Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Centre Gratitude


Happy New Year!

One of the greatest joys for me in 2014 is the success of the College Collaboration Project. I am grateful for all of the artists' contributions. I am grateful for friends that I have known for decades that I have been able to work with and introduce to one another. I am grateful to the artists and collaborators I met though this project that have fully shared themselves on this journey.

As we turn the page toward a new year we are also half way through with the process of developing the play. Here are a few things I have learned:

  • It is a privilege to be able to focus on one play for 15 months.
  • Other people's passion and interest keeps the process exciting.
  • More time in the rehearsal room with the writer is valuable for everyone involved.
  • The play is a tool for growth.
  • The production of a play is only part of the product of a play.
  • Partnerships/collaborations outside of the 'theater' increase the impact of the play tenfold.
  • Personal investment is the most valuable contribution.
  • Everyone has other projects. 
  • "I have to fix the end" means something earlier isn't adding up to what was the desired impact of the whole.
  • There is always more to learn.

Grateful for the rehearsals and production at Centre College to kick off 2015.  Lindsay and I received a thorough and thoughtful email from director Patrick Kagen-Moore. The email was investigative, inquisitive, and personal. The ensemble, like Ashland, identify with the characters and are all committed to bringing them to life as fully as possible. They also share a commitment to taking the play to the next level and asking the difficult questions. 

Set designer Matt Hallock shared a rendering of the set. It captures the familial/lived in feeling of the house as well as having a feeling of emptiness and neglect. I am also excited to see how the design for the second production matches the maturation of the text. 
I am grateful that we were able to have Lindsay go out to Centre College in January for part of the rehearsal process. I look forward to sharing the discoveries during her visit and throughout the process. 

We wish you the best in 2015.

Talk with you soon.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

new team - new questions


Centre College's cast is meeting once a week for Sunday dinner at director Patrick Kagan-Moore's house. I believe rehearsals begin officially in January, but they wanted to start the discussion before break. They have met twice and I am thrilled to hear that the cast if feeling the same enthusiasm as was generated out of Ashland. I am also excited by the different questions that are being asked about the play.

What is exciting for both schools so far is that these characters feel like their students. The real life issues that the play confronts - the actors confront in their daily lives. That enhances the enthusiasm about the investigation of the play. I was concerned that the questions would remain similar as the first go, and I was anxious to see how Lindsay would confront the rep edition of that part of the process. However, with new artists come new questions. Or they may be asking the same types of questions but with a different point of view. It is really valuable exploration. It truly give Lindsay a three hundred and sixty degree view of the world she is creating.

It was great to talk with Matt Hallock, Chairman of the department at Centre and to hear about the exploration the company is doing on the play. Some of the questions they were asking were how is the world changed? Or is the world of the characters changed at the end. Does the cycle continue? If Freddie killed himself because he is gay, what is Brianna's sexuality? What are the politics around 'outing' someone in that community? The great thing is that everyone is invested in the text and the characters' journeys. They are asking those questions from their point of interest in the world.

We also had a wonderful discussion about the difference of when a writer has a character light a fuse and leaves the room before the explosion and when the character stays to add gasoline to the fire. Both are interesting choices - but it was observed that the playwright is ready to alter the world forever at that moment, and those are the moments to explore about what is being changed.

There is also a discussion about what is left for each of these characters in their hometown at the end of the play. Will they return? I'm a believer in what happens in the play afterwards is up to the audience because I can't control what happens next in that world. However, what I liked about the discussion with Matt today was the realization that the characters are growing up. That they are confronted with mortality, responsibility for their life choices, and that they now are becoming the adults that they view their parents. I appreciate even more that the play takes place in Pete's house, that his parents have left town, and it is now his house. Highlighting that they are now the parents. That the elements of the story are very specific to this generation but that the theme of growing up and maturation is constant for each generation and eventually we all have to face it.

I also take personal joy in the fact that they meet on Sundays because Centre College Football plays on Saturday. Congratulations to the team, and quarter back Heath Haden (plays Trevor), for going 10-0 this season. The only other time the school had that record was in 1921!

Excited for the journey.

Talk with you soon.


Friday, November 7, 2014

women work harder


I hate generalizations. Especially about people because it feels like an inhalation of the individual. So, I'll say this at the start, many men work very hard. Most days I think I do. However, I want to share what I have noticed during my last two directing jobs. It was subtle. No one pointed it out. And this by no means is a scientific study. I noticed that the women in the casts were all off book before the men. No matter the size of the role. The women learned their lines sooner.

I am currently working at a University. I'm directing a play with nine cast members. Five men. Four women. (yes, less roles for women.) We are half way through our rehearsal process. I realized the other day that only one guy, who is in only two of the nine scenes, was not carrying his script. The four other men in the play were still carrying their scripts. None of the women had scripts in their hands. Each of the cast members were all in the same theater department. They were all getting the same training. What's the difference?

When I pointed this out to the students, the assistant stage manager said she was well aware that she had to work harder because she's a woman. She realized that she was going to have to work harder when she was eight or nine years old because there were less opportunities for girls.

Oh, and there are four stage managers supporting this production. They are all women.

There has been a lot of awareness lately brought to the issue that female playwrights are not produced equally to male playwrights. You don't need a study to see this, you just need to look at what your local theater is producing and you'll most likely be able to recognize the disparity. If you are looking for it. Until the last couple of years I wasn't looking for it.

I can't exactly put my finger on what changed. I know that there was a study a few years back about this issue that proved it as a fact. A fact that I didn't care to accept. My feelings as a theater director and writer were that it is a hard profession for all of us. And it is. However, it is harder for women. I know that I witnessed a theater company I am a member of reject a play, by a female writer, I submitted to work on at our annual retreat. The reason for the rejection was valid. I didn't question it. However, I later learned that the only plays by non-members that were accepted were all from men.   Another thing that could've made this issue grounded in my awareness is my girlfriend's corporate job. She is a V.P. of a global corporation. She works with what would be considered a small team of 'equals'.  She is the only female on the team. She is paid less and she is the one that is asked to do anything that would be considered administrative.

Oh, and while I am directing on the MainStage of the university there is a student production in rehearsal. The director of that production is male. I was told that he didn't take a directing class. He didn't assist anyone. He hasn't stage managed a production. He decided he wanted to direct and was given the opportunity. I imagine a female student would be able to do the same.  If ...

Talk with you soon.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ashland - Night two


The second show was as good as the first! It really is incredibly valuable to be able to see a play fully mounted. Reading a play, you can tell if you're engage, you can tell where the jokes are, you can tell if you went on a journey. And in production the challenges of making all of those things work become clear and ironed out. However, the value of seeing the play the second time was seeing these living characters and their situation become real - and in that reality comes awareness of things you would like to know more about or struggles that can be intensified.

