Hi, I’m Dylan Stephen Levers and I’ve been lucky enough to watch Director Michael Halberstam in rehearsal on The Real Thing through an observership grant from the Stage Directors and Choreographer’s Foundation.
Several months ago at a dinner party, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who was getting married. I asked the bride-to-be how preparations were coming along for the big day, thinking her answer would concern the details of the event—floral decorations, seating charts and other specifics. Instead, she replied that she had been reading several books with titles such as “What To Do When The Butterflies Stop.” I was taken aback at this seemingly pessimistic action. Wouldn’t she want to revel in the joy of love for a little longer? In reality, she was making preparations for the longevity of the relationship, not just the first jovial steps.
Throughout the artistic canon, art makers have focused on a very specific segment of the romantic narrative—the act of falling in love. It’s chronicled in iconic works from Shakespearean sonnets to Cole Porter lyrics to cinemaplex romantic comedies. In his opening speech to the cast and crew, Michael pointed out that our constant exposure to this specific section of a relationship can make one feel inadequate to the great lovers of iconic works. But, as my bride-to-be acquaintance rightfully knew, love extends beyond the first crescendo to when “the butterflies stop.”
This first segment of romance often has more to do with lusting than the practical realities of love and relationships. How many of us are thinking about whether or not our partner will put the toilet seat down on first dates? But, once this sheen wears off and we look at our partners in a practical light, relationships become contracts. This isn’t to say that romance is out of the equation. But, as The Real Thing points out, relationships are pacts that must be made on a consistent basis. In a recent Op-Ed piece for The New York Times, novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote, “Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are… to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.” What are the rubrics that we use to evaluate the strengths of our bonds with each other? What do our partners need from us and what do we need from them to continue a healthy pact? As one character in The Real Thing puts it: “There are no commitments, only bargains. And they have to be made again every day.”
These questions are at the heart of The Real Thing. One of the beauties of working on a text by Tom Stoppard is that the author goes to great pains to argue many sides of the coin. Whatever the state of your romantic life, I’m confident you’ll see a bit of yourself in the work. We’re so excited for you to see the production!