Friday, March 13, 2015

Day Two Clark


Lindsay and I were fortunate to see the play a second time. The nuance worked of the students really was noticeable. I realized that the cast list from Clark hasn't been posted.

Pete - Colby Hinson
Amber - Lillian Schley
Becky - Charlotte Maxwell
Trevor - Will Doughty
Conner - David Bertoldi
Brianna - Maya Davis
Kate - Clare Tassinari
Meg - Caraline Connor

Lindsay and I were able to meet with the cast before the performance and talk about the overall experience of the project. It was really interesting to hear what they had to say about the project and the value that they took from it. There was a strong appreciation for being able to play characters their age and like them. Lillian, who played Amber, shared that it was nice to see their stories being valued even if it doesn't seem like people their age are doing something extraordinary they have important stories. Clare, who played Kate, spoke about the value of being in an ensemble of people their own age.

Maya, who played Amber, is also a playwright and valued the importance of working with Lindsay, a female playwright, and seeing her process. And all of them seem to appreciate the open dialogue and that the writer and director weren't there just to provide answers but that they all contributed. I particularly found it interesting to hear Caraline, who plays Meg, articulating the experience that was one of Lindsay's inspirations for the project. The relationship of social media and major news events in the world.

Each of the cast members really had wonderful things to say about the value of the process and I may share some of those videos as the show heads to a close on Saturday.  Each of these trips were incredibly valuable to Lindsay and I. The production teams contributed a ton, each of the stage managers were amazing, and the faculty invested in the play. Also, the two of us got concentrated time together to talk about the play and ask each other questions about the script. There is another draft coming and we look forward to sharing that with all of you.

After Taylee, who played Becky at Centre College, read the post from the first performance at Clark, she sent me a message that summed up the experience perfectly.

"Wow! I can't believe all of the choices they made! That is so cool! It seems to me that you and Lindsay have seen three very different performances of the play and that is what this collaboration is all about! I'm so glad to hear that it went well! And can't wait to hear more! "

We look forward to sharing more. For now, to the cast at Clark:

Congratulations on a wonderful run!

Talk with you soon.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day One at Clark


Lindsay and I are up at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts to see the third and final production of the College Collaboration Project. We started our day meeting with Gino Dilorio's advanced playwriting class. There are eight very good students writing interesting plays, some of which will be part of the New Play Festival next academic year. It was great to see and be reminded of Clark and Gino's commitment to new work.

Each of the productions in the College Collaboration have been unique. Last night's production at Clark was like an art installation. The production, directed Ray Munro, was housed in the student theater. A small black box. I was curious how the play would fit in this space. I had been a guest director here years ago and stage Scott Hudson's Sweet Storm there. A much smaller an intimate piece. When we walked in the setting of the play took up the width of the room. Kitchen, dining room table, living room seating area complete with linoleum floor. There were four floor lamps and two hanging lights.

The play was performed with a great sense of realism. All of the productions were performed realistically, however, this one had a sense of intimacy, as if we were peeking into the house. Lindsay's play has a great rhythm to it, and the stakes are high, and there is humor. All of that was still in the play...but what became apparent in this production was the intimacy of the situation and this group of friends. This intimacy remained throughout. However, when the third character entered the experience shift...Becky entered not holding balloons. But there were four projected video along the back wall of her holding balloons and then Pete carrying them and setting them in the corner. All things that were dealing with the outside - and balloons were done with video.

Whenever the actors went 'outside' they utilized different parts of the set, the couch, bench by the kitchen, etc to act as the porch and the walls were treated as cyclorama to project the video of the outdoor scene on. This lifted production out of a slice of life reality and the video aspect also grounded it in the realism of the scenario at the same time. The pay off the video is the final release of the balloons. The actors stood, each saying their line one at a time, pretending to hold a balloon and releasing it to honor their friend. Simultaneously on the back wall of the theater a video of the ritual played. The final moment was of the dark balloons floating away into the dark sky - very reminiscent of the film America Beauty's plastic bag. Something satisfying to see the balloons drift fully away out of sight. I will get a clip of the video of this to share tomorrow. Also, I hope to get a shot of dance moment at the end of Act One - which culminated in Conner and Amber dancing on the kitchen table with their shirts off, hilarious and honest for the moment. 

We ended the night at the Tuesday night Salon hosted by faculty member and amazing photographer Stephen Dirado, who took the photo for the poster.
Also, Lindsay and I were so happy to see Mason Adams, who played Conner in Ashland at the show last night. He came to the production in Kentucky.  He is witnessing the play fully develop over the past seven months. And it has been wonderful to see him talk fully with each of the other Conner's.

Again, the theater was full and the audience enjoyed the play.  I look forward to seeing the play again tonight. Our talk back with the audience and getting to hangout with the cast.

Talk with you soon.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Taking you with us to Clark


Lindsay and I are going up to Clark to see the third production of the In the Event of My Death. Lindsay went up last week for a couple of rehearsals and did a little rewriting. We are both excited the production and to see what we learn about the play.

I read the most recent draft yesterday. It is very good. It has a wonderful flow to it. Any notes are about tiny details, such as maybe a cut here or there, to strengthen an argument. She has answered a lot questions and finessed when and how to share certain information. In this reading, when I came across Brianna's line "Hiding who you really are is never actually the easier choice-just saying." it resonated with me as the theme of the play. It also correlated with a value I am seeing in the project with the engagement of the students throughout the process.

After the first performance at Centre College set an attendance record for a play, I asked the Chandler Garland, a student that was in charge of P.R. for the production, why she thought that happened. Her first answer was, 'it's a new play that was written for us, and everyone knows we helped develop it." I immediately wished that every artistic director that is hesitant about producing new work would hear this statement and see the enthusiasm on campus. I still wish this. However, I realized something else about the 'we helped develop it' part of her statement. Those individual actors not only helped craft the play, but they are in the play. So are the students at Ashland and Clark. 

Part of the College Collaboration Project is engaging the students with the playwright at the beginning of the writer's exploration on the topic. Lindsay was initially curious about the idea of learning about major life events through social media and as well as the idea of secrets. Immediately, she learned from the students that secrets are harder to have in the era of social media. That had an impact on the play. Also, students reached out to her privately to share their personal experience with sexual identity issues in their community. One person's story informed the community of the play's behavior and attitudes toward sexual identity, another actor's input and back story for a character influenced the sexual identity of a character. The play references specific drug use that is relevant to campus life today, as was confirmed by the giant laughter from the audience at the mention of adderall in connection with term papers.

Scott Hudson, who directed the production in Ashland, pointed out that the students are not just helping a playwright craft a story but are putting their voice, their experience, and their need into the world through the characters of the play. It is daring because they are sharing themselves honestly with their own school, and the next, and for the continued the life of the play. The students' investment is deep because they are experiencing a different level of personal investment of what it means to be an artist. The investment of yourself is the value that carries on and resonates within the work.

Also, because they are sharing themselves so fully the play not only is part of their story, it is also the story of their campus. That is why the enthusiasm about the play has reached out beyond the theater department at both of the schools so far. Chandler was right, "It was written for us, and we helped develop it." The 'us' and 'we' are not only the students directly working on the production but the campus as a whole. It is their story. 

The enthusiasm is intensified because through the partnership with the three schools, The Farm Theater, and Lindsay the experience has a much greater reach than their campus. The story will continue to exist and be told outside of their community. 

"Hiding who you really are is never actually the easier choice - just saying." That is the theme for me in the play and the Project. The exciting choice is revealing and sharing who you are. As we go up to Clark we take all of you that have participated in the process with us. Thank you.

Talk with you soon.