Saturday, August 14, 2010

The First Rehearsal and Such

It's late and I'm sleepy, but I'm afraid if I go more than 24 hours without blogging my Cedar City record will fall to the same fate as my much-delayed Thai Massage post (I've decided to let that one reach a mystical AND mythical status before finishing it, apparently).


I arrived in Cedar City last night, checked into the hotel, and met the sweet older couple who are my "hosts" for the week, Steve and Diane. They live in CC in the summer to help out at the Shakespeare Festival in anyway they can. Which also includes welcoming, giving tours for, and providing company for the playwrights from the New American Playwrights Project.

Just as I finished joking with my parents about heading out to enjoy the Cedar City nightlight (to clarify for those of you not familiar, Cedar City is very much a small town), Steve and Diane invited me to a concert at 11:00 PM. The concert, it turns out, was a fundraiser set up by the USF company. The major equity actors each sang favorite Broadway songs. The place was packed, the audience was absolutely in love with all of the actors, and everyone had fun, which was fun for me to see.

I fell asleep sometime between 1:30 and 2:00, both nervous and excited for the first rehearsal.

I found Steve and Diane setting up tables on stage at the Auditorium Theater at 8:30 the next morning. Chuck, the producer of the program; Michael, the director (who I'm so fond of and admiring of that I'm going to steal Meg's device and write the exclamation marks I hear in my head when I think of him); Brian, the stage manager; and the four actors (Matt, Chelsey, Jennifer, and Barbara, I believe).

I loved it. It was so nice to be surrounded by theater people. Professional theater people. To be where we needed to be with this piece - away from teachers (except for Michael (!!!) and me, that is) with people who know theater.

On one hand, I was pleased to find there are less changes than I thought I would need to make. By no means does that mean there are no changes - Chuck and Michael gave me a list afterward of pieces that were too long, had too much exposition, and I spent part of the day today making rewrites and cutting.

It's good, though, and I'm excited to see where else it goes. The actors are all young, but they're into it and good. The group, and Chuck in particular, were quite concerned about the Cranes piece. Michael (!!!) anticipated this, and took the role of the teacher and walked the entire group through making cranes, including a very-reluctant Chuck. And, just as it always mysteriously does, it worked! Everyone made a crane!

They've got some really good ideas. I love hearing what they're wrestling with or concerned about, and I love forcing myself to not offer solutions or justifications. I am being a fly-on-the-wall here. I'll talk things over with Michael (!!!) and probably Chuck after each rehearsal, but I need to see how this script does "out there."

One interesting criticism Chuck gave was that the play was only for teachers. He kept asking me who my intended audience was (A: Teachers yes, but also anyone who's been taught) and kept insisting that the play was going to alienate the non-teachers.

I thought over that question for a while, knowing that we've performed the piece for many, many non-teachers and they've always connected with it. So, I carefully framed how I wanted to talk to Chuck about his concern.

In the post-talk with Michael (!!!) and Chuck as I went over my questions for them, I said, "I go see plays all about royalty or murderers or people from places I've never been, and I am totally engaged, I connect with the characters even though I'm not a king or a murderer. So, what I'm wondering, is how do those plays do that? What's missing in mine that makes that not happen? And, what can I change so that it works?"

Chuck, literally, said, "Huh," quite thoughtfully. Michael (!!!), who totally got what I was doing and I'm pretty sure disagreed with Chuck's earlier statements, commented that it's about the humanity, and the power of storytelling.

I wondered if I was too confident in the piece, if Chuck was right. That is, until I went to lunch with Steve and Diane after that rehearsal and they spent the entire lunch telling me about their teachers, their grandchildren's teachers, and their teaching experiences (even though neither of them were officially teachers).

So, I'm really looking forward to this week. In addition to the fun of working on the play, I also get to see all six of their current productions. I just got back from seeing Pride and Prejudice, actually. It was good. Nothing new, of course - I don't think it's possible for that story to be told in a fresh way (nor should it, given the numerous reworkings of it). But the Mr. Darcy, the Mrs. Bennett, and the Mr. Collins were all very good, and I very much enjoyed being in a theater watching a well-done play.

Although, to be honest, it was a bit annoying to be watching a story so very much about achieving marriage. While arranging for my tickets Diane asked me if anyone was here with me or coming later this week. I told her I was here alone (a bit surprised, actually, since they never mentioned the option of bringing a plus one) and that look flashed over her face that I keep getting when people discover I'm by myself - a quick succession of surprise, pity, and "there-there" reassurances.

Maybe the other plays will be ressuringly less marriage-centered... Much Ado? Hmm. Not much better than Pride. Merchant of Venice? Eh, some lovies. Macbeth? There we go! Nice and bloody with evil spouses to boot.

Bed now. Tomorrow's a day off for me to do rewrites/sightsee, although I think I'll skip the sightseeing and instead hunt down a sacrament meeting, then celebrate my last free day before the school year by going to a movie.

P.S. Also? We went around the table to introduce ourselves and our roles in the company. It was very strange to say my name and declare, "I'm a playwright."

Actually, it's still strange to type that. "I'm a playwright." Huh.

P.P.S. When I pulled into the festival Friday, my first thought was, "I miss Meg." I've been living the Shakespeare festival lifestyle and dramas through her blog for so long that I was really sad that I was at one, but didn't get to see her (or Falcon). Le sigh.


  1. Congratulations, you playwright, you! I wish I could be there to cheer you on, because even though I'm an ex-schoolteacher, I know I could relate to the stories in your play. Chuck will learn... Meantime, see lots of shows and enjoy living the artists' life. I am so happy for you and your success!

  2. Enjoy your week drenched in theater. What a wonderfully happy place! I remember well going down for the festival in high school and have no idea how it was not a part of our college summers. I suppose the poverty and lack of time outside class may have something to do with missing out on the fun. Have a lovely time and bask in the joy of watching your creation come to life in others!

  3. I'm hoping to catch a play while in town to see Making Waves - you'll have to let me know which was best. Though my friend is playing Jane in Pride & Prejudice (also another small part in Great Expectations) so I might be swayed to go see one of those. But as always I trust your judgement whole-heartedly.