Matthew Ivan Bennett, Stephanie Howell, David Holmes, Jerry Rapier, Lori Rees & Aaron Swenson on the meaning of "home" in preparation for ROSE EXPOSED this Saturday

This Saturday, August 23, is the third annual Rose Exposed. We’ve changed it up this year: the six resident companies at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center will be creating work that day about “home” – we gotta figure it out by 8pm when the show begins! – and 100% of ticket sales benefit The Road Home. The folks creating Plan-B’s piece are Matthew Ivan Bennett, Stephanie Howell, David Holmes, Jerry Rapier, Lori Rees and Aaron Swenson. Below are their thoughts on “home.” Join us Saturday night to see how these thoughts translate to the stage!  And if you listened to “Little Boxes” by Pete Seeger, “Happiness” from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, “Neverland” from Peter Pan, “One Way Ticket” by The Mamas and The Papas and “Come Home” by OneRepublic, it couldn’t hurt. Click here or call 801.355.ARTS or visit the Rose Wagner box office to purchase tickets.


Matthew Ivan Bennett (Playwright):  
To my childhood self, home isn’t so much the house I came up in, but the little wild places around our neighborhood that are mostly gone now—the two huge thrumming cottonwoods in the Smith’s alfalfa that’s now a subdivision; the box-elder-bound junkyard where my best friend Brent and I fought off a mad stray dog with a piece of rebar; the ditches and grasses hiding silver-eyed garter snakes that are now buried by a Mormon church parking lot. These dangerous green places were sanctuaries where I could pretend magic was real, and each time one was paved over, or made into a strip mall, I mourned and felt less like a kid.

My adult self still finds home in wild places, but I’ve come to need more acreage. I don’t know if that’s a natural need that comes with being older, or if my imagination has shrunk. Either way, the “home” feeling in the woods is always poisoned with a knowledge that I can’t stay forever (since I can’t hunt or forage well). So is it really a home?

The most lasting “home” feelings have been in friendships where judgment can be set aside like a coffee cup and the space between us empties in the best possible meaning of the word.I don’t know why that’s “home,” except to say that I’m the most unguarded then. So relaxed. Doing theatre, by dint of the process sometimes, gives me whole long minutes of this. Once my parents asked me why theatre had so many weird people in it and I realized the answer as I said it: we don’t judge them.

David Holmes (Actor): Home . . . the first word that comes into view and even more accurately, the first feeling I experience is “safe.” The energy and feeling of “home” is safe, warm, comfort and nurturing. It’s a peaceful experience – filled with stillness, joy, laughter, knowing, beauty, love – simultaneously.

Yet, surrounding this safe space or “home,” is an outsider, a stranger, an enemy or “Big Bad Wolf” if you will whispering . . . wanting to be heard and acknowledged . . . and even more dangerous, to be believed. A belief that home is weak and easily broken or given up and forgotten . . . the feeling and energy that “home” is not real. Not enough. Ever.

Because of this duality home has, up until recently, always been bittersweet. Growing up my father was The Big Bad Wolf threatening my safety and peace, or at least I believed at the time. I used to believe and feel that Church was my home and that my inner “temptations and trials,” being gay, was The Big Bad Wolf destroying me from the inside out. Being in theatre always felt like a giant loving family, a safe haven to escape to . . . but of course every show will close, people will move on and yet again I am left without a home.

It hasn’t been until recently that I realized I have had it backwards; “home” is not a place or a destination or a person . . . it is a state of being. And I have had it all along. Being away from “home” the past year has opened me, taught me and challenged my belief system of safety. I now experience stillness, joy, laughter, knowing, beauty, love from the inside, within me, no matter where I am or what I am doing. A state of grace. I guess the old adage is true, “Home is where the fuckin’ heart is.”

 

Stephanie Howell (Actor): From a pretty young age, theatre has been home to me.  As a kid I spent a lot of time backstage during my mom’s rehearsals and performances. Before long I spent a lot of time backstage during my own rehearsals and performances. Either way, the theatre is always a place where I feel relaxed and at ease, surrounded by people who make me feel comfortable and loved.

