Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 207: Reading Redux

It's hard to describe what it was like to hear my whole play out loud on Monday: to hear my words coming from the actors' mouths; to be aware of other people listening to them; to feel the attention and interest in the room.  With no rehearsal, staging or sets, just actors sitting at a table with scripts in their hands, the small audience was held rapt for a solid 2 hours with no break in a hot room.  There was almost no shifting in seats, rustling of papers, coughing, or throat clearing -- all the little signs that indicate when people have gotten bored and aren't paying attention.  Even I found myself engaged and and involved in watching the drama between these characters unfold.  It took me awhile to kind of step outside the play and just listen, but about a third of the way through, I felt like I was able to (at least to some degree).  It was definitely a moment of "wow, I did that?!"

But I think my favorite part was the feedback after.  I loved hearing what people's favorite moments were, and what held their attention.  There was one scene (between Vivian and her married lover Arnie) that I really wasn't sure was going to work or not.  I half expected everyone to say it seemed completely outside of the story and unnecessary.  One person did feel that, but most everyone else actually cited it as one of their favorite moments in the play (it is one of mine, too). It was very reassuring to know that my instincts are by and large right on target:  many of my favorite moments were their favorite moments, and the things that needed to be fixed were mostly things I had heard myself as being problems. 

The surprise came when people started psychoanalyzing the characters, particularly Vivian.  Hearing them trying to puzzle out who she is and why she does what she does, talking about her like a real person, seeing things in her that I hadn't even known were there.  That is always the most amazing thing to me about playwriting: having people find layers of depth in my writing that I wasn't conscious of when I wrote it. For a moment I'm back in high school English class, dissecting every line of Shakespeare or Steinbeck, and asking my teacher if the author was consciously thinking those things as he wrote, or if we were just making it up.  I know the answer now: if other writers are like me, they aren't consciously thinking all those things, but you also aren't making them up.  If you see it, it's probably there.

Now it's on to the rewrites -- I can hardly wait to get started.
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