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Posts Tagged ‘performance’

Take a breath… and… WHEW!

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on January 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Well, we did it.  We opened the show.  And… I feel… EXHAUSTED!

I mean, I feel really, really thankful and happy and excited too- but you can only sustain that much internal intensity for so long before your little guts start to object and the rest of your body orders you to “Take a REST, Godammnit!”

Because I am a tense monkey.

And if I had a job right now I would be at the spa, getting a rub down.

We had a really great opening weekend, but tonight- well, tonight the actors all clicked IN.  It was like, a great breath of relief for me, to be listening, listening, and then hear it- “Ahhhh, this really is working.”  Which was followed by  “Ouch, what’s that terrible pain in my neck!?”  Haha.

I am so proud of these actors, and Mary Jo is director extraordinaire!  The set and sound are so awesome…

But I think one of the main reasons I was feeling a little tense these past couple nights is because we had critics in attendance as well- and I’d love for all of our reviews to be AWESOME… so, you know, a little anxiety there.

So far we’ve gotten one really good one  (the rest haven’t come out yet)- I mean, the reviewer didn’t seem to completely understand the play for some reason… but he had a damn good time!  “Antone’s surreal screwball comedy about human cloning makes for an entertaining and quite definitely “different” evening of original theater.”  (read more here)

And all this to say that now that Opening Weekend has been conquered, I’m taking a big deep breath and sleeping in tomorrow big time  🙂  I think I we deserve it.  I only hope the actors get a chance to rest up as well, because we get to do it all over again in 5 days!

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On the topic of new play “Readings”

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on November 25, 2009 at 10:20 am

There are a lot of “development” opportunities out there for playwrights.  Sometimes you hook up with a theatre and they do all the work for you- others turn over some space and say “Go for it!” – but always it comes down to someone reading your play and deciding “Hey!  There’s something interesting happening here…” And it can be of great service to you, the playwright, or it can be a disaster.

I think the matter with readings is that sometimes you get one because that is the only way said theatre is going to look at “new” playwrights.  It’s simple enough- they have many, many, many financial concerns directing their decisions.  A play could come across a Lit. Manager’s desk that is in wonderful shape, but it’s as-yet-undecided reputation and your relative obscurity, makes them reluctant to hand you a contract.  Instead they offer you a reading and invite their artistic director, and you head into things hoping that everyone likes you… that everyone likes your work.

Then there are the readings (as I just had with Theatricum Botanicum) where they bring you in on an admittedly new work, invite actors and directors to come listen and talk about what they heard, and you get a whole lot of rewrites done because the process is about YOU.  See the difference?  Above= about the theatre.  Development Readings= about You and the script.

I think it’s important to recognize the difference beetween the two because a reading can have serious consequnces on a playwright’s psyche.  I mean, it is said by some that a play is never done- but I disagree with this sentiment.  I believe there comes a time when a script is most certainly ready as done as it’s gonna’ get without a production, and all the “talking” about it in the world becomes mute compared to the final polishing that will take place in rehearsal.  So you take your little creation around to these readings, hoping they’ll lead to a production somewhere, but if all that is happening is people are sitting around “talking” about it and “rewriting” your script, you can get stuck in “Development Hell” and you might start to go crazy.

So… I suppose the moral of this is to the playwright- Know which kind of reading you are being offered.  Prepare yourself for tons of questions, but know where you are in YOUR OWN development process.  It’s hard, especially when you have theatre professionals nodding over some random comment made by the crazy in the back… but try to make sure that YOUR questions about the script are present in your mind before the reading so that no matter what happens afterwards, that reading can be of benefit to YOU.

I have to say my experiences with the multiple readings I had this month were each of them different- In one case I hadn’t been involved in any of the casting or rehearsals and got to sit through an awkward read of a very polished play.  (The lead actress was about as interesting as listening to rocks… Gah!)  But we got our lead actress for In the Company of Jane Doe from that cast, so all was NOT lost!  The second reading I had was of an old play that I hadn’t looked at in ages- and I forgot how funny it is!  The director was SOOO on her game that I wound up looking brilliant.  It was wonderful.  And the third reading at Theatricum was great for me, but challenging for the audience as it was a “Staged Reading” which means actors on stage, script in hand, moving around and trying to give a sense of the staging.  Now, I find staged readings are always difficult as they are essentially invited rehearsals, which means that stage directions (sometimes integral to the plot) inevitably get missed- If you can’t see it, hearing someone tell you that the house is completely caved in might not stick in your mind.  Sunday was incredibly helpful for me as the playwright, but frustrating for the audience partly due to this very matter- they simply weren’t able to “See” the play through its “Staged” ness- and so I had to sit through some awkward moments.  BUT, for me, I was able to see quite clearly where the rough spots still lie…

SO that’s my little riff on readings.

