This is a story of how a family comes together and re-defines itself in the wake of impending tragedy. I experienced this first hand when my mother passed away one day after Thanksgiving last year (and a day before her 84th birthday).
My sister, (who I hadn't communicated with in 15 years) came to Chicago to assist with the arrangements. Not being sure how well this would go, I entered in to the situation with complete trust in the good intentions that I knew would possibly get me through this difficult time. Miraculously, all of the perceived 'built-up tensions' between my sister and I melted away as we reunited for a common family purpose. My Father, generally rather stoic and non-emotional, now, had a new found respect and admiration for the redefined family unit. "I wish your mother could have seen this", he remarked, refering to the newly built relationship between my sister and I.
This shifting family dynamic is what fascinates me and attracts me to Floyd Collins...I truly believe that Lee, Floyd's father, loves his children immensely, but finds himself in changing times and doesn't always understand their motivations. This was true of the relationship between my father and I. Lee and my father? very 'old school'. Floyd and myself?...not so much... As we work on this piece, it seems clear that 'truth' must be told and 'freedom' should be alluded to...left in the hands of the audience member to hopefully reflect on as they absorb this work. Whatever the reaction, I feel confident that in the loving hands of Peter Sullivan, we have all come together for a common good- to tell a story that isn't easy but might possibly make us look to the sky for further answers and assistance- whatever you may beleive in.
There is a pivotal scene towards the end of this play that bears SO much information and really 'colors' the relationships between Lee and his three children. In my work on this play, I continue to come back to the 'family scene' to obtain more clues about the Collins Family dynamics; over and over again. The escalating tensions in this scene are further underscored by the family's mounting concern about Floyd.
It all comes back to Floyd.
"How many times I gotta tell him? Cavin' never comes to nothin'"...(pgs. 9-10)
Floyd lives within us all...a gentle dreamer, a hopeful soul and a tireless laborer who knows that something more exists; either 'out there' or within us...it is with his example that we can all move forward to be closer to our own personal destiny. This is the brilliant piece of work that Adam Guettel and Tina Landau place before us for our consideration...how lucky we are to have this 'wake -up' call...and not a moment too soon.
-- Russell Alan Rowe is a Chicago actor last seen in BoHo Theatre's production of The Rainmaker. He can be seen playing Lee Collins in Floyd Collins, opening June 15 at Theater Wit.