What We Talk About When We Talk About Elephant's Graveyard by George Brant
When we produced the play The Laramie Project years ago, we decided to have “talkbacks” following the performances. It was a challenging play in terms of subject matter and theme, and we wanted to offer an opportunity for audience members to work through what they had just experienced. The playwright Moises Kauffman stressed that he and his creative team had purposed to simply “further the national dialogue” and we embraced that concept. We've offered talk backs for a number of plays that we felt warranted such an opportunity. Recently those plays have included Grand Horizons and Every Brilliant Thing. Based on the participation in those talks, we've found them to be very helpful and welcomed.
Typically, following the close of the play, we offer a few minutes for audience members to either leave the space and/or to get some refreshments in the lobby and then return to the theatre. I usually offer a few background comments about the play and then ask a few questions. We're not so interested in comments about the acting or the production itself, but more about the script and the response to the whole experience. From that point, a lively conversation occurs.
Many times people have told me they talk about a play on the ride home or the next morning at breakfast or throughout the ensuing days. Sometimes a play is so impactful that a person simply needs to let it sink in; they just haven't had time to formulate a response to what they have just experienced. We all bring to the theatre a wide variety of life experiences and plays hit us all differently. These talkbacks are simply an opportunity for those who'd like some time to process the experience. Many times people stay but say nothing, and just allow comments from other audience members to help them navigate the response time.
No doubt about it, this play hits hard, and we hope in a very meaningful way. Our rehearsal times include a great deal of time talking about the various themes and the way the playwright presents those themes. The style of writing is often beautifully poetic and helps to us to be able to handle the difficult subject matter. We talk about each of the characters and their relation to the event. I love this kind of rehearsal process with a script that welcomes and almost demands hearty and honest dialogue.
We encourage folks to stay for the talk back. Nothing is expected of those who stay except respect for other's ideas and responses. They can leave whenever they wish. The talkbacks generally last 15 minutes, though some have lasted longer, but, again, people can leave whenever they wish. We look forward to sharing this remarkable play with you…and to talk about it.