Theatre at the Threshold (of sound)

Morganna Becker, playwright and star of The Threshold of Sound, discusses what inspired this piece and how it has evolved from the original production to the show you will see with Exiled Theatre this weekend in Somerville.

Morganna Becker as Daffodil Spout Havish

Morganna Becker as Daffodil Spout Havish

The Threshold of Sound evolved out of a conglomeration of ideas.  Its primary components are drawn from telling the story of the inner world of a bewildered woman, the scientific concept of sound, the plight of the whales, the complexities of truth - about the physical world and ourselves - and finding a way to make oneself heard.  The piece became about finding one's voice in the world - of acknowledging the power of one voice in the chorus that makes up the planet.  

Work on the piece began in the Fall of 2011, while I was studying at the Trinity/La MaMa Performing Arts Semester in New York City.  Originally, I wanted to create a piece that used story, whale sounds, poetry, and body movement to build to a scream and end in a silence that would allow the audience to experience the fullness of silence and the threshold of sound. In the initial version, there were two performers onstage.  As a writer/performer, it was an exploration of anger and other volatile emotions, and of the body as an instrument.  These emotions were not specific to me, but to the world in general.  The year 2011 was the year of the Japanese tsunami, and the year of Occupy Wall Street.  I was hearing people say ignorant things.  I was hearing people shout their anger from rooftops.  It was a year I became aware of the frustration of generations and the difficulties in creating change.  I attempted to capture this in writing The Threshold of Sound.  At the end of the program, it became evident to me that this work was not complete.  I had enough material for a half hour performance, but could only do a ten-minute showcase piece.  There was much more I wanted to explore.  I decided to revisit and expand the piece for my senior thesis at Trinity College in 2013, during which it was produced as a solo performance. Fast forward to now, and I am still working on the piece. I feel as though the written version of this production is close to finalization. Perhaps in another five years, I might be done with it!

I am ecstatic that Exiled Theatre is producing Threshold of Sound for their 2016 summer fundraising event, and that Teri is directing the piece as I admire her directorial work.  Also, honestly, working with Teri is like hiring your own personal cheer squad to interact with you every day. Words can't describe it. I have heard the word "literary" to describe Threshold; to me that means layered.  Teri was so generous with letting me rework the play's beginning and the Gareth/Cooper/Ferdinand scenes (i.e. those scenes that keep it out of the one-woman-show category).  By the time we got to really putting the play on its feet, we were still making so many discoveries about Daffodil's world, the political nature of art, shamanism, and whale sounds, not to mention performance elements. There's a lot packed into this one hour of storytelling. 

Nick Kelley as Gareth/Cooper/Ferdinand

Nick Kelley as Gareth/Cooper/Ferdinand

I would say, above all else, I work toward an emotion with my art.  It's most commonly referred to as catharsis, but I'd say it's that bittersweet spiritual spot between laughter and sad crying.  That, in combination with the mundane - the simplest pleasures, but not necessarily nostalgia - for me carve out a really magical niche in the performance world.  I personally believe that theater is spiritual, business, play, politics, education, and magic. Sometimes I don't have a specific intention on any one of those fronts, it's simply innate.  I hope this play sparks that twinkle of wonder that shamans did (and still do), and can give that not-so-Western medicine to our audiences, even if it's just in an unexpected smile.

I've had many collaborators along the way - Teri Incampo, Nick Kelley, Davis Kim, and Grant Jacoby - and some heartfelt fans - Mom, Judy Dworin, Malcolm Evans, and Lindsay Walker -whose artistry I respect so immensely that to have had it reciprocated is beyond words. I also feel it's important to say that this piece let me fall in love with whales and has inspired new curiosities along with the continuous aspiration to be a good human.  Maybe I'll pull a 180 and become a marine biologist. Or maybe I'll end up with my own theater farm with 236 cats.