During our time at Ashland we were very engaged with the campus community. We met with a class of theater majors and spoke openly about play development and our careers in theater. We were interviewed on the campus radio station, and we did a Q & A session with the audience.

During each discussion on the play Lindsay was asked about her inspiration. She spoke about how she was interested in exploring about how we learn about major events through social media, events like the death of a friend. And what does that change us as a society. That is the impetuous for event of the play. That exploration is clearly happening. One of the questions asked by the students in class to Lindsay was about her point of view on the subject. That is probably the main opportunity seeing the production gives the playwright.

Next week I will meet with Lindsay and talk with her about her take aways from seeing the play. The direction and rewrites are obviously her discretion. It is her play. I will share that I saw the foundation of a very important play. At the moment the play is a successful journey of eight friends mourning the death of a friend. It is full. Each character goes through a rich experience. The audience is highly engaged. That is success unto itself. Besides a few nip and tucks along the way to tighten the script the opportunity is there for Lindsay to clarify or challenge her point of view about the changing world the millennial are living in.

Things that were clear through the production of the play is that characters want to be seen for who they truly are. The first action is Pete cleaning up his house before guests arrive. Creating a certain image. Amber asks "Am I that invisible?" more than once. Trevor and Freddy's relationship is secret and Trevor has wanted for years to let people know. Becky tells Conner that they've seen each other recently because they're Facebook friends. And it most strongly resonates when Becky announces that all of them that claim to be close friends of Freddy's didn't really know him. The theme of being seen ripples through out.

Along the idea of being seen is the need for human contact. This is seen in Amber desire to be at Pete's house with friends that really knew Freddy knew him. She doesn't seem to get comfortable until Trevor shows up and they receive the first physical contact between two characters, a hug. Trevor shares his relationship with Freddy with an unlikely Becky and that actions seems possible because of the simple act of putting her hand compassionately on his arm. The climax of act one is all of the mourning friends celebrating their friend in a dance. The healing pile of an embrace of the group of friends at the end is what allows them to all move forward. The idea of how social media doesn't replace the need for human interaction is clear in the physical life of the play.

Lindsay also shared at a dinner conversation with the cast that she started the idea of one particular character. Pete. The one who stayed in his hometown. Pete in this time of mourning is clearly questioning his choice of staying home. The idea of what it costs to stay and what is lost to move forward was an active struggle that he is going through that seems to lift the play beyond the event of the day. But that the suicide of his friend could ignite.

There is clearly the theme of sexuality and acceptance is in the play. Amber and Pete point out a character we see is possibly gay. Trevor and Freddy's relationship is secret. Meg, Freddy's sister, is in active denial that her brother was gay. It was interesting that once this secret came out about Freddy's sexuality his friends didn't seem to judge him. Only his older sister did. It struck me seeing the play that maybe this generation doesn't have an issue with sexuality as the ones before it have. Maybe. It was interesting statement to be made about the generation.

I mention these elements in the play because as you watch the life of the play unfold in front of you fully achieved in production certain ideas stand out. Certain threads that may want to be explored. And I'm excited as a producer of this event to see the shaping of the point of view of this world. To see which ideas get developed further. That is the value of the three shows.

My strongest take away from the two days though was the students' commitment to these characters. They voiced a strong desire to remain in contact with the actors who play them next. As a resource, a sounding board, a voyeur, a friend. They are protective of the characters and they are excited to see them grow. Listening to them talk was like listening to proud parents. I"m grateful the collaboration between students will continue from production to production. Also, during a dinner conversation with the cast each of them were given a chance to say what questions or interests they have for the future of the play and each one of them had a specific thought to share. It was wonderful to see young artists have such confident voices in the development process. The entire two days confirmed for me that this program is a great opportunity for all artists involved.

Talk with you soon.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ashland - night one.


When we arrived on campus, it was incredibly exciting to see the college's newspaper article about the production and the project on the front page and director, Scott Hudson, was their spotlighted professor on the back page. There was a lot of excitement about the play and that was a thrill. However, the real thrill was in watching the cast bring the play to life. WOW! The cast, director and university as a whole did an amazing job.

It is clear that each of the actors has forged a strong connection with their characters and with one another in the ensemble to communicate the long-term relationships that the play requires. Each actor did a great job living moment to moment throughout the play. Seeing each moment filled with specific behavior is a great opportunity for the playwright to fully experience the world they have created. Lindsay was given that opportunity through the actors' excellent work. They are a tight ensemble.

Meg, Amber, Conner, Brianna, Conner
Each actor truly caught the essence of their character. Upon entering they were immediately recognizable. There was one moment of revelation for Lindsay and I, and that was when Conner entered. Conner is a challenging part. He has the least clearly defined need and journey at the moment. There are elements in the script that inspire behavior and help to define him. But he seems hard to put your finger on. Then Mason Adams, who played Conner, entered and the character became immediately three dimensional and his essence was clear. There was something wonderfully off kilter about Mason' portrayal. Conner became confident and yet recognizably off balance at the same time. It was that odd mixture that made Mason's embodiment of the character so rich. He also seemed to have an understanding that what was driving Conner was a need that was being revealed to him in the moment. Watching this character accept things and move forward with a new focus was truly enlightening. Lindsay and I both saw who the character was or at least one way he could be portrayed.
Conner and Amber outside, Pete and Becky inside
Also, there was excellent staging that helped to tell the story. One of the final moments ,when the group of friends form a pile with one another - lending support, while the new comer, Brianna, sits alone of the couch, fully embodied the relationships beautifully.  The production served the text very well and made everything work. Lindsay, however, did identify places where she wants to cut and expand some of the text.  One of the great successes of the production is that it invited the audience into the characters' struggles and it revealed things about each that we are invested in and want to learn more about. I am grateful we are able to see the play a second time tomorrow. It will provide another opportunity to see structurally what elements want to be focused on in order to strengthen Lindsay's story. I look forward to seeing the play tomorrow and talking with Lindsay about what we learn.

My favorite part of tonight was meeting everyone involved.

The company
Thank you Ashland!

Talk with you soon.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Centre College has a cast - post by Mariele Fluegeman class of '15


Lindsay and I are preparing to watch the first performance of In the Event of My Death at Ashland University in Ohio. I am excited to see the play fully realized in production and to meet the students who have worked so hard and shared themselves with us through the process. Prior to seeing the first show I receive an email report with Centre College's casting information. Seeing the names of the cast is a thrilling reminder that the 'opening' night of the production in Ashland is a major milestone, however, it is one step in the development process of this play.  Lindsay has a second ensemble of highly thoughtful artists ready to invest in her work.

Here is a report on the audition process from Mariele Fluegeman, class of '15, who will be the dramaturge for the production at Centre. We had the pleasure of working with Mariele during the workshop and I am grateful to have her voice continue to be part of the process.

