treasures:


I love that phrase – creative statement – it means everything and nothing – it cuts to the core, to the pulse – So here is my heartbeat, my throbbing blood flow.

I am making my “bucket list” – I really am. It is a theatrical one. After a devastating fire that took everything but, gratefully, life – having lost all the most valuable possessions I had amassed – first edition libraries, paintings, original manuscripts by Tennessee Williams, etc, etc, etc – I came to discover that having nothing leaves you with a feeling of wanting nothing. Shock protects – it is so glorious – until, that is, the shock dissolves into a state of PTSD and then the fight begins!!! I am ready to work again – creatively, that is. I have only two things on my theatrical bucket list and then I will creatively move elsewhere.

The first projectTom’s Children is a new compilation piece inspired by the poetry of Tennessee Williams. I asked several writers to read the poems and come up with a new work inspired by the poems. I did a workshop production in NYC with seven pieces tied together by film/media by Sabina Angel. What I discovered was that I wanted to continue working on this piece adding a short dance piece, a short film and a separate writer to tie the work together…it needs to be 1 evening of theatre not several one acts. I would like to eliminate several pieces and add new ones – keeping the evening around 90 minutes. Obviously, money stops that sort of progress in NYC. We could experiment and add and take away pieces until we created something unified. I had a disc of the workshop for my personal use – AEA rules but it was in the fire.

The second project that interests me is the nature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This condition is so part of human existence – coming strongly to light because of the recent/current wars. My husband, a clinical psychologist, has been doing much study and will work with the government to identify those service people with PTSD. Also, dealing with it personally myself – I have done a little bit of research so far. What does the internal workings of PTSD look like – what does it sound like – what are the colors and shades and secrets of this – if I could touch it – what does it feel like – I do not want the psychology of PTSD explored – the visceral of PTSD needs to splash across the stage.

There are certain things that are done best by different art forms. I remember feeling that what theatre can do better than any other form was rot too long ago, academically, artistically exemplified by Warhorse on stage – there was no place to run – I could not be a spectator – I, indeed was a collaborator in the telling of that story – my heart was bloody and bare and I couldn’t escape it!! Alive, I was trembling with life. There was no one single element but a pure blend of many artistic expressions tied together, unified to take my breath away.

As an educator, I firmly believe and encourage my students to - jump out – fail or fly but don’t tiptoe – so, my own professional work must be the same. I am not interested in safe, I am not interested in making my career. I am at a very different point in my life right now. I want to explore the possibility of these two projects – that is my work focus – a wildly surprising and magical journey of the heart – an expose of the soul of PTSD.

Living at my father’s home after the fire, I found some papers and thoughts about directing that I had written – I am not sure when but below I quote me from a much younger age – I discovered it still applies.

“My goal as a director is to tell good stories well. Stories in the form of plays. Plays that excite, entertain, provoke, captivate. Plays that look for the truth, about a political situation or about the relationship between two people. There is something about the human condition that I want to get at: I want to break relationships down into fragments, into shards; I want to hold those shards up to the light. Which way do they refract? How many different truths are reflected in a single shard of a single relationship? What happens if I turn it this way?”

I want to tell each story as clearly as possible, with both clarity and wonder. I work to create a play-ful rehearsal environment, where the actors, designers and I can explore the action of the play and the lives of the characters with safety but also with tenacity. I ask a lot of questions in the rehearsal room. I usually spend a fair amount of time at the table. At the beginning of the process, I should know more about the play than the actors do. As we work, each actor will eventually overtake me in his understanding of her individual character. Asking the question, even when I am fairly certain that I know the answer, is the most direct route to inscribing the answer in the actor’s body, in his performance.

As a spectator, I want the theatre to invite me in. Affect me. Engage me. Make me think. I am disappointed when the theatre skates along the slick surface of emotion, never daring to take the plunge through the ice to the shocking, engaging heart of the matter. We go to the theatre to hear Stanley yell "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!", not to hear "Um, excuse me, Stella?" Arthur Miller once said that one of the aims of the theatre is "to discover what we are desperately trying to suppress." I work to earn those moments when the passion, the naked need, the fight for what she wants comes pouring, despite his best efforts to conceal it, out of each character.

I want every element of production to help tell the story. Does the set serve the story? What extra information does it give me about the universe of the play? What do the costumes tell me about who these people are and the world in which they live?

My theatre will be an eclectic one: I will direct Will and Tom and new plays and new plays and new plays and new plays “

And so – now, at this age and level of experience in professional and educational theatre, I hunger to work on either project with eager, energetic theatre and art lovers in a physical setting that could support our collective vision to create a full theatrical experience for all of us. I look forward to checking off one project from my bucket list.

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