Any from you?

As White as O…No

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on October 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I love new plays.  I love playwrights.  I love the excitement of the theater and the celebration that comes when a fresh voice gets its first hot lights…  But there’s a lot to be said for the process one takes in earning that spotlight (both personally and materialistically – a playwright and his/her material must survive the vetting process for a reason!) and I don’t love when something not yet ripe comes along and eats up my time.

Because I wouldn’t do that to you.

But let’s slow down.

The play is As White as O, and bless their hearts, the actors and director put a whole lot of love into it.  I can understand why- it’s a play about artists and art… and if there’s one thing we artists love, it’s to  wax poetic about… well, ourselves.  The play also explores themes of guilt, familial duty, madness, and love, all tied up in an awkward bow of synthesia (the title a much repeated mantra of both the suffering main character and his mother since, to their Synthestethic (spelling?) minds, the letter “O” is an alluring, brilliant white)  But this laundry list of themes is just the problem- the play is all over the place, looping and spiraling among them, never taking the time to land and explore fully why these people, why this world, why right now?  Making me believe that the playwright didn’t hone her work.  She didn’t go back into this blocky sculpture and carve away at the excessive bits.  (And at 2 hours, 30 minutes there’s much to be trimmed)

And while happy are the actors who are handed self-indulgent material like this, the two simply feed on one another, making for especially seat-squirming melodrama.  The actors believe and bleed for her, but they cannot make up for the fact that this script simply was not ready for performance.

Which is why I got so grumpy.

Because, as a playwright, I strive to make something the best I possiblly can before I ask anyone to read it, much less think to ask anyone to pay to see it!  That’s my job!  If I am so bold as to sing “Let me entertain you!” I better damn well be entertaining!  And whether it was because she simply hadn’t the dramaturgical chops barking at her for a new draft, or because she in her exuberance thought the script was ready, I’ll never know.  I do know that it was her first play (those lovely program notes) and that is exactly what it felt like.

Which isn’t to say the play doesn’t have promise, just that its self-indulgence will take more than a few more rewrites to write away.

And I hope it doesn’t come across as snide or distasteful to discuss here… it’s just that I’m at a stage in my theatrical life that I can see the difference now. That I can even look back over my own body of work and see some of the early youth and naivete – and I can smile.  Because that means that I am growing, as a playwright and hopefully too as a person, which is a wonderful thing indeed.

…The kind of thing that I hope this playwright learns…

It’s the kind of thing that makes you go “O!”

The Pain and the Itch

In The Daily Drool on August 3, 2009 at 8:43 am

I saw a tragic new play today – one that made me laugh, laugh, laugh and cringe, cringe, cringe.  It’s a tough thing writing a play that can do both so well, one that keeps you thinking about it well into the evening.  The play was called The Pain and the Itch, and it’s probably not the play for everybody, but wow did it ever get my creative mind going.

I’ve many a writing friend – each of us tackling our own artistic mountains – but it seems to me that the greatest obstacle to any writer is coming up with a great story.  I call it the “Who gives a shit” test.  If you are the only person raising your hand, it’s probably not worth your time to write.  But many writers forget (or don’t even think to ask) this question – so you wind up with piles and piles of dead-end stageplays clogging up the lit-manager’s mailbox… representing hours and hours of time spent devoted to a project built for an audience of one – yourself.  Boooo.

Plays are meant to be seen – so write something that can get people talking!  Write something that will inspire people- inspire them to laugh, to cry, to make a tax-deductible donation to the local animal shelter… But please don’t write a play unless it takes me somewhere.  Theatre needs to be active and alive!