Then I met [my husband] Eric and realized that an individual person could be “home” too. Around him I feel like the best version of myself, and also the most “real” version of myself. Much like I feel when I’m in a theatre.

Now that I have kids I find myself wanting to provide a “home” for them.  I don’t mean beds, or food, shelter, or clothing (though obviously that all factors in;  how can you relax and be at peace if you’re not safe and warm and fed?)  I want them to have that FEELING of home.  Especially now, when they’re sorting out who they are and who they want to be, “trying on” new versions of themselves to see what fits. I want them to have that sense of peace that comes from being the truest version of yourself. And I want them to have a place where they can explore what that means.

I also hope that they find their individual “homes” outside of our home and family – the places and people and things that they love and that make them feel happy and at peace with themselves.

 

Jerry Rapier (Director): Theatre feels like home.  [My husband] Kirt feels like home.  And by that I mean they both feel like where I belong.

But I had no idea that having a child is really what home means to me.  Until I did.  In my 40s.  And it does.  Completely.

I didn’t really have a place that was my own home until I was 8 years old.  Before 8, I lived in so many places I couldn’t possibly count them all.  And then I lived in the same house, in the same small town, with the same people each grade in school, until I was 17.  I had no idea how important that was until the focus of my life became providing that same stability to the little human that calls me Pop-Pop.

 

Lori Rees (Actor): Recently I learned that my “home,” my physical body, is vulnerable to a random storm.  A storm that can be destructive, relentless, and ultimately devastating.  My storm was breast cancer.

When diagnosed, I was as healthy as I had ever been in my life.  I thought, “how ironic; how could a healthy young woman, with no risk factors, and no family history, develop this deadly disease?”  Like I said, sometimes cancer is a random storm, and I thought, if I am standing in it’s path, I better board up the windows, align the sandbags, and buy plenty of food and batteries!

Armed with a smile, optimism, and a team of great supporters, including my great doctors, I went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  All the while, I was rehearsing and performing Les Miserables.  Thank heaven I had the show as a distraction.  Anyway, I now have a very good prognosis – about 95% that the cancer will not return.

I lost my hair because of treatment.  That was quite a blow.  I loved my hair, and I had grown it out for years for my “new look.”  So, it seemed I had my new look for about 5 minutes.

But I am alive and healthy, and happy, and my house just lost a few shingles.  Time to open the windows and store the sandbags.

So now, my home is the place where I have everything I need.

I have my tight-knit, loving family – my husband Dave and my two boys Jack and Matt. They bring out the best in me.

I have my pets – 3 dogs, 8 chickens, 2 rabbits, a guinea pig, and a frog.

I have a cozy bed.

I have all the modern conveniences a girl could want.

And it’s always the right temperature.
Aaron Swenson (Actor): William Blake said that we are here to “learn to bear the beams of love,” and home is where we learn these lessons. Home is the place where you can let down your guard enough to care for others and allow them, as excruciating as it may be at times, to care for you. Home is where we come to understand the terrible risk involved in holding still long enough to be seen, to be known, to love and to judge ourselves worthy of love.

As we grow, our homes grow into an extension of the self: walls and a roof and a door that shuts behind you to tell the world, “This place is mine. This place is me. Come in. Get out. Stay awhile. Stay forever.” And you can’t be yourself by yourself. Someone said that once – someone smart. Not me. For me, home works the same way. Home is where you keep and rediscover your most precious memories – the relics of who you have been. Mine are in Anchorage, in Salt Lake City, scattered across the country in the minds and photo albums of my friends and family members and castmates, in my own little head, in my own little house. Mine are in dressing rooms and in theaters where the beams of love come in from every direction, bright and hot as a followspot.

We are here – on Earth, in theatre – to learn to bear the beams of love, and home is where you can always find your light.

Playwright Julie Jensen on CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS (2014/15 Season, Show #2)
Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett on RADIO HOUR EPISODE 9: GRIMM (2014/15 Season, Show #1)

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