“Is it still the truth if a writer uses composite characters, or compresses time? Is it still the truth if an actor is playing the writer and says to the audience ‘this happened to me,’ even though it didn’t? What is authentic truth in storytelling?” These are the questions central to Margot Bordelon, creator and co-director of Theatre Seven’s newest project, “Yes, This Really Happened To Me.”
What grew out of these questions expanded to include five notable Chicago writers in fiction, narrative, short story and solo performance. It has come to encompass an acting ensemble of nine playing more than thirty roles with sets, costumes, lights and projections. It is a show that digs into first person storytelling and constructs autobiographical tales and then theatrically elaborates with all the dressings of a play.
“Strong opinions exist about what’s allowed when a story is labeled memoir or autobiography. Many people feel that if they are asked to empathize with an individual’s story then they better be getting the whole truth,” Bordelon says. “If they discover that is not in fact what they’ve received, the value of the story drops, no matter how superbly it was told. If a person buys what appears to be an authentic Edward Hopper then finds out it’s actually a high-quality replica, does it become less beautiful?”
These big ideas were the catalysts for “Yes, This Really Happened To Me,” but Bordelon’s ultimate goal is to tell delightful stories and to engage her audience. Brian Golden, Theatre Seven artistic director and contributing writer on this project, believes the piece will be a new experience at a very appropriate time.
“The audience for solo work is growing, thanks to things happening both nationally and locally,” Golden believes. “David Sedaris, in large part, has built a national audience that sees first-person storytelling as an exciting way to spend an evening at the theater.”
So Theatre Seven believes they can follow that trend while showing audiences something new. They believe the stories contained within the show are worth telling no matter if the “Me” in the title appears on stage or not. Bordelon reminds us, “What is the truth anyway but a subjective experience? And a true story but a memory reconstructed?” (William Scott)
“Yes, This Really Happened to Me” runs at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago, (312)633-0630, through August 3.