It’s day three of tech, and already I can see the magic of The Last Match growing. A tennis piece that travels across time and memory is no easy feat, and the artistic team has collaborated to bring this story to stunning life. Lighting Designer Christine Binder takes us in and out of consciousness, while Sound Designer/Composer Pornchanok Kanchanabanca creates the high stakes soundscape of a tennis match without an actual ball ever hitting the ground. Scenic Designer William Boles amazes with a stage that lives in a world of theatricality, and Director Keira Fromm and Choreographer Steph Paul continue to showcase a strong partnership that carries the story to new heights.
At this point in a normal process, we would be thinking about First Preview—the first opportunity to test our story on Writers Theatre’s patrons. What will they think? Will they laugh? What will critics say, and might we even be able to extend?
However, this is no normal process. As experienced as our team may be, no one has quite experienced anything quite like this before. We are in the midst of tech, but we are also in the midst of a pandemic. As we all know, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the world fast and furious, and the theatre community has been deeply impacted. Like most theatres in the city, Writers Theatre unfortunately has to suspend performances for at least 30 days—which means we are not preparing for previews. We are preparing for the potential that we can reconvene in April, and who knows what will happen before then?
Sitting in the theatre is surreal in so many ways. I check my phone at breaks to see yet another theatre that has closed, or another peer in the community that lost out on a rehearsal process that had barely begun. There is so much uncertainty, and as lucky as we are to have this opportunity to continue art-making, we know that our process too has a point that it will come to an ambiguous pause.
When I put down my phone and continued watching this evening, something was different. As always, I was struck by the magic – the design continues to astound, and it is always exciting watching everything come together in this manner. However, there was also something new. A certain hope that felt unbelievably appropriate for the current moment. Playwright Anna Ziegler ends her play with the following line and stage direction:
“Tim: ‘…Like the end and beginning of everything.’
Tim and Sergei play on, the sound of the cheering crowd and of the ball being hit reverberate faster and faster as the lights fade.”
Ziegler’s play has no true end. This is a story about tennis, but also a story about humanity and life’s journey. That path will take mysterious and unexpected turns, but always it continues in some fashion. COVID-19 has filled the world with some high uncertainty. But if anything, The Last Match is a reminder that even when we become lost in the chaos, there will always be a new turn, and a new beginning. We play on, and we will see what comes next.
I truly do hope you can all share in this play’s magic with us. The story is full of bravery, perseverance, and beauty—all the things that we are quick to forget in moments of panic, and the reason that art is as important as ever. For now, all I can say is that we will continue creating, and continue hoping. As Ziegler reminds us, tomorrow is a new day, and nothing so full of passion really comes to an end.
Learn more about Lauren Katz, The Last Match Assistant Director, here.