by Avery Daniels Dramaturgy/Education Apprentice
The process of Dramaturgy is an intensely personal and emotional experience. It’s about finding a way “into” the play, or finding where the world of the play overlaps with my life experience, and understanding how I can bring that into the world of the characters. Sweet and Sad spoke to me on a level unlike any other work depicting grief or remembering. My dad died when I was six and my best friend passed away when I was thirteen, so I am no stranger to loss or the process of remembering and speaking about my beloved dead. In his note on the play, Richard Nelson says that this work is about the voice of the individual. What we hear in a song, see on TV, or read in a book is all valuable and affects the people onstage in a very real way.
The stories that the characters bring to the table and share with each other allow them to work up to the big things, like dealing with the passing of a family member or navigating the loss of security that September eleventh brings. In these small stories, the theater remains a space to listen, to ask questions, and understand the complexity of a shared loss that each person experiences in their own way. This is my “way in.” I recognize these conversations circling loss and remembering the little things that define the reality of coping with something so profound and overwhelming.
The grief in this play is communal and at the same time intensely individual. The characters don’t speak about what’s happened in their family or 9/11 until almost halfway through the show except in brief mentions and loaded questions.
How true to the way we talk around the ghosts in the room and let them hang in the air until a blunt remark or casual comment pulls them into the conversation. The structure of the play as a whole mirrors this kind of remembering. The characters agree that in thinking of important events like 9/11 that it’s “one of those days…where it comes in and out of your consciousness. Your head. The anniversary.” This “in and out” or fluid kind of memory is fully realized in the conversations between the family.
One thing reminds someone of something and that reminds someone else of something and they interrupt the first person who is interrupted by someone else and the topics swirl and evolve naturally and get taken back to their beginnings, or not. It doesn’t matter, but somewhere in the anecdotes and references the truth comes out. We see that this is how we remember, and then forget, until something triggers a memory or a story and it all begins again. This “in and out” of the familial conversations mirrors how we remember, both milestone anniversaries and our loved ones who have passed on. This is how the Apple Family interacts, and their conversations bring the audience into the very process of remembering, making it a communal act.
The familiarity of this dialogue is why the play left me feeling heard, even though I didn’t write it and I’m not in it. The play washes over the audience in a way that is beautifully simple and painfully familiar. This is how I remember. This is how we remember.
*GSC Blog posts are the select opinions of individual employees and may not necessarily reflect the views of Gloucester Stage as a whole.