Here is Mariele's report about the audition process:

It’s been months since that August weekend in New York when I first got to know all of the beautifully flawed characters of In the Event of My Death, but reading the latest draft was an open-armed return to their messy lives. To me, the magic of the play lies in the hopelessly disconnected people who become intimately and powerfully connected to the lives of those who read for and about them. They are in many ways the millennials—a nebulous term often used by previous generations to analyze and distance themselves from us in a seemingly inaccessible mix of Snapchat and hook ups—and yet a term that describes the immediacy of life my friends and peers experience everyday. This potential connection is what Patrick Kagan-Moore was searching for when we sat down in the audition room. We didn’t look for actors, per se—we looked for people whose own lives somehow plugged into these characters’ lives and lit up the room. It was a daunting task for those auditioning, I think,  for this reason. Patrick went after them, trying to strip through the layers of audition nerves and preconceptions of how acting should be—and we saw sparks. Many of them found something in that room that was deeply personal and echoed in the lives of the characters in surprising and new ways. We have a cast now—a cast I think is uniquely prepared to bare themselves and challenge themselves, each other, and their characters to grow and change in this next stage of the play’s development. 

I love her description of 'milennials' - and her understanding of the world of the play. Her voice, and director Patrick Kagan-Moore, will be wonderful for Lindsay as she steps into the next serious phase of development.

Here is the cast for Centre College's production:

As we prepare to see the opening at Ashland, who working with has been an incredibly experience, seeing the faces of the new cast is a great reminder that this project's purpose is the development of many artists and that it is an opportunity to build community through the development of a play. We welcome the new cast to the community. Excited to hear about your thoughts on the play and to have you join us on the journey.

Thank you Mariele for sharing the audition process with us.

Talk with you soon.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Live streaming - sharing our work


The college collaboration play "In the Event of My Death" is having its first performance Thursday, October 30th, at 7:30PM E.S.T. at Ashland University. The school's journalism department will be live streaming the production. 

I don't know if the other two schools will be able to do this...or if we will find another way to share the experience of presenting the plays but I am excited to share the play as well as the progress of development through the three productions.

The link for the live stream is: Ashland Production of 'In the Event of My Death"

The live streaming of theatrical events is becoming more popular. I know HowlRound.Com has been live streaming readings, discussions, and conferences of late. I am a firm believer that theater is about being in the room for the event. It is a shared experience by those in the room. However, the idea of sharing the process is important. Especially in this case where we can create an opportunity to allow people to bare witness the development process but also participate through sharing their thoughts on what they saw.

The idea of creating an opportunity for the development process to be extended through three productions seemed monumental in what it would offer the playwright. I knew it would be valuable to the students. I did not recognize how valuable it would be. They have a voice in shaping new work. Something that is rare in an educational environment. Also, the characters are close to their age and the play deals directly with issues they confront every day. It is personal to them. It is important. And it is their world. The witness the student's commitment to the play and growth through the work has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

This weekend the production headed into tech for the show. A few days before that they invited the student crew members into rehearsal to watch the show. The audience of their peers were exhilarated. They can't wait to share this with their community. One member shared on the cast Facebook page about how honest and familiar the play felt. She shared about how her sister had died suddenly and the play had moments that were very familiar and important for her to witness. She wrote, "There is a moment near the end of the play where the characters gather around Trevor and Kate and just support one another in the quiet. I distinctly remember a similar moment on the day I went home and sat on the floor with my head in my mother's lap just holding each other. Those are the moments that lead to healing.

Ashland's Department Chair is also working with the County Mental Health & recovery Board to put together a list of resources for those concerned about suicide. I am grateful for the impact the play is having with the community, the dialogue it is creating, and the identifiable value that art. These moments are very valuable. The process is clearly offering may than an opportunity for the playwright to develop as an artist. It is creating a conversation with a wider community about the topic of the play as well as the art itself. 

I'm currently directing at SUNY Brockport, in Upstate New York, and one of the students in the cast told me recently he wished there was more access to seeing specific productions of plays. He can't get to the Lincoln Center Library, and he wished he could see the original production of new plays. It would be a better way of understanding the excitement about certain plays people are talking about, besides waiting for the one or two that might be produced at a Regional Theater that is a half an hour away from campus. I understand the monetary reasons for not making plays available on video. I also understand that theater is a live event experienced by those in the room. I am grateful that Ashland journalism department will at a minimum link up one other campus to the experience of this play. 

I hope you'll tune in and share your thoughts.

Talk with you soon.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Post by Eryn Tramel (Becky) - discoveries in and out of the rehearsal room.


Ashland University's cast has created a FB page to share about their process. I was struck by the honest and enthusiastic observations of Eryn Tramel who plays Becky. Great to hear from the artists in process directly.

Eryn Tramel (Becky)
Let me start off by saying that the cast and management for this production have been a dream to work with. I have never worked on a show where everyone worked together as a team so well. For that I feel truly blessed. I consistently leave rehearsal feeling better about not only my work but my confidence as a person as well. This is only possible with a kick as support system like this cast has provided.
Secondly It has been thrilling to collaborate with Lindsay Joy and Padraic Lillis. I hope that I can maybe get in contact with the actress who played Becky at the workshop in NYC as well as the Beckys at the other schools. Becky is arguably one of the most complicated characters I have ever experienced but for that she will forever hold a special place in my heart. 
Okay Im done with the mushy gushy for now heres some real talk...
As we detail in rehearsal I have been able to relate a lot of what Becky is feeling to recent experiences in my personal life. Becky is me in many ways. We both follow the GSD method of life (we Get Shit Done). We don't play games, ever. When want to do something WE WILL DO IT. I like to describe it as "Alpha Female". The cast likes to describe it as me being "Becky Mutha Fuckin' Farrell". We also want nothing more than to just be loved. Sometimes this comes off as clingy but it comes from love. We want you to know we are always here for you, and we want you to return the favor. My biggest fear is abandonment, and in this scenario, so is Becky's. 
We also are both making an effort to become more selfless. I have always struggled with being self centered and making everything about me. Even the little things. This profession does not help me out any either, it is a very vain thing we actors do. We go to auditions and interviews bragging about ourselves and making ourselves look better so that casting directors will like us. But this is not and excuse to how we should approach every day relationships. This struggle keeps me active throughout the piece.
After the initial shock of going from a long haired brunette to a short haired blonde wore off I started to evaluate how people treated me based on the look alone. I have noticed that people do not take me as seriously in my everyday life. The fact that people truly do judge people based on how they look is something that I have really taken notice of these past few weeks. I did not realize how truly judgmental I actually am in my everyday life. But now that I realize this about me I can see the humanity in why Becky was the way she was in High School, because the majority of the people in this world are like that, but are unwilling to own up to it.
Scott has a very interesting way of getting me to tap into the emotional life of Becky's circumstance. Its almost as if he has the instruction booklet on what buttons to push to get me to react in certain ways. I'm not really sure how he knows so well what sets me off but it works, so I'm not complaining. It becomes very natural for me to become emotionally attached to this character. 
The biggest struggle I have right now is not playing the problem but sticking to the action. Lets face it Becky has 99 problems and the bitch is one. This is especially hard in the scene where Trevor and Amber are on the porch and Peter and I are arguing in the living room. I give in to the fear that I will never be able to mend things and the abandonment will kick it so much that I forget not to get defensive about it. My action is to bow out, but as an Alpha Female that is easier said than done.
I keep a journal solely for this play and Becky. After every rehearsal I throw my spotify playlist on and just write about what happened in rehearsal that day. My last entry described how I was able to tap into my jealous side as we worked to detail my blow up scene. Jealousy is one of my biggest flaws which makes it fun to portray on stage, almost like its okay to feel that way for a few minutes. Its especially fun because Kate is Ariel McCleary, My roommate and one of my closest friends. We get to hate each other for 3 hours a day its exhilarating because we know its not real. After the prior rehearsal Alyssa Angie who plays Meg came up to me after rehearsing the scene where we get into a fight and apologized profusely for yelling at me. Its almost as if all the fighting brings everyone closer together. 
So I guess if you made it this far thank you for reading and hearing me out. It may be a little premature just yet but I truly am not looking forward to this ending. This cast and show mean the world to me. And I wouldn't change any part of it for the world. I fear for closing night. I don't know how I am going to keep my shit together.

