By MARK BLANKENSHIP
When you see the play, you only get part of the story, and that's one reason it's so moving.
To be clear, I Came to Look for You on Tuesday, now at La MaMa, is a complete work of art, and if audience members don't realize there's more to experience, they won't feel they've missed anything. But again: It's only a segment of the whole.
Written by Chiori Miyagawa and directed by Alice Reagan, the play follows almost a dozen characters---husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and acquaintances---as they reunite after being separated by wars and natural disasters. It's a component of The Tuesday Project, a multi-year, multidisciplinary rumination on reunion that has also involved street art, salons, and an ambitious website.
Taken together, these pieces cohere into a massive exploration of what it means (and what it costs) to reunite with someone. But few of us will experience all the pieces.
The salons, for instance, gathered groups of loosely connected people to tell their most memorable reunion stories, but they've already happened. And the street art---prints by James Bayard that are based on lines of dialogue from the play and snippets of conversation from the salons---has already been slapped on walls throughout the city. You can see images of the prints at The Tuesday Project's website, but you can't see them in their original environment anymore.
In some metaphorical way, that's appropriate. Because really, when is a reunion ever complete? When we rediscover a person we lost, things are never like they used to be. There's always some part of the relationship that has changed, for better or for worse. A reunion project that is broken into parts, that invites us to connect but reminds we can't connect with everything, speaks to the messy, contradictory experience of being lost and found.
The structure of The Tuesday Project---which is spearheaded by Miyagawa and Reagan, as well as the producers Ann Marie Dorr and Regina Vorria---has also impacted how the creators view their work. Reagan has done more than just direct I Came to Look for You On Tuesday. Among other things, she was part of the guerilla team that hung Bayard's prints throughout the city. "I thought about how there were other ways to reach people out there besides dragging them to the theatre and having them sit in a dark room to listen to our story," she says. "In my mind it made the project bigger."
It also made her less focused on delivering "the product" of the play. "As a director in New York, scraping by, the goal can be just, 'We've got to get this thing up.' But that's not the only goal here. The goal is to reach as many people as possible in many different ways. The impetus for this project was not, 'Let's get a play up.' The impetus was, 'Let's think about reunion with as many people as we can.'"
Meanwhile, Miyagawa says the salons changed her perception of the play she was writing, even though none of the personal stories ended up in her script. "They gave me 'emotional information,'" she explains. "I was reminded that reunion is not always a happy occasion. There's a lot to lose in that event as well."
To that end, several characters in her play struggle to reconnect after they're reunited, and their stories are arguably the most affecting in the show.
It's also no accident that I Came to Look for You on Tuesday has an unusual structure itself. The stories are told out of chronological order, and the actors play characters of various races and ages. That resonates with the searching spirit of the entire project. "We actually don't want the audience to become attached to every single character and story," Reagan says. "It's not simply about the story and the emotional content, but also about the political content. And you can get that more readily if you're a little bit distant."
"The experience is fragmented," adds Miyagawa. "I didn't want the play to take place in a specific geographic location because separation and reunion happens everywhere. It's universal during war, so I purposely set [the war-themed story] in a desert somewhere. All this was leading up to creating a puzzle of human experience, of what we have in common."
Mark Blankenship is TDF's online content editor
Photo by Yi Zhao