Exit Strategy: Two Perspectives

By Exit Strategy cast member Jim Buske and Educator Stephanie Buske

Forward Theater Company offered a free performance of Exit Strategy to Madison Metropolitan School District educators and administrators on January 23rd. The following blogs are from the perspective of an Exit Strategy cast member and an audience member.

A Performance to Remember by Jim Buske

Actors are often asked if they ever get nervous or excited before a performance. When I’m asked that question I usually say “No, not really, except maybe for some special occasion.” Well, Tuesday night, January23rd, was an example of a special occasion where I was excited. So were the other members of the cast of EXIT STRATEGY.

That Tuesday night show was a special performance for teachers and administrators of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The actors were going to be portraying teachers under a great deal of stress in front of an audience consisting of only MMSD staff. We knew we had to be on our game.

What an audience! They were everything we could have hoped for and more – engaged, attentive and responsive. The MMSD staff got “teacher” references that many folks in other audiences had missed. The actors could feel and see them leaning forward in the seats during times in the play when the action got particularly intense. At one point, they even applauded on cue.

The audience was with the actors and the script every step of the way. During the talkback after the show, MMSD staff asked smart questions and made expert observations. They felt that the characters in the play were people they had met and worked with during their educational careers. The rest of the cast and I were thrilled to hear this. We had brought the playwright’s words to the stage and the audience has responded.

It’s been an honor for me and the rest of the folks involved with bringing EXIT STRATEGY to life in Madison. From the beginning, our director, Marti Gobel, told us to “Tell the story and you’ll be fine.” On Tuesday night we told the story.

I don’t think anyone involved in this production will forget the experience of this performance. Teachers and staff at MMSD have an extraordinarily hard job. And it gets more difficult every year. Hopefully, EXIT STRATEGY and the events depicted in the show, can become part of the dialogue in Madison as we search for solutions.

Exit Strategy - a Teacher’s Response by Stephanie Buske

I have been teaching for 31 years and I loved Forward Theater’s production of Exit Strategy. I was lucky enough to see it three times. And three is not enough. I didn’t want to say goodbye to those characters as they interact in their realistically drab, worn-down teacher’s lounge. The characters were all teachers that I recognized. I felt their frustrations, I also felt their hope and joy when a student, Donnie, became part of “Team Winning” and inspired them to try to save their school. It was so like what really happens in schools. Teachers might feel overwhelmed by the enormous pressures and problems, but when it’s time to do what’s best for kids, teachers will do extraordinary things.

Here in Wisconsin, our school issues and problems might not be the same as in Chicago, but the emotions and frustrations are felt just as deeply. The play expressed the truth that all teachers know; the most important part of any school is made up of the teachers and their students and the relationships that they create. The building is just brick and mortar - the relationships are our reward and the hopes that sustain us.