Thank you Eryn for writing. Thank you cast and crew of Ashland for letting us be part of your process. Thank you all for reading.

Talk with you soon.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

a higher standard of discovery


I have been thinking a lot about the value of this blog. I am interested in the discoveries made throughout the process of creating. I am interested in what someone learns about the craft of an art while they are making art. Creating theater seems to be the best way to learn about theater. I view this blog as a way to document what is being learned.

The Ashland University cast of 'In the Event of my Death' have a Facebook page that is there for them to share thoughts on their roles and the play and anything that is relevant to the process. It does not have to be right. It is not the product that they are selling to an audience. It is the process which includes inspiration, mistakes, and discoveries. The discoveries rarely happen without inspiration and mistakes. Learning rarely happens without trying something new.

I am grateful they are sharing their discoveries with us. Here are a few.

 De'Andre who is playing Trevor,
"Trevor and I have really become good friends. I have been nothing but open to this characters emotional life and putting aide preconceived thoughts of how I think he feels. My thought has changed from “the character coming to me, but me going to the character” and letting the script Lindsay has constructed share who Trevor really is. Which to his core, is the spouse who lost his lover and NO ONE knows about their love and Trevor CAN’T tell anyone because it was Freddy’s wish to wait until he was ready...*SPOILER ALERT* Freddy is dead! Because Trevor threatens post pictures of the two of them on Facebook… are you catching the “Oh Snap, Shit just got real” moment, yeah. So what we have here is man ready to burst with so much hurt, remorse, and guilt that just about anything will break him down literally to the ground. So as an openly out man myself and actor this role has posed such a challenge for me (one I’m excited to have in this educational setting) because it’s so close to home for me and dealing with places I as just De’Andre do not won’t to go, but have to because well Trevor needs to get his message out!"

I love the understanding that he is not playing himself in this situation. That he is drawing from himself. That through the process of respect for the details in the character Lindsay has created and the need for the authentic story that they are telling he has a committed sense of being faithful and discoveries that are specifically about Trevor.

Natalyn, who plays Amber, shares a moment of connection that grew out of the process.
"We were sitting around the table doing lines and trying to reach the emotional connection for the beginning with Amber and Peter. Scott told me to get angry, not act it, but to truly get angry. I went into another room, and well I got pretty dang angry. After feeling that emotional life connected to the text, whoooo what a feeling. All kinds of raw emotions came out. Tears, snot, all that gross stuff. And it was AMAZING! I've had emotional connections with my character before, but never like that."

Scott's post identified their growth and commitment to the process.
"The actors are working impulsively in accordance to what is being set up inside of them. Their consentration on really achieving their intentions through precission based actions are acutely surfacing. We have an ensemble now. We speak a laguage of acting that is effective and efficiatant and it is a joy. It has come at the cost of intense concentration and a discipline to remain open to the process and above all to one another. Tonight was a dance between directing and acting and we move with a playful dramatic ease to Lindsay's words."

The Facebook page of the Ashland cast is marked private. It is for their ensemble, Lindsay, and I am grateful to be invited to join. I asked the students and Scott if I could share some of their postings from the Facebook page. They said, 'yes, that's why it's there.' Not specifically for me to share on this blog but for us to share with other artists about the process. To be clear that answer was not shared with any sense of vanity. It was about the idea of being in discussion with other artists about the process of creating. I was wondering then why is it 'private'. 

Scott and I talked further about the idea of process. It has to be at a safe place. Not safe from 'judgement'. We all judge in one way or another. We are making judgements on what is more useful in the story process. It is vital to be safe from the expectation of product. The product is where we invite the audience in and share with them what we have created. Even then it is part of the process of us learning about what has been created. However, most of the time they are coming in to see what we have created through the process. Not necessarily to be a part of it.

I will write at another time about the desire for the conversation about the creation of the play and the subject of the play to expand beyond this blog, the casts of the three universities, and their audiences - but for now I am interested in the process and our relationship with you - the reader of this blog. You are part of the process. Part of the dialogue. You are listening. Baring witness to the mistakes, inspiration, and discoveries along the way. I read this quote from Sarah Ruhl in an interview with Polly Carl on HowlRound
 "It’s like that physics principle, the observer effect, where the observer changes the object. I’ve seen it with really brilliant directors just by the act of their listening and watching, the actors are brought to a higher standard without them saying a word, and the notion of the brilliant dramaturg is the brilliant listener is the brilliant question-asker, it’s very hard to teach that and in a way that’s why we don’t see it as much."

Your listening holds us to a higher standard with our work.

Thank you.

Talk with you soon.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Don't play the problem"


Ashland is on their feet in the rehearsal room. I am grateful for the conversation with Scott Hudson after rehearsals to hear about the process. Scott has a commitment to specifics of the given circumstances that help the actors behave truthfully. Hearing them confront the circumstance of the play is a true honor.

An important part of the college collaboration project is the development of the playwright and the play. Equally important is the opportunity for students to discover the craft of acting while working on roles that are relevant to their life experience. As I hear about the students tapping into the emotional specifics of the events leading up to the play and finding connection to it I am so grateful for this project and the play. Acting is hard. Not a question. Finding the nuanced details of a character and connecting them to your personal experience is incredibly challenging. When I hear about the process of the actor playing Becky connecting to her character's fears through her real life experience I realize how this connection has to be easier to tap into than the circumstance of the aristocracy in the Cherry Orchard. The Cherry Orchard is a great play - but to connect to the nuance of a character's experience in a play has to be easier to start with someone closer to your life experience.

