The Play's the Thing
For years my play Feeding the Roses, often working under the alias of different titles, has stared up at me from the page. Winning in the Virtual Theatre Project's Pen is a Mighty Sword international playwriting competition last year brought me to a week in North Carolina and the chance to watch my play through a compacted rehearsal period of four days, culminating in a staged reading.
I chose not to have my script with me at all. That gave me the thrill of having the company present the play back to me as something new, their own developing creation, fueled by their care and expertise and training and full-tilt engagement. It was quite a gift.
First was the 'stop and start' process, the play rehearsed in small sections, blocked as it went along so that I could see it opening out, filling the stage, using the space. I've worked in many genres of writing but this piece for me has always been a play, a world designed to be contained on a stage.
Through discussion, through read-throughs, it kept taking shape. It wasn't only the actors and the director, Whit Andrews, who kept discovering new things in it. The play kept revealing fresh layers to me too, so I understood the characters and their motivations and interactions much more than I had before.
It has been a joy to have a sense of being part of a troupe again, and to be at the receiving end of that utter dedication you get from true professional actors. A sign of the extent of that came from how much had happened between the last rehearsal and the staged reading. The actors had clearly been inhabiting the characters in a real way, maturing and growing, the performances then replete with the intimacies of gesture, animal movement, nuance and inflection and interaction. Though scripts were in hand and being read, they engaged so well that the existence of scripts never intruded.
It was a decent-sized audience, a lot of students from here at Wake Forest. I've been wanting to experience an audience's reactions, to see how this play worked through the prism of their experience. It's easier to interpret laughter, which was healthy - sometimes where expected, sometimes pleasingly unexpected, sometimes not coming when expected. Silences seemed attentive, but that's hardly a subjective analysis, and the final response felt like a powerful one.
The whole experience, let me tell you, was a joy!
(The pictures come from a rehearsal. The cast was Tom Paradise, Kimberly Van Luin, Sean Mahon and Ian Vogt - blessings and thanks to one and all!)