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The Wall Climbers Theatre Project: Who, What, Why?

The Wall Climbers is an initiative that I've kickstarted independently, and yet the phrase itself implies plurality - as in, not just Madeline Wall, not just a single Wall Climber, but a group. A cohort. A community. Why is that?

The short answer is that this project has been a long time coming. It's already been heavily contributed to, and the plan is for collaboration to play a large role in its forthcoming development. So here's what it is. Here's the who, the what, and the why (as in why everyone who's willing should #ClimbTheWall with me - with us):

The Wall Climbers Theatre Project is an initiative designed by and for the young theatre enthusiast - part-blog, part-self-producing endeavor, inspired by the folks at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, where I grew up before my move about two years ago to Southern California. Geva is a non-profit regional theatre company that melds artistic excellence with an infectious sense of community. I attended their Summer Academy for young actors in 2013, where I studied theatre and (I'm gonna say it. It's going to be saccharine and we're all going to roll our eyes and vomit but here I go) found a home. Geva was home for those five weeks of my summer and there's a part of me that's still there.

Geva was home for those five weeks of my summer and there's a part of me that's still there.

Geva's magic is a rare potion. It's one of warm leadership, eloquent speeches, striking individuality yet firm comraderie, intolerance for darkness and a peculiar metaphor known as "Climb the Wall."

See that wristband on my outstretched arm? It's an inconspicuous little symbol - a plastic gift that all thirty of us kids got when we walked in the door. Etched on its surface is the message: "Climb the Wall." We needed our wristbands to gain admittance to the lobby each morning. For a long time, we didn't understand that the words had any meaning.

They're associated with an acting exercise that we performed towards the end of our stay at the Summer Academy. To explain it fully would be cumbersome and probably futile, as it - like theatre - is something that must be experienced live, and everyone interprets it a little differently. In essence, we climbed walls, both figuratively and literally, that day, as a team. We learned the crucial nature of collaboration. We learned to pursue objectives, tangible or abstract, with vigor and commitment. We learned to surrender our insecurities and suspend our disbelief, and believe in the identities we could create for ourselves and the world we could create together and then share with an audience. Quite enlightening, to say the least. It's a powerful metaphor, Climb the Wall.

It's something I've carried with me throughout my challenging move from the east to the west coast, and with every move, on every scale, that I've made since then. Until this past fall, I wore that plastic wristband day and night, no matter the occasion. It was practically skin. It snapped November 15th, 2015, the same day I closed Tom Stoppard's Arcadia with The Gestalt Theatre Project in Riverside, CA (another inspiring company - check 'em out at Too much love, I suppose. This project is how I replace it on my wrist.

The blog has two primary categories - intertwined, of course. "Philosophical Junction" will be the miscallaneous section, examining the way my art and my life overlap. The routine existential crisis that I now inextricably associate with a life in the theatre will be explored here. It should be dense, and convoluted, and irrevocably angsty at times, but hopefully my musings will resonate with some of my fellow young artists, and whoever plunges into the depths of my contemplation in prose.

"Artistic Bloodsucking" will be the more direct category - associated with theatrical experiences I have in the community here. This will mainly consist of theatre reviews, and possibly include production diaries and some posts on dramatic literature. At Geva, artistic bloodsucking refers to the voracious need to gulp up art. It's entirely non-threatening, and it's healthy. For the most part.

Finally, the self-producing component of this endeavor will catapult this spring with my originally conceived and directed piece, entitled Noble Minds, which will premiere at Clock Auditorium in Redlands May 13th-15th. Here's some aptly tantalizing work by one of my collaborators, the luminous Eliza Convis, to set the mood:

Think Shakespeare, befuddled and bedraggled young women, and emphatic voices from unlikely mouths. I'll keep the rest in mystery for now.

This is all subject to change, of course. But hey - always gotta be finding new ways to climb.

Thanks for joining this wild and imperfect adventure. More to come.

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