|Gabridge | Mavromatis | Girard | Floyd|
This season, I've had the great fortune of being a playwriting fellow at New Rep alongside fellow BPT alums Peter Floyd and Deirdre Girard, and my Rhombus pal (and BTM vet) Patrick Gabridge. Together with New Rep Associate Artistic Director Bridget O'Leary, who founded the program, we have met every three weeks to discuss the progress of each others' plays. It's been an amazing journey for all of us and this week we will share our progress with you. Join us if you can!
I asked each of my fellow fellows to share a little bit about their plays (including goals for their readings) with you here...
Sunday, May 19 @ 7:30 p.m.
Distant Neighbors by Patrick Gabridge
Three suburban neighbors are strangers to each other until an alien spaceship crashes into their back yards. After its arrival, they get to know each other a lot better, and faster, than they ever expected (or wanted). A space age love story.
I came into the New Voices program with about a third of the play written -- so I knew that there were neighbors, and a space ship, and that some strange things were beginning to happen to these people. But that was about it. Oh, and I knew how Act II would start. Since September, I've been having a lot of fun watching this story and these characters come together. Starting in January, we've had a couple of table reads with different casts, which has been incredibly useful. I'm used to getting to hear tidbits of my work with actors in the Rhombus playwrights group, but in New Voices, we get to hear the whole thing aloud, which can start to answer entirely different questions about rhythm and timing and character. I've done so much revising, tweaking, and tuning that it's definitely time to hear this piece with an audience who is completely fresh to the play. The experience of watching and listening to an audience interacting with my plays is a big part of why I'm a playwright -- that's when the magic happens (or doesn't, which is just as important to know).
Monday, May 20 @ 7:30 p.m.
Protocol by Peter M. Floyd
Protocol is a dark comedy set in a dangerous and volatile world. Richard Hook is a young man dragged from his home by armed men and taken to a secret location, where he is grilled by a series of interrogators about his supposed connections to a dangerous terrorist. As Richard maintains his innocence, his questioners seem more concerned with their bureaucratic infighting than in finding out the truth. But perhaps truth is better left hidden, as Richard learns to his horror that no one is truly guiltless, least of all himself.
For me, writing Protocol was an interesting challenge, as I started with little more than the notion of a person being at the mercy of a series of interrogators whose identity and motives are obscure. That situation seemed rife with the potential for dark comedy, and I decided to plunge in with very little pre-planning, essentially discovering the events at the same time as Richard, the protagonist. The initial draft was, needless to say, very rough indeed. The action of the play has changed over subsequent versions, as I've learned more about these characters and their world. The feedback from Bridget, Patrick, Alexa, and Deirdre has been an essential part of the process; what seems a clever idea in my head doesn't always translate to the page, and it's good to have someone tell you, "Eh, that doesn't really work."
One apprehension I have about the readings is that this community is a different one than it was when I began writing the piece last year, thanks to the events of last month. Presenting a play that deals with terrorism, especially one with a comedic tone, in Watertown of all places, might be a serious case of "too soon." (Needless to say, it's not my intention with this play to make light of violence.) We're familiar with many of the elements that make a successful play reading — the script, the cast, the venue, the audience — but one thing we usually don't consider is the times. The play will read differently now than it would have a year ago, and probably than it would a year from now. As playwrights, I do think we need to keep our ears to the ground, and be aware of how the contexts of our plays can shift in response to the events of the community, and of the world.
Tuesday, May 21 @ 7:30 p.m.
Gravity by K. Alexa Mavromatis
Fan has ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), but that's far from the only thing on her mind: her father is becoming increasingly forgetful, her ex-husband is flirting with her, and her dead mother visits her after hours. Gravity is about family and the things that bind us together across time and space.
Gravity is a play I've had on my mind for a long time. It was originally going to be my thesis play at BU, but another play (The Back Room) happened instead, and the play ended up living in a 3x5 index card file -- a little box I'd carry around in my backpack -- for a while. I worked on Gravity in fits and starts over the years but haven't had anything close to a full draft until now. So it's been a long, slow journey. And the work continues; I'm still uncovering and discovering all the things this play is about! My goal for the reading on Tuesday is to "be here now" (Well, be there now, er, then -- you know what I mean: get the information I need as a playwright, but manage to enjoy it too.) It's easy to be overly critical of ourselves -- focusing on all the work still to come to get where we ultimately want our work to be artistically -- and forget to celebrate where we are today. Gravity is out of the box!
Wednesday, May 22 @ 7:30 p.m.
Reconsidering Hanna(h) by Deirdre Girard
Hanna is a brutally blunt international journalist, driven by her work and struggling to come to terms with her husband’s violent death. She takes on a seemingly tame assignment close to home while trying to put her life back together, and becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the history of another Hannah: the infamous Hannah Dustin kidnapped by Indians in 1697. Soon the individual stories of the two Hanna(h)s, separated by the centuries, begin to merge into one portrait of a smart woman torn from the only world she knows, refusing to let circumstances dictate her fate.
My hope for the reading is that a producer will jump up and say "I must produce this play and I happen to have a hole in my current season." That's what I always hope. But it never happens. So, I'll revise my goals and say that I hope to gauge how well the audience accepts and embraces the play I want to write, not the play they expect. Because Reconsidering Hanna(h) is partially historically based, and the history of Hannah Dustin inspires immediate interest, people are strongly drawn to this piece. I just have to live up to that. What ties the historic and contemporary stories together is not like a cheap set of furniture, all matchy matchy. The parallel is not in the facts of each situation, but in the way we as humans tell stories -- how the story often tells us more about the story teller than the actual subject, and the price we pay for the lies we tell ourselves and embed in our personal mythologies. Will this play? Will my contemporary story be nearly as riveting as the real life events that propelled the Puritan Hannah into infamy? And the really tricky part: Hannah Dustin killed and scalped 10 Native Americans when she escaped their captivity. Is she a hero or a villain? How can I tell her story with truth without alienating either the Native Americans who see her as an affront, or her descendants and many admirers who see her as someone who struggled and survived despite terrible odds?