Mike Levin, teacher at Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy (FALA), wrote and directed the play, On Thinking. The production debuted at FALA in 2013.While it had a small audience, it was probably the least conventional and most outrageous theatrical production shown in Flagstaff in the last year. The high school actors, under Levin’s direction, were superb and had stage presence beyond their years. Experiencing this script come to life was like riding river rapids in an indoor fun house of satire and emotion; like being inside someone’s head. It’s a remarkable achievement and worthy of recognition.
From the program:
“What could a play about thought look like? How could a theatrical experience get an audience to wonder about what the mind does? How do we even begin to think about what we are doing?
“On Thinking began during a National Endowment for the Humanities summer program for teachers entitled “The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt” held at Bard College in July 2012. Creator and director Mike Levin was one of 15 educators from across the country selected to participate in the seminar. Having wrote several scenes and meditating on the play for a year, Levin sent out and received back nearly 50 questionnaires from people around the country to see what we are thinking about and why we think the way we do. “On Thinking” includes direct material from those questionnaires, as well as historical events, future hypotheses, and dance pieces based on Arendt’s masterpiece The Human Condition.
“The result is a movement-dance-theatre multimedia collage that explores how technology – from Sputnik to the Singularity – affects our thoughts and even our mortality.
“A maelstrom. An impossible puzzle. A 90-minute genre-bending experience that binds nineteen of FALA’s finest actors into a single unit. ”
From the opening sequence of the script:
“What am I thinking? This is shit. You can’t do a play about thinking. It’s too out there. I don’t
know jack squat about neuroscience. There’s no order, nothing makes sense. Some good scenes
but that doesn’t make a script. Wait, yes it does. It doesn’t make a good script. There is no way a
group of high school actors can pull off a play about Hannah Arendt. She’s too intense and she
smoked like a fiend. I can’t write. I’m a hack. It’s going to be shit and the audience isn’t going to
know what’s going on. I’m hungry even though I ate a bag of potato chips and a fake chicken
sandwich. I’m so fat. Big fat fatty fat. I’m definitely hitting a wall. I see a bunch of gimmicks
with dollops of truth. Dollops? Where’d that word come from? What is wrong with me? Okay,
the next eighty minutes should be a thinking space and make us think. But a writer really
shouldn’t take the opening moments of a play to tell the audience what to think. Should the
writer really be in the play? I’m self-centered, egotistical. Shit. This has too much swearing
already. Someone will complain. Someone always complains. This is no way to begin a
production. Like sitting here in the dark is compelling theatre? It’s shit. Just start over. Okay,
okay, read this for the read through, cut it for the production. I don’t want this to be avant-garde
or metatheatre or something that’s too bizarre that the audience just thinks that’s too weird to
even deal with. So they shut down. What is going on? What is going on? Plot is shit. Our lives
aren’t plotted. Time is not making sense, I have to revise the way time works. Science moves
chronologically forward but Jack and Jennifer are jumping around. So is Arendt. Don’t do this
play. I’m depressed. I’m going to die. I need to exercise. I’m fatter than ever and I’m sitting here
writing this, not exercising. Frickin love to eat. I’m way too self-reflective. I need to start living
life and not thinking about it. People that aren’t self-reflective seem a lot happier.
Skiddledeedootdootdahahhhhhhhhhhh. A play about thinking really needs to begin with Arendt.”