Trying to Hold a Moment

by Aaron Joel Craig

When I start a project, the first things that come to me are usually about sound. Whether it’s a particular song or album that becomes the soundtrack to my work, or the way an actor reads a specific line, my process is almost always audio driven.

It was a surprise for me that Whale Fall broke this trend.

Admittedly, I had been assuming I’d be pulling inspiration from whale songs, and that’s been true to a certain extent, but the main touch point for me in this project is a photo I took on our first day of rehearsal. I’d borrowed an instant camera from a friend for a trip that I was getting ready to take with my family (more on that later), and decided to bring it along to our first read. After a work through of the script, we stepped outside onto the rooftop deck at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, where I took this picture of Ray and Stephanie.

Steph and Ray at the HCA

It’s not really that remarkable, two people standing on a balcony, but as it developed slowly, I could see so much of the show in it immediately.

One of the things that Whale Fall about is the strain of trying to hold a moment in time. The characters in the show are both holding a version of each other that’s more about a memory than a reality. Or maybe a wish of who that person might be, or might have been. It’s often this way in families. Especially looking back, we remember our parents or our children in both kind and less than kind ways. But when it comes to memory, we tend to be pretty unreliable narrators. We don’t get it exactly right in the retelling or the remembering.

There’s this thing that parents do with their babies (or at least what my partner and I did when our kids were smaller), where they spend much of the day and night just trying to get them to sleep. You’re really just completely focused on getting through, and then the minute you’re out of the room you find yourself looking at pictures of your kids, or talking about how cute that thing they did was, even though it was making you crazy.

It’ll never be that same thing ever again.

You’re already busy remaking and cleaning up the hard stuff, to try and hold on to the moment in your mind, because before you know it, it’s day one of school, or they’re rolling their eyes at you in front of their friends, or they’re going off to do the thing they dreamed of doing. My kids are still pretty young, so I won’t pretend I totally understand the really big shifts that are coming down the road. But the feeling at the core of those moments is something I think I’m starting to get.

There’s this quote, often attributed to Heraclitus: “No one ever steps in the same river twice, it’s not the same river and they aren’t the same person”. I guess I bring that up to say that, even if we capture a moment in an instant photo or in our minds, it’s only that very second. It’ll never be that same thing ever again.

For me, that is the big question of Whale Fall. What’s the thing on the horizon, and how do we get there together?

It’s that reality that each of the characters in Whale Fall are grappling with, both forwards and backwards in time. Becca wishing that she was able to return to some moments with her dad, and Stephen wishing he could help direct Becca’s way forward more than he’s able. Both are rolling over memories in their minds, trying to find the spot that if they ‘could just change that one thing’ something might be different. But you can’t change the past. You just get to choose what you do with it going forward.

In rehearsal at Eucharist Church

For me, that is the big question of Whale Fall. What’s the thing on the horizon, and how do we get there together?

Aaron is co-founder of Same Boat Theatre and director of Whale Fall premiering at the Hamilton Fringe July 21st, 2022 at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts

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