I arrived at rehearsal a few minutes late on Thursday. A quick meeting in Bryn Mawr, on my way to Anoka, left me winding my way through a tangle of police cars and emergency vehicles as I found my way back to the freeway. The car radio filled in the blanks, “Police are reporting a mass shooting at a workplace in Minneapolis.” I did not know until the next morning that two of those killed were people whose lives brushed against my own. Reuven Rahamim lived down the block from my home and had donated signs for the summer theater I direct, and Rami Cooks was the beloved “Abba” of a former student who is now a friend and work colleague. Rami had greeted me vivaciously many evenings in the theater. He was a ray of light and joy.
Events like this disrupt us. The firestorm of violence consumes the mundane and comfortable leaving blistered questions we struggle to answer.
At Rami’s memorial service, Rabbi Cohen of Bet Shalom congregation reflected on Sukkot, the time in the Jewish calendar we have just entered, in which families construct a temporary shelter, a sukkah, outdoors where meals are shared and, for some, where chilly October nights are spent. I live in a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood and have come to love the vicarious experience of the sukkoth being built as a reminder that we are all pilgrims—we pass through in search of home. Rabbi Cohen reflected on these temporary structures. We build them and brace them to the best of our ability, but the storms will come, the winds will blow, and even our best attempts will be laid flat by forces we cannot control. Then we rebuild.
And the question is how? How to find the strength, the hope, the bonds of love and friendship to build when the worst winds have reminded us that nothing we build and cherish is permanent?
As I walked with my own uncomfortable questions, and struggled to regain focus in rehearsals, it slowly dawned that the starting point of rebuilding is almost always the same. We tell stories. Stories about people and places we have lost, stories about others who travel on, stories about faith, about presence. We share stories and we are a little less alone, a little less frightened, and we find ourselves placing the first brick and erecting the first column.
It was good to come back to the rehearsal hall where digging deep in to stories is the work of the day. It reminded me that while making theater can at times seem childish and trivial—hardly worthy of a life’s time and energy—it is really an act of building, of bracing the walls against the storm, and discovering that we are not alone when the winds shake us.
A little bit about Mark: Mark Hauck is very excited to be joining the fun at Lyric Arts. He has directed or designed over 100 productions including work at Public Theater of Minnesota, Workhouse Theatre, Park Square, Mixed Blood, Eye of the Storm, and Theatre Latte Da. Mark was a co-founder of Great River Shakespeare Festival. This spring he will be guest directing at the U of MN/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program.