And if you’re in LA, go see Furious Theatre’s co-production of The Pain and the Itch at Boston Court.

Whew!

In The Daily Drool on July 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well, it’s been a long week.  (I suppose you can tell that from the relative silence on my end.)  Apologies, for those of you who missed me.  I’ve been going crazy.

Remember that whole performing arts camp I mentioned earlier?  Well we went into rehearsal this week, with the resultant performance going beautifully this evening, but WOW, I feel like I’ve been running on fumes for the last three days.

I remember six weeks ago frantically trying to figure out just how I was going to manage everything – and now that I’m here I can’t believe it’s only been six weeks.  I’ve learned so much both from the process and from the kids.  They challenged me in many ways (not always pleasantly) but through it all I was reminded just how much I enjoy teaching!

This week has been all about the original performance piece we created together – and I’ve been Facilitator, Director, Sound Designer, prop maker, and Stage Manager for this whole thing.  It’s been incredible.  And terrifying.  I remember quite distinctly saying to someone on Sunday that I really wanted to hit the fast-forward button on this week so I could hurry up and get to the place where everything was working… well, here I am and I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with the getting here.  I’m so proud of these kids and the energy they put into this piece.  And I’m so excited to have helped them get here.  That’s the best part – knowing that six weeks ago we were a group of total strangers, not knowing where we were headed, and now here we are – an Ensemble.

So I guess I’m just kind of soaking it up – the relief and pleasure of this accomplishment – and I’m smiling as I think about it, about my eager students.  It’s been great, I would definitely do this again, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom again.

But first… some SLEEP!

Rule-Breaking-Rulers

In The Daily Drool on July 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

It never ceases to amaze me that no sooner do I speak the words “Every play must have a beginning, middle, and end.” someone thrusts their hand into the air, fingers waving, challenge poised on the tip of their eager tongue.  It seems everyone wants to break the rules, and I’m merely there to set up the hurdles.

In a way, it’s kind of cool – here is a room full of hungry young people, eager to bring the theater world to its knees with their words – but what is fascinating is their passion to buck the trend, deny the basics, and break all the rules… rarely are they able to see that only in learning them first (and why they work) can you really seek to write a play with such purposeful dissent.  Of course there are playwrights who break rules in their own right, but they generally have a mastery of the craft of storytelling that allows them to bend and play with the dramatic form.

But what fiestiness must there be within these young writer’s imaginations to motivate them (so strongly) to want to laugh in the face of the “Tried and True” before even trying their out their first word.  But isn’t that the thing about learning?  You plan a course, raise your hand, and before you know it your hock deep in something you barely understand, only to come out on the other side of the experience a bit weightier from the knowledge and kind of surprised at how you digested it.

And of course, when push comes to shove, I find that many of them end up walking the line in spite of themeselves… but walking it with purpose.

It’s really a gift to be there as they begin to figure it all out… thing called “Play.”

Starting from Scratch

In The Daily Drool on July 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I’ve worked on theatrical pieces from many angels, many different starting points – be it actor, writer, director… but I’ve never created a piece as an ensemble before… and now, right now, I am responsible for leading a group of teenagers in this just such an endeavor.

As you can imagine, I’ve been learning a lot along the way.

It has been fascinating to get them up and talking, listening to them talk about the world around them, as it pertains to them, listening to them express their feelings about world events – both on a global and personal scale.  Their dedication to the exercises I lead them in has been inspiring, and led to some truly fantastic theatrical moments within the creative space.   We’ve learned a great deal.

I’ve also found myself shouting out things that my teachers used to shout out to me – reminding them to trust the process, to trust their instincts, and to get out of their heads.

Isn’t life a funny thing?

I think it’s all hitting particularly hard with me because I left acting like a bad rash and ran off with lusty abandon towards the Playwriting cap… This return to things left to dust has been a whirlwind of remembering, re-learning, and re-adjusting.

I just hope that we continue to trust in the work, in ourselves, and in one another as we begin to shape our final piece.  That as we take all of the exercises that have been bringing us together and teaching us about one another, and turn towards them with an eye on performance, that we maintain the joy of the discovery.  That we develop a piece the kids can feel proud of!

And then I’m taking a nice, loooong, nap.  Because all of the ringleading is wearing this girl out 🙂