The People (We Think) We Know by Thomas Putnam
There's a Robert Frost poem, can't remember the title but I remember studying it once. In it is the image of a number of cords that are connected to the the speaker of the poem. My memory may be mixed up, but I do remember such a poem and that image has stayed with me for decades. How much is our personhood shaped by those with whom we have connections? How important are such persons in our lives in determining who are are or will become? These are questions I've pondered as we work through the process of bringing Molly Smith Metzler's insightful play to the stage.
Five characters make up the cast of THE MAY QUEEN, but I've been struck with how many other people are mentioned—by name—in the story. I get the feeling Metzler is nudging us to ask those questions in the first paragraph. There are two very distinct time periods in the play: the one of the action of the play—March-ish around 2014. The other time period is 15 years previous when three of the characters were high school students. The questions being urged to ask include are we the same person we were in high school? How much are we shaped by events that occurred 15 years previous? Can people change? Do people change? Add to these questions about events the numerous people mentioned and we're doing a lot of questioning!
Besides the characters we see and hear on stage—Jen Jen Nash, Mike Petracca, Gail Gillespie, David Lund, and Nicole (no last name)--there are a host of other people referenced. Jen's parents, Mike's mother and brother Jeff, Gail's husband Ron and daughter Sadie and son Tate, Dave's mother, a former employee “Uncle Carl,” a local gossip Mrs. Fisher, a former classmate Jason Hoyt, Gail's drinking friends Greg and Darla, high school boys Bobby DeLeo, Ricardo Ferarro, Joey Plunkett. T.J. Manling, MaVar Tinzley, Seth Breckman, Luke Guyman, Shane Boman Todd Zook, Jacob Markowitz, and high school girls Kelly Vance, LaQeisha Parker, Candace Darch, Kyla Clausi. There's even more than one reference to the character Russell Crowe played in A Beautiful Mind. These cannot be present, by name, without those questions about how much the people in our lives shape us.
I have recently come in contact with people I haven't seen for decades, and I realized that the people I know now have no clue about the various sets of people from various eras of my life. Current people think they know me. But, looking back at the different groups of people that I was connected to throughout my life, I'm thinking—as does Jen Nash in the play—they really don't.