It’s a little scary handing over your play to someone else.
I’ve been doing this for years now, so it gets easier, but it has actually been awhile since one of my plays was in another director’s hands. Of course, it’s a lot easier when that director is Dianne K. Webb.
After sitting in on the first rehearsal, I knew everything was going to be okay. Dianne assembled an excellent cast: Lisa Villegas, Gabriel Regojo, Benjamin McLaughlin, Clarity Leigh Welch, and AndrAes Hunt. As soon as they started reading, I realized that Dianne had assembled a group of intelligent actors who knew how to use the language. That was a primary concern of mine, one that we had talked about before casting began. I don’t want to sound like a snob, but it’s not easy to find American actors who can command stylized or “elevated” language. Many local actors, particularly younger ones, are very good at emotional availability, depth, and honesty, but they struggle with complex text and even elocution. Unfortunately, here in the states, most actors are not trained to give voice to material that requires more than brooding, sneering, grunting, and mumbling. (Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy those gritty-realist plays too, so long as they are well grunted and honestly mumbled.) Naturally, as soon as everyone in the cast began to speak, I was quite relieved.
There were also a couple of surprises.
The musical keys.
Each of the three speaking roles–The Haberdasher, The American, and The Queen–uses a different dialect. It had not really occurred to me (I’m sure I thought of this on some abstract level, at some point) what an impact this would have when spoken aloud. One of the themes of the play is the power of language, so hearing each of these voices resonate in a different “key” provides a constant exploration of that idea. And somehow, they worked in harmony. This was especially relieving to hear, because it it had not, I’m not sure how I could’ve fixed it. Again, not to be didactic, but having actors who are able to command language is vital at this stage of development when you’re still testing the play to see what works and what doesn’t. Just imagine if you have inferior actors early on. What then? How would you know which flaws are the playwright’s and which are the performers?
The silent play of The Girl Bellboy.
I forgot she would be standing there the whole time. This innocent, cherub-faced child in a cute little uniform. Just there. Watching. Reacting. With those child’s eyes. She sees everything. She serves a kind of anchor to much of the action. Sometimes she’s a foil to the others. Sometimes a reminder of the human cost of the revolution. Sometimes she’s a light of hope standing in sharp relief against the dark savagery of the adults in the room. And of course, she figures out what really needs to be done.
The play is finished.
I really was expecting to make some significant changes. Or at least, some minor ones. But the process of re-writing with the IATI playwrights throughout the winter, and then re-writing again with Dianne throughout the spring, allowed me to have a play that is (so far as I can tell) finished. I remain open-minded to changes, if any should present themselves through the New York reading, but I’m not anticipating any.
I think the play is done.
So now what?
I suppose now I just need to find someone who will mount a full production. That would be great. But if no one wants to do it, perhaps I should do it myself. After all, it’s a little scary handing over your play to someone else.