Going on the InViolet Retreat always feels like going on a first date. Well, it’s more complicated than that. I’ve been a member of InViolet for three years now. (Oh hi! I’m Jen. Awkward. You didn’t know who I was and I’m talking like we’re old friends…)
So with the older members, it’s like going on a date with the love of your life who you haven’t seen all year and you’re hoping it’s as good as you remember it. With new people, it’s a bonafide first date (internal monologue: Oh shit! I gotta find out where everyone grew up, their jobs, their names, etc.! Second of all, will people like me and will I drink too much and embarrass myself? Third of all, I have to act in front of the newbies and share my writing and OhLordWhatWasIThinkingIShouldHaveRevisedMore…)
You know. Stuff like that. And we don’t invite “new people” every year, so we all know
something special is about to occur. We all just hop in these van(s) in the Chelsea area and zoom to upstate New York and it all starts!
Unpacking our bags in a house that has had a zillion lives, it settles in: we’re here for 4 days. Woo hoo! Quickly some of the new people blend in as they help make dinner for the 20+ crew of actors and writers. Angela, one of the artistic directors, has these sick packets for everyone with inspirational quotes and all the new plays people are acting in. The packets are really sick (which means “awesome”). Groups go off upstairs and into the living room. Actors dive into new plays led by their directors and watched by their (I’m sure nervous) writers. Screams! Laughter! Chairs falling! More laughter! We’re in full swing.
Dinner is this fun communal event where we push together three tables and stuff 20+ chairs around so we can have a last supper/summer camp/revival style dinner. There are some inappropriate jokes. One about Houdini (I won’t get into it) and it’s like we’re all on our third drink on the first date and we’re starting to wonder, will I freakin’ marry this person?? In Artistic Translation this means: Oh awesome! I like these people and am now more excited than scared to act and share my writing!
At night we perform the plays and dive into feedback via the Liz Lerman method.
By the end of the first night it’s official. We’re moving fast. We’re moving in together.
We’re writing the guest list for our wedding. (If you’re not following this metaphor, I’m
really sorry. Basically I’m trying to say: IT’S GOING WELL.)
We all sleep like 10 minutes each night and wake up and do it all over again!
Some of us prepare meals and clean up the kitchen, while the majority act and direct new plays and get excited and scared all over again. Each night we get more and more exhausted…and the work gets more and more amazing! There are multiple Tony Award winning performances. Murmurs of possible Pulitzer nominations ripple through the crowd. There’s a brutal battle to determine who is the best “Stage Manager”. It’s awesome to see how the writing has progressed over the year and to hear all the new voices from the new writers. After the massive sharing of words and feelings and it all, we dance because it’s Angela sweet 16 birthday party, gaze outside at the stars, drink, laugh, talk about the plays, and the last night we even have a fire pit!
And then all of a sudden, we’re packing up our bags again. Is it possible that we read 11 plays over four days? The love affair has paused like in a movie. Like, the trip is over and you can’t even really get what it meant to you or how much you (luv) everyone until you’re back in your apartment and you’re like OhMyGodThatWasIncredibleAndSpecial.
It’s hard to describe exactly what happens, but this is the nut of it (or in a nutshell,
rather…) We started out as past loves, friends, strangers. And at the end something has happened and we’re now a GROUP.
We’re what we like to call INVIOLET REPERTORY THEATER COMPANY.