In 2001, my best friend Brandon composed a beautiful All Summer in a Day score for me to choreograph to. When it came to creativity, Brandon was my partner in crime. He was a prolific songwriter and taught me to face any challenge by processing through art. It is a gift that fuels me every day. Brandon was passionate about this Ray Bradbury classic. He loved Margot, the story’s young protagonist. He loved that she stood out from the rest. Like Brandon, her spirit was different, somehow.
A nascent Lineage Dance Company performed this piece, all over the country, bringing Bradbury’s story to life night after night. Over two decades since we last performed this piece, the world has changed drastically. My world has changed drastically. Brandon died by sucicide in 2012.
And when he died, part of me died.
And when he died, he took over a little part of my soul. And that part fuels my creative spirit.
And when he died, he left hours upon hours of his music. His voice filling the void that he left in this world. Reminding us that art is life. Art renders us immortal.
So here we are today, sitting in the magical darkness of Lineage’s brand new theatre, in a hopefully-soon-to-be-post-pandemic world. Launching a rebirth, a re-envisioning of a show that Brandon wrote for me twenty years ago. It’s a disturbing story about children living on Venus, where it rains all the time. The sun comes out once every seven years. It’s about dire circumstances and feeling trapped. It’s about envy and anger and bullying. It’s a story that feels rather hopeless.
In 2020, the world came to a halt as we anxiously navigated a terrifying pandemic. We launched ourselves into a new, virtual world, where intimacy and the physical touch of others suddenly became potentially deadly. We clumsily engaged in discussions about racism and injustice as we tried to wrap our heads around the murders we were witnessing. We locked ourselves in our homes for months upon months as we waited for a glimmer of hope.
Though we’d opened a beautiful new facility, Lineage was only operating virtually for an entire year. We conducted classes, workshops, creative writing, choreography, we danced and made films, all in an effort to process the insanity we were living through. Throughout all of this, Brandon’s voice kept singing in my head. Ray Bradbury’s story about a hopeless life of never ending rain and human behavior at its very worst kept haunting me. And so this 2020 iteration of All Summer in a Day emerged.
This production is a far cry from the original piece we performed twenty years ago. This reimagined version is really about the experience of this past year. It is a collection of voices from all over the country, all ages, all circumstances. Dozens of community members lend their words to this project. We’ve also brought in our Dance for Joy community - Lineage’s program offering music, theatre, and dance to people with Parkinson’s, to participate in the collaboration. At 21 years of age, Lineage is now home to a giant family of ridiculously talented dancers, actors, musicians, artists. Lauren Wilmore, Tess Lina, and Wendy Lang are taking on these perspectives, representing a teen, an adult, an elder with Parkinson’s. Sabin Shrestha is our narrator, channeling Ray Bradbury’s haunting words. And of course the beautiful Lineage dancers effortlessly translate all of these huge emotions into a visceral extravaganza.
Through music and movement, we’ve been working together to navigate our feelings and to process. Longtime collaborator and composer John Guth has joined me in reimagining this story, through the lens of our current world. A world in chaos and strife. A world of bullies and despair. A world where we desperately hope that the sun will shine again.
Throughout our workshops, I asked people to reimagine the ending of All Summer in a Day. So often when people read the story, they feel cheated out of an ending. It leaves us, like life so often does, with questions that will never be answered. What happens to Margot? Will the bullies ever change? Will this pandemic ever end? Will Brandon ever know how much his life has changed mine?
Every year I join Brandon’s family to celebrate his birthday. This year, of course, it was a Zoom gathering. His parents suggested a prompt: how would Brandon react to this past year? A group of die-hard Brandon-lovers speculated together about Brandon’s likely responses to all of it. His anger at the injustices. His deep understanding of the mental health crisis that the pandemic has exacerbated. Unanimously everyone agreed that Brandon would be churning out tons of amazing songs, dissecting the political, social, and emotional ramifications of this crazy year.
It’s May of 2021. We are on the precipice of something new. Many of our bodies are empowered with the antibodies to tackle this nightmare head on. Pfiezer or Moderna is our favorite question. Masked or vaxed is our newest guideline. It feels hopeful. It feels lighter. It feels freer.
Lineage is slowly opening its magnificent, sparkling new doors. Kids are back in school. . .kind of. The world feels almost normal. . .sort of. But there has been so much darkness for so long now.
So now we process. Grateful for art. Grateful for community. Grateful for physical connection. Grateful for the sun.
Together, really hearing one another’s voices, we begin to heal.
Hilary and Brandon