The play is giving the student artists that opportunity. They also have tremendous ownership of these characters. The actors are protective of their characters and from what I hear and read they have a commitment to honor them. When I say hear - I have had the honor of receiving a text or two to see if I can take a call during rehearsal to talk about a certain beat. The conversation sometimes is questioning the text or the given circumstance, but mostly it is seeking out another perspective on the need of the character. Most recently the discussion was about why Trevor, an 'out' gay man - would be in a relationship with a 'closeted' gay man. Why would he put up with that? What was wonderful was to recognize that in the text there were clues to tell us that that relationship was going toward the direction of becoming more public. That actually causes the character of Trevor more pain ultimately. It brought us to the conversation of the pain of not being able to mourn publicly with his friends and family. The given circumstance of the play are very thorough and tight. But the fun thing that was discovered conversation is that it is up to Trevor to discover what he loved about Freddie to have him maintain a secret relationship with the love of his life. The conversation pointed out that love is truly personal and incredibly powerful - and it is  the personal that connects the actor to the character.

Each of the actors are finding depth in all of their circumstance. Which tells me that Lindsay has fully loaded each of the characters with a need and an accurate detailed past that got them to the moment of the play. One is for the character of Pete to recognize that there is a depth in the reconnection with his high school girlfriend the night before the funeral. He cheated on his current girlfriend. Why? What does that mean? It could be minimized into just sex - but he discovered something much deeper about the need of the character. That act met a deep need of his - which isn't being met in his day to day life. This realization was excited because the actor and director didn't come to the conclusion that he is unhappy with his life, they looked at what need specifically wasn't being met. The detail of that fueled the behavior for the next beats of the play.

As I mentioned the actor playing Becky is connecting to the need of the character. Dramatically, early on, her role is very funny because the other characters don't like her. They make fun of her. She is trying to redeem herself from her poor behavior during high school. Listening to Scott talk about the rehearsal process reminded me of something very simple, but vital. Scott was reminding the actor to not play the problem and to focus on the action. They don't like you. They playwright has done that for you. You don't have to play that - the character is trying to fix that, not embrace it. It was a reminder to stay focused on action. In our conversation alone it made the opening seem much more alive and vibrant.

It reminded me that theater often has is a good model for life. Don't play the problem. Focus on the action.

Talk with you soon.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Process Through Social Media


Ashland is in rehearsal and digging deep. They are drawing out details of the story and each of their character's experience specifically leading up to the event of the play. Each night after rehearsal I get a text or an enthusiastic call to talk about the discovery or question of the day. Mostly, it is about the ownership the students are claiming on their roles.

I appreciate hearing about the discoveries of the needs of the characters and what interests them. It is also a pleasure to hear their questions. I like hearing that the actor playing Connor, for example, is mining the clues in the text for the need of why he is at the gathering. Not settling for the simple - to mourn, or be with friends, or get laid. All of which he is doing. But the actor is looking for the strongest need. Hearing from Scott that there is a recognition from that at this point of the development it is not brought out as clearly as some characters - and because of who this character is, and how he behaves in the world, it may or may not be brought out more. However, the need is there. And the clues are there...and they are working at and enjoying bringing these characters to the world. I am hearing that about each of the actors about their character.

Tonight there was a photo shoot for the poster of the play. The school photographer had the set up in the studio theater. Scott played some Justin Timberlake  - and he said he saw the actors commit to their characters. He spoke of two things that were really exciting. One is that each of them had a unique appreciation for their character and that they were behaving like an ensemble. I look forward to sharing with you the photos from the shoot.

Trevor photo shoot option
The ensemble is using social media to develop and research their characters, as well as bond as an ensemble. They formed a private Facebook page for the production. At least one of them is tweeting in character: BexFarrell08 if you want to follow. They have created a spottily play list where they are each contributing songs that feel like the play. They are posting videos. They are posting job searches for possible jobs the characters might have. They posted clothing options for advice regarding what to wear for the photo shoot as well choices they are making regarding the hair they think is most appropriate for the character.

I'm posting these photos with permission from Scott. In these photos there are examples of what the character might wear, as well as how the hair is different from their own. I love their enthusiasm and commitment to the pursuit of these characters.

Becky's Hair
The external pursuit is something tangible to grasp. To bring themselves into the world. The external is the most immediate way to connect with a character. A little dye, the right shirt or tie - all of it starts to separate the actor from the character. It also connects them to it. To get to experience the world differently. Or they get see what it is like for the world to experience them differently. That is really valuable when wanting to understand and empathize with the character. My impulse is to say it separates the actor from the character - however, I want to acknowledge it also connects them because it gives the actor permission to do something they may have wanted to do for a while. Dye one's hair, or wear a certain style. Those choices that are in line with how they perceive the character is a step toward connecting personally to the work.

I can share photos of the external work. And I look forward to seeing all of that. However, I also know that they are each delving into and connecting with the inner need of their character. Scott shared with me the multi-level conversation that the two actors had when discussing the discovery of when one friend discovers the other is sleeping with the Prom Queen. The multiple options - but also the detail of work: were there clues on Facebook prior to learning this? Why does this person's name come up? What does this discovery mean to how the entire night is going to go? The examination was from all aspects of the moment. Hearing about the exploration that is happening for each of them is fantastic because it is clear that they are taking nothing for granted. There is a true respect and appreciation for bringing these characters to life.

On the Facebook page they are sharing their thoughts on hair, jobs, apartments, and all things about their characters. They are also planning social gatherings as a cast, and it is where the stage manager shared that her mom would pick up a specific prop on her way up to visit. They are quite an ensemble. It is exciting to watch them begin this journey together.

Talk with you soon.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Day of Rehearsal at Ashland


Tonight was the first rehearsal for Ashland University's production of "In the Event of My Death". Scott had Lindsay and I each call in to say 'hi' to the cast and to share with them the process thus far and what our goals were for the project. My goal was to have the play grow and develop as much as possible and that I was looking forward to hearing about their discoveries throughout the process.

When I got off the phone I was exhilarated. I knew that the next thing to happen was probably going to be them turning to the first page and reading the script together, for the first time, as the ensemble that would be bringing this play to life. I was excited to see this photo on cast member Eryn Tramel's (Becky) Facebook page.
I wanted to be in the room to see it. I also was grateful to know that they were going to have their own process and that I am even more excited to experience the process through their lens. That they were going to bring their voices to the world of the play.

At 10:15 tonight Scott Hudson sent a text to Lindsay and I saying "We tracked the play tonight. It grounded us in facts." Attached was this video:

Scott talked with me after the rehearsal and said they didn't do a traditional read through of the play. He didn't want them to get attached to the emotion of the world. He wanted to ground them in the facts. They did a dig for facts. It was a bit of archeology of the world. In the video they identified the facts of events that lead up to and occur during the play. I love this video. It is incredibly specific. Scott talked about how specificity of the circumstance brings the emotional life.

