We made it. Pepperdine Scotland has seen the curtain rise on The Abode at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018. It feels strange that the world premiere of this new work has already passed us by when for so long this company has lived and labored in expectancy of its unveiling.
Actors, designers, and production staff all assemble at the Underbelly Cowgate venue over an hour before our first official performance at the Fringe. All parties prepare to produce their best work, focusing each on the pre-show rites accustomed to them – be it dancing in the corner with headphones in or talking through notes over a cup of coffee with scene partners. The indoor atmosphere is thick with jubilant excitement. Two years of brainstorming, conceptualization, collaboration, designing, devising, rehearsal, working and reworking scenes, all culminating now.
Every time we come together to present this work, new discoveries are made and the story dives one step deeper than it ever had before. Sharing the stage with this cast with the support of this extraordinary production and design team leading the way, bringing The Abode to life I had to remind myself multiple times during the performance to stay with the story and reflect later. Watching a creation crafted with the help of your hand spring to life with vibrancy before an audience is a thrill not many actors are blessed to experience, but sharing The Abode for the first time was an immensely rewarding experience I am certain no one involved will soon forget.
Of course, there were some minor hiccups along the 74-minute run that a show so early in its lifespan can’t expect to escape, but we adapted and finished what we set out to do: to tell a story that needs to be told. When the final bow was taken, I didn’t feel a weight lift off my shoulders. There was no massive sigh of relief. It was an un-caging. A liberation that said, “you made it, but there is still work to be done.”
After the opening show, audiences were invited to stay for a talk-event in an outdoor area provided by our venue. Here, we discussed the topics of the play: hate speech, political division, activism, and the frightening rise of the alt-right. We were lucky to be joined by Dr. Joe Mulhall, the senior researcher from Hope Not Hate, an organization dedicated to challenging and defeating politics of hate and extremism within local communities. Dr. Mulhall explained to the crowd, audience and company members alike, the severity of the situation we face with the rise of the alt-right, and the accuracy of The Abode in exploring the complexities of the movement and the difficulties in combating it. It was especially rewarding to hear from Dr. Mulhall that from an expert’s perspective the research that had gone into creating a robust look at this topic that didn’t demonize the “trolls” of the alt-right was shining through.
After Dr. Mulhall finished, we entered into a Q&A time with Dr. Mulhall and playwright Davey Anderson in which our audience was fully invested. Later, I had the privilege to mingle with the audience members who stayed behind after the event. Hearing in person the power of The Abode in catalyzing their feelings toward combating this dangerous militancy of hate was perhaps the day’s greatest prize. It says we are doing something right by this story. It means that we are telling a story that is worth telling. And it means that the voices of 18 young American artists can be heard and help bring change to people’s minds.
Now, I am looking at our opening in the rear-view mirror. Still, we have one week of performance left, and like I said the story only grows with each telling. The impact of this work has far from run its course.