Reflections on The Mousetrap

From the Director, David Mayer
All photos by Lucy Brown

A long path has wound itself to the next crossroads. The high school kids of WCT and I began a journey in late September, not all with the same goals, but all ready to have fun and experience something new.

For me, it was the first time directing a play in full, and I relished the opportunity to work with kids old enough to learn and apply specific technique to their innate and WCT-nourished capacity for play. I wanted to be a part of the bridging from children's to adult theatre, helping to develop talent and skill, while encouraging finding joys that I had dug up in my time working the craft. Yes, any play comes stocked with that "away at camp" feeling, and the opportunity to create lasting friendships, and the chance to live through many sets of eyes boldly in front of the world and then go back into hiding when we are done; and, of course, the rush of the applause. But there are also joys to be found in unraveling the mysteries laid out by the writer; in finding abilities we didn't realize could be taught; in knowing that you are creating something and someone new and almost real... real enough to pull each viewer in for their own emotional experience; and in happening upon those transcendent moments that, like the perfect chord or color at just the right time, seem to break down the walls between technical requirements and the realm of magic. All this and more lie in wait for those willing to put in immense work. I hoped to give all of these gifts to my charges.

For the actors, well, I can't speak for them. I know we had those who had never acted in anything other than children's shows; and one who had never acted a lick at all. Coming in, some may have suspected we'd just be putting on a show, and they knew that process. But the length of time we had to prepare gave us the opportunity to really workshop the craft, and to slowly build characters and stories bit-by-bit. And when traveling the more well-known road of blocking and scene work, they were brought more deeply into the process than most productions of any kind get a chance to. Suggestions explained and options often given, so that the actors could think and apply, solve problems, and act with confidence. My mantra was to create a safe place actors to be strong and the characters to be vulnerable. And we agreed together to fail big. All of us would make mistakes and learn just how hard it could be at times to prepare to the level that allowed us not to think so much when the curtain rose. We would slowly but surely meld goals: To tell one coherent story, engage the audience, and be there for each other, true to each second.

And you know what? I feel that we did it. I doubt anyone got all the same rewards that they expected going in. But we got new, exciting rewards—the kind that spark lasting memories and stoke fires for the future. I couldn't be more proud or grateful, and I think the actors really feel they gained something beyond a show under the belt.

And so, the path hits not an end but a crossroads. What will I do next with all I've taken in? Rest, process, reflect. And after some more acting, I know I'll direct again. What will each actor choose to do with what they learned and felt? I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see many of them acting again soon, searching for their own joys for which they got a taste in The Mousetrap.


DavidMayer

David Mayer is an actor/writer/director who trained at Freehold Theatre in Seattle and has been walking the boards of South Whidbey for more than a decade.