He wanted them to hear the play in a different way. As they dug into the specifics of the events the room went from the giddy feeling of 'we're putting on a play' to a sober feeling. A positive sober room. Through answering the questions of what, when, how -  they became aware of what the event of the play was and what, as artists, they were being asked to confront. Through their investigative work it became clear that events of the play were all plausible. And it began to become real.

Also in the room from Ashland was Dr. Kimberly Field-Springer, Associate Professor in their Communications Department. Scott shared her enthusiasm for the play. Dr. Field-Springer specifically talked about the value of the play regarding the media and social issues in society and during their discussion confirmed that this is how events like this go down. I am grateful she is in the room and will be part of this process. Hopefully at some point she will add to the blog her perspective.

Scott let me know that we have two more team members to share:
Rebecca Lyman - Stage Manager
Leslie Nunez - Assistant Stage Manager

Scott also shared that a student, a journalism major, will be taking on the role of reporting on their process - I look forward to meeting her and reading her perspective on the process.

Thank you all for being part of the process.

Talk with you soon.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ashland is cast


Talked with Scott Hudson Thursday night after his callbacks at Ashland. It was thrilling to hear about the process. It was exciting for a lot of reasons. The first being that the college collaboration play is cast. That is an amazing step - these are the first people that will bring a new play to life. It is an honor and a responsibility to breathe life into a character for the first time. To hear about who was selected and why was exhilarating.

Scott had a wonderful audition process where he created an environment for the actors/students to truly embody the characters as well as to experience the play.  Everyone was auditioning in the room together. Actors took turns and the ensemble was created as the audition went along. Scott created an opportunity for each actor to step in to the ensemble and play fully in the world.

As a director it sounds as if he got the right people for the right roles. A lot goes into casting - chemistry of the ensemble, people connecting internally, and feeling the potential for the play in a new way. I heard all of that when I heard him talk about his choices.

I also heard the enthusiasm of an educator. My favorite phrase of Scott's is when an actor 'catches' something. He shared how each actor came in with a general understanding of the character they wanted to play but after working with each - when the specifics dropped in for the actor and they 'caught' something about the character, I could hear his enthusiasm. Each time it was about surprise and growth. Surprise of the life breathed into the character and the potential growth for the student actor entering the role. That is the excitement as an educator - how will a role facilitate the growth of each particular artist. Also, there are exciting moments like when a non-major shows up to an audition and surprises everyone with their passion and commitment. There is also an exciting element about the process of casting which is watching the fight drop in for an artist. He was proud of the commitment of each student as they realized they had to dig deeper and bring their best because the competition was clear.

The other exciting thing that happened was the enthusiasm he described that started to come out of the students about Lindsay's play. They all liked it before but as it came to life during the audition it became clear to them that it was special. It was written in a voice familiar to them. With humor and understanding of them. That too is the goal of the college collaboration. To connect artists to new plays, new voices, that reflect them - give them an immediate voice in the world. It feels like this play is doing that and I am thrilled.

There is a part of casting that is not wonderful, which is there is a limited number of roles. So not everyone will be cast. Scott and I didn't talk about that part. What I heard in his description of the night was his pride of what everyone brought to the room and him seeing a strong interest in people wanting to be involved in the play regardless of role in the process.

I wanted to post the cast on Friday but he was waiting for the notice to go up in the department first because then they would announce the entire team. Meaning that all of the roles of crew would be announced as well. I love the idea that it is a team. Very much in line with The Farm Theater. And it is a team. Everyone is part of bringing the play to life. I look forward to meeting the entire team.

Here is the cast list:
Mason Adams--- Connor
Alyssa Angie---Meg
Natalyn Baisden---Amber
Ariel McCleary---Kate         
De Andre Peterson---Trevor
Ceyanna Stasick---Brianna
Nick Seeman---Peter
Eryn Tramel---Becky

All of the players will be shared as we get that list.

First rehearsal is Tuesday.

Talk with you soon.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflects today


The weekend workshop of the play went wonderfully as reported. The day after our workshop Ashland University held the first round of auditions. I was thrilled to talk with Scott Hudson the night before auditions and learn that after speaking to those interested in participating in theater this semester the audition sheet had filled up. Auditions were Tuesday and callbacks are Friday.

In preparation for the auditions Scott and I discussed the characters of the play and a theme that resides in the play.

First I will talk about the theme. It was the issue of suicide. What caused the character of Freddie to kill himself? Was it because he's gay? This was part of the discussion that we had during the workshop. It was a topic that Gino, from Clark University, had expressed interest in after hearing the reading on Wednesday. The faculty at Centre College had expressed a similar interest in the reason for the suicide before arriving for the workshop. When I told Scott that we don't know the reason for the character's suicide. That he didn't specify a reason and one of the wonderful things about the play is that it recognizes that we will never know what ultimately pushes someone to take that action.  Scott was very interested in that idea regarding a discussion for the school. It makes the discussion  more accessible on campus and something that isn't about one social-political issue. I think that is true for all three schools. The play seems to be addressing the powerlessness of not being able to stop it. The guilt of what someone did or didn't do. The blaming of others. The inventory of their life and friendships after this happens in their life.

The week prior to the workshop suicide was in the news a lot because of the death of Robin Williams. There was a lot of discussions about why, shock, and never knowing what someone else's struggles are.  We will never know what makes someone take that final action. It is a private decision. Lindsay has done some wonderful things in the play to create a picture of someone that it is possible would commit suicide - without making it a clear cut and dry reason. One sister says, he was incredibly sensitive and gives examples from his childhood. The other sister rejected his call the night  before. The note left on his computer gives no answer. Friends haven't visited enough. His boyfriend wanted him to come out so they could live freely, get married, and have a full family life. He didn't go to art school after graduating for fear of rejection. He helped a new friend out of a dark period of her life recently and she couldn't help him. There are no answers. Freddie is a major character in the play - but I don't imagine that we will be able to answer the question of why - no matter how successfully Lindsay paints a three dimensional picture of him through the individual relationships he has with each of the characters.

One thing that I think is interesting is that there is a belief that we have moved forward as a society and that it is too naive to think that someone would kill themselves because they are gay. Yet it still happens. I don't believe that it is the theme the play is exploring. But to say it is too simple an issue negates the power of the individual's experience.  I am grateful it will be part of the discussion. There was an article recently about playwrights dealing with the complex issue of suicide throughout the history of drama. Lindsay has successfully utilized the issue of suicide that is occurring in this generation as a way to evaluate friendships, values, openness, life goals, societal pressures, definition of success, communication, and a whole list of other large issues of our every day life.

