Monday, November 5, 2018

K2: Concluding the Season of Everything

When Executive Artistic Director Meredith Hagedorn had a rough lineup for the current season, she sent it over to me with all the scripts to get my impressions. This is something we've been doing for years and I really enjoy this part of working with Meredith at Dragon. It's like Christmas in April - new stories! The lineup usually includes ALL of the 2nd Stages pitches so it's always a good sized pile of scripts. I started by reading Insignificance, the first play of the season, which blew me away with its depth and complexity of story. For a "quick palate cleanser" I then grabbed K2 off the pile, and I was amused that two plays in a row had some serious discussion about Albert Einstein. I mean what are the odds really? They are two VERY different plays - Insignificance is a dark comedy that's a hypothetical meeting of major celebrities in a very fictional 1960s setting while K2 is a short drama that's loosely based on a true story and is about a life or death situation and mountain climbing. And it struck me that herein lies the theme for all the shows we presented in 2018. As the daughter of a physics and calculus teacher I was aware that Einstein died while trying to solve his "Theory of Everything" problem. Einstein essentially believed that everything in the universe is all tangled together and despite some very radical differences between large objects like rocks and small objects like atoms, he believed that there  is some yet unknown unifying principle that explains all of the differences and binds it all together. The universe is an incomprehensibly organized chaos, and it's beautiful. Some people take this to mean that everything in the universe is interconnected. We are breathing air molecules and drinking water particles that have been around for tens of thousands of years so we are connected to humanity through space and time. We are all connected under the skin thru DNA and chemistry.
I have always thought that live theatre excels when it takes a story and shows the audience that while this might not be a story of MY life, it's a recognizable story and I can find a very meaningful, personal connection to the story and the people on the stage. And maybe the audience can take an hour or two and BE those new people and UNDERSTAND their perspective, because as people, we have much more in common than we sometimes think we do. This is why I have chosen to work in the theatre for the past eight years. The stories that we tell here at Dragon are stories that fundamentally matter to our community because they seek to connect our common humanity and attempt to provoke some thought and discussion.

John Rutski, as the 2nd Stages producer of K2, has brought us a rarely seen Broadway play from the 1980s - it's his passion project for a reason and his true passion for this story has shown through even step of the way. I think that with the political landscape being what it is in America today, it strikes me today that it was a rather interesting pick. The themes of adversity and friendship are universal - it's just juxtaposed against an epic backdrop for this particular play. As he says in his producer's note "we all have our own K2s, our own figurative mountains that loom large above us like unconquerable peaks; it is how we choose to deal with them that allows us to grow and progress as humans." And that, I think is part of Einstein's universal truth. To borrow a line from Jurassic Park, because hey, I get to quote Jeff Goldblum now,  "life finds a way," but the human experience goes far beyond just mere survival. The most important part of K2, to me, is that NOBODY can climb these mountains alone. It's humanity TOGETHER that conquers K2. And if you happen to have a leg up on the mountain, you put your hand out to help the next climber up the sheer. I'd argue that the thing that entangles us all, more than quarks and strings, is empathy, compassion, and love.

Meredith HagedornI think that K2 is also an excellent way to close out Meredith Hagedorn's final season as the founder and creator of Dragon Productions Theatre Company. For 19 long years she's been climbing her own personal K2, the mountain that is running a non-profit theatre company in a market that is incredibly challenging. She may have started that climb alone in 1999 when she started filing the incredibly tedious papers to incorporate a 501c3 nonprofit, but now in 2018 she's built quite a family of artists, patrons, and arts makers right here in our home in Redwood City. As we begin our climb up that mountain in her footsteps, she's blazed us a terrific trail. I know that I speak for an entire community when I say Meredith, THANK YOU for leaving our piece of the world a little bit better than you found it. THANK YOU for creating nearly 100 great stories in your career. THANK YOU for all the opportunities for countless actors, designers, and people like me who just like to putter in the office creating support systems for all these community residents. And now maybe go jump in a sauna, warm up, and have a nice spiked hot chocolate and enjoy life for while before you move on to your Everest. Or maybe just think about walking a beach. With a margarita. You've more than earned it.

And to those of you that came out this season, THANK YOU for making live, local theatre a part of your life. We all hope that you enjoy K2. 2019 planning is already in progress so we'll be back with some funny, thoughtful, meaningful new stories very soon!

--Kimberly Wadycki
Managing Director, Dragon Productions Theatre

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