I credited Mariele of Centre College for shifting the thinking of one character's guilt about the suicide to possible blaming of others because of the 'hetero-normal' societal views. Well, another issue came up while looking at character descriptions. There are eight roles. Three male and five females. Lindsay intentionally created more roles for female college age actors to be able to play. When Scott and I were talking about the characters, regarding his breakdown for the auditions, concerns about physical appearance came up. It only came up regarding the female characters. One character is the former Prom Queen - what does she look like today? Freddie's oldest sister holds a high place of status, like the stern maternal figure, but is also flirted with aggressively with by one of the boys - is it because she's physically attractive? And one girl is said to have lost 'her baby fat' from high school - is this literal? Was she heavy? Did she lose weight? Is she big now?
All of the answers regarding character came back to the internal need of the character and what they internally represented to other characters.  However, none of the questions regarding physical appearance ever came up regarding the three male characters. One guy is considered to be smart and could've done anything but he stayed in his hometown, the other is a successful nerd who is too obvious with him flirtation, and the third character is the a out gay male. None of the female characters refer to their physical appearance and none of their needs seem to imply a physical appearance.
Christine, my girlfriend, sent me an article today to illustrate what it is like to work in the corporate world as a woman. The article is There is No UnMarked Woman by Deborah Tannen. It is about her awareness of how she was summing up the women at a conference she was attending by their appearance. And how she didn't do this with the men at the conference. I don't know if this has anything to do with the issue of the play or the behavior of the characters. I do know it has something to do with our society. I know it is important for the college collaboration to create production opportunities for female playwrights. I know it was important to Lindsay to create five interesting roles for young women to play.

I have said numerous times that the goal of the college collaboration is to allow us to have a long conversation generated by the creation of theater; inside the rehearsal room and outside the theater with our community. The individual responses to suicide, the personal reasons for it, the societal causes, and all of the perspectives on that topic that the play will spark I am excited to hear them discussed and participate in the conversation as they are considered. I am also interested in being able to look at more global issues that come up in the process that may or may not relate to the play but are illuminated through the process of the collaboration. And when they appear - maybe this a form to discuss them in and to figure out how to address them as this program continues.

Talk with you soon.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

College Collaboration Workshop - Day 3


The three day workshop exceeded all expectations. Actually it met exactly what we set out to do. Which means to say it was ideal and rarely are there ideal experiences. There is usually a problem or two. Our problems were not process oriented. We had 8 incredibly talented and smart actors, two faculty members, engaged students, a director and dedicated playwright - all focused on the development of the play and the development of the artists. We couldn't be happier.

Okay, what happened today. Well, we did a reading of the script for about 15 invited guests. The reason for the reading at the end of the workshop was to hear the play through a new lens. Audiences alway heighten the awareness for what is and isn't in the story. It was a useful and final step to send Lindsay off on the next stage of rewrites. We are grateful for our audience. What we learned or confirmed is that the play is engaging and moving. It also confirmed where the play can, needs, and wants to go. So, thank you to all who attended the reading. We're glad you are along for this journey.

Before the reading we worked through the remainder of the play. We had more thorough discussions. Beat by beat. And through the discussion we discovered a deep understanding of  each character. What their need is. It was an incredibly valuable archeological dig. Lindsay brought in about 12 new pages today. The end of the play was not worked on yet...only so much can be achieved in one night. And the depth of the work on the play was forcing the end of the play to change. If not to be theatrically different the meaning of the events would shift to a deeper place.

I'm interrupting this blog post to say that three days around the table to discuss the world of a new play with incredibly smart and talented artists is an incredible gift and one that I appreciate tremendously. I am grateful for everyone's input. I am also grateful for the discussion with collaborators, like Scott Hudson, afterward who encourage me to write about the specifics of the discovery so that the students who weren't in the room can be part of the conversation as they enter into the process through auditions this coming week.

Lindsay has each of the characters fully loaded emotionally for needing to be in this room with these people. Each of them is fueled with guilt, anger, and love. Along with many other emotions. The premise of the play, for anyone that doesn't know, is a high school friend (Freddie) has committed suicide. Friends are gathering after the funeral. The discussion today revealed a lot of important information about the world of the play. All of it is in there or we couldn't have discovered it. The talk was what needs to be brought out in the play and what can be left unsaid in order to increase the experience for the audience.

I'll give a couple of examples. It is casually mentioned that Trevor leaves Freddie's family's house earlier than expected. Why? There were a lot of clues mentioned in the script: He wants to get to the house where he can do drugs and escape. He wants to be in the comfort of his friends. He wants to get away from the girl that everyone thinks is Freddie's girlfriend. The reason isn't given. But when that last idea is spoken, the room can immediately picture the reality of Freddie's family consoling, comforting, welcoming the girl as if she were the love of Freddie's life and not Trevor who actually is. Now that is a reality of what is happening. But it isn't mentioned in the text. Our discussion becomes about how deep and wide does the play want to expose the details of the world - and what makes for a greater experience for the audience. We all leaned towards wanting the world to be exposed more and to make it a larger view for the audience to experience these people's stories because they are complex and loaded.
Another idea that was discussed is about what pushed Trevor to threaten to out Freddie to his friends and family. This video, captured by Hayley of Centre College, shows a great discussion of the realization of what motivated it and why it is justified behavior - even if it is not 'nice' behavior.

The video shows the discussion of why Trevor did what he did - and does the audience need to know this or is it enough for the character to know this. I love how inclusive the conversation is and how you see Lindsay taking it in, and balancing what has to be included into the story. I also like that the word 'explosive' is used. That indicates it would be nice to see in the play. It will upset the world, knock it on its side, so we can see it another way. It will give us, but also the other characters, a different perspective on the character. Of course the choice, if it is in the play, is when is it best to shift that perspective. That's the craft that Lindsay is balancing.

This truly was the topic of the day. How much of each story needs to be brought out into the script. Lindsay's play has rich characters which are confronting large ideas about today's world. The work of the last three days allowed us to know that the story can hold more. The world and the needs are greater. This is a goal of the college collaboration - to let the artist enlarge their canvas. If it needs to be bigger that's an option, but definitely to allow them to go deeper. Here is a video Hayley captured of me talking about this idea. It is also excellent product placement.

I am excited to watch the characters of the play be brought out and developed over the next seven months. Lindsay has three productions to sculpt the world she is creating.

The three days were wonderful.  Scott Hudson and his students were very present in our discussions. Grateful that Gino, from Clark, was at the reading and part of the discussion and that Centre College was present for all three days. Just a privilege to have everyone engaged.

Next step in the process is auditions in Ashland. I know that Lindsay is going to keep writing and letting this work inform the next steps of the journey.

Talk with you soon.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

College Collaboration Day 2


Well yesterday's conversation was fruitful. Lindsay came in with approximately 12 new pages. We picked up the day where we left off. Reading the work. Talking beat by beat. Asking questions of the characters. Discovering what the impulse is for each action. Again, mainly probing through questions. Trying to learn and uncover who these people are - and not trying to dictate who we think they are. It is an exploration to learn about them, but also a chance for them to grow and become who the plays wants them to be in the world.

It is challenging when working on a play not to take things for granted. Meaning moments. It is rarely interesting to say, oh that's just how we are - because there is little discovery or drama in that. There is drama when characters expect each other to behave how they have in the past...and don't. Also, we witnessed in how what seems like a casual comment is actual where the stakes lives and the behavior is shaped within those rules. When something new is introduced. We saw that a lot in the play today.For example when one friend says to another "If you don't like it - leave." It is really early in the play, and we recognized it isn't 'you can leave.' The choice is 'leave' - and that line in the sand shapes the behavior for rest of the play, it also dictates that there is a new relationship between the two characters - it is not what it was when they were in high school. Yes, it's a small moment. But the small moments define the moments of drama - they frame it. There are many moments in this script that shift the relationships and the dramatic pleasure is watching the characters navigate their expectations with what is actually happening.
Today the conversation focus seemed to be on how they are no longer children any more. They can't hide from the uncomfortable.

The main rewrite we experienced today is Lindsay had Trevor share his secret relationship with Freddie with someone completely surprising. Surprising to him and to us. Also, she revealed the secret much earlier in the play and which moved the stakes of the scene much earlier. Interesting that revealing secrets feel like an event in a play and an unraveling but most of the time the information in the secret is where the drama lives. It becomes a lot more alive for the audience when they are in on it. I believe that is true most of the time. It was today.

The value of the process was revealed very clearly when I spoke with Hayley from Centre College after rehearsal today. After a day of probing questions, I asked her what her experience was - and in the video below she shared that she learned about the depth in which actors learn about their motivation. There is a lot of back ground noise in the video because I wasn't planning on taping her. But I appreciated the answer so much, I thought I  would share.

Hayley talking about the process

The play dropped to a deeper level. I am excited about where it can go. Today I was excited again about the process. It is a gift to be able to have this depth of exploration on a play. The play is clearly benefiting. Today it was clear that the students will clearly be benefiting. This video is of Mariele talking about the process of the day and how the characters represent the millennial generation. Mar
Mariele talking about the process.

Tomorrow we will be getting rewrites for the end of the play. Working through the remainder of the play. Then we will have a reading for ten invited guests and a classroom of a students in Ashland University via video conference.

Talk with you soon.


Friday, August 15, 2014

College Collaboration Workshop Day 1


Today was the first day of the workshop of the College Collaboration Play. Today is the day that the collaboration began. Everyone has been working on this project in their own way but today was the day we were in the same room together. Today was thrilling. It was exactly what was envisioned when the project was first imagined. There were 14 artists in the room ready to work and share their experience with the play.

The actors: Jacob Perkins, Blake Merriman, Rachel Berger, Jessica O'Hara-Baker, Jordan Kamp, Amanda Dieli, Jamie Dunn, and Sevrin Mason are excellent. I had worked with all of them before and was excited to have them in the room. They are all experienced at working on new plays, understand the role of the actor but also are more than generous in sharing their insights and life experience that relate to the play. Also in the room from Centre College were Hayley, Mariele, Matt and Patrick. Matt I have known for many years.  It was more than a pleasure to have them in the room.

First we read the play. It is a good play. It is an excellent first draft of a play. The story is about 8 people in their early twenties, 7 of them knew each other in high school, convening after the funeral of one of their classmates. Lindsay's writing is engaging, entertaining, and honest. Everyone of the characters is recognizable from our own lives and more importantly each of them are vital to the play. It was good to hear the play...that was needed so that we can then discuss the world of the play.

The discussion of the play was lively and thorough. It lasted two hours. Lindsay spoke about where she was in the process, what she heard, and the rhythm of the play. I spoke a little bit about how I felt the play was fertile for greater exploration because each character has a strong need for why they are where there are at that moment. And then Patrick spoke up, explaining that Trevor, the one gay character, was militant in his belief - and that the strength of that needed to be recognized. 'Militant' - a great word. A strong choice. And correct on the character. He then went on to speak about how all of these characters were representative of the generation just exiting and still in college. He used a great phrase that I can't fully recall - hopefully someone will share it in the comments section. This statement and appreciation for each character inspired each of us to talk about the needs of each character. What it means to stay in your home town. What it means to return. What it means to not be enough for someone. What it means to love someone. One of the things that I recognized is that all of the conversation evolved back to where the love is for each person.

All of the actors shared with great detail and passion about their thoughts regarding the play. One moment in particular that struck me was when Centre College student Mariele spoke about Trevor and that his point of view was not one of blaming Freddie for his suicide but framing in the hetero-normal societal views. This was wonderful because it reframed the thinking of the character to what was probably closer to his thinking regarding his closeted lover. And it shined a light on the issue and the thinking of Freddie and Trevor that allowed everyone in the room to have compassion and to see the love that motivated each of them, as well as, to tilt their perspective on the character. Also, there is one character that didn't attend the funeral of Freddie - and as we all spoke about why that could be or might be; Mariele, again, pointed at the specific action in the past that this character had done to Fred that would cause enough shame to keep her away. Nailing the specifics. I loved this moment in the room because it grounded the conversation in specifics and it created a way for all of us to talk about that character with empathy and appreciation. Mariele is a Centre College student who was a tad shy to jump in but when she did - she captured the room. I am excited for all of the students throughout the process to have a opportunity to work on a new play, learn their craft - but most important to me is for them to recognize the value of their voice in the collaborative process. That value was on display today.

Everyone brought their 'A' game. And everyone in the room, actor, student, directors, designers - each contributed beautifully to fueling and feeding Lindsay as she thinks about the play.  Like the characters in the play - all of the voices in the room are valuable.

The discussion truly enlarged the play today. The topic of the play is important. The people in the play are needed. Loved. I am excited about the collaboration for the process of the long conversation that a play can create with a community. I am grateful that the conversation has begun.

Creating a play, a world carries an incredible responsibility to the needs of the individuals involved.  Each of them. And today we heard those needs. We respected those needs. And we know there are more to learn about them.

We ended the day talking about how the play is good and that it is clean in its structure. The exciting thing now is to let it 'sit in the mud of process' and discover where it wants to go next.

My goal with the project is multifaceted. It is to have a long conversation with a large community around and through the experience of creating a play. It is to foster community through creative collaboration. It is to educate and empower students of theater and to connect them to working artists.  And it is to give an emerging playwright a full experience that will allow them to reach the next level of the artistry. Today, the collaboration in the room, laid a strong foundation for Lindsay to take the step to the next level.

I am looking forward to Day 2.

Talk with you soon.