Playwright’s Collaborative Comments: August 15th and 29th readings

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, lots to catch up on.  We’ve had two Playwright’s Collaborative readings, and my 2nd play (“Justice and Injustice”)  is scheduled for a reading in December (or sooner if we can get more space lined up) so I’m working on casting (with much help from Leo McElroy!).   I’ll get to my play in a minute, but first some comments about the last two readings.

The August 15 reading at the BIT was Theresa Elliot’s “VVGV”, and the August 26th reading at the Lambda Players Theater was Leo McElroy and Susanne Sommer’s play, “Echoes in the Heart”.   Very different plays in the sense that the time, place and circumstances were vastly dissimilar, but they are both dramas about the forces that shape peoples lives and how they cope.  “Echoes” is life and death, “VVGV” is a bit lighter, but the characters suffer and struggle with their situation.

“VVGV” is about 3 women, grandmother, mother and daughter (Francis, Tess, Chrissy).  There are several dimensions of dynamics: Francis is Czech immigrant who raised her family in Texas; her daughter Tess married a Mexican man, and their daughter Chrissy is  the union of that bi-cultural, and by some definitions, bi-racial marriage.  Each one of these women has a unique perspective; even though they grew up in the same place, more or less the same house, they are very different.  The play centers how these three people come to grips with their anger, frustration, and their feelings for each other.

“Echoes in the Heart” is a dramatization of the true story of Sacramento resident Susanne Sommer’s parents escape from Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s.  The problem at that time was that the Nazi government was on the verge of removing Jew people to death camps, and getting out of Germany was difficult and dangerous.  The play is tense, difficult in parts because the central characters are in real danger most of the play.

I want this blog to be about process, and less about critiquing plays, so I won’t go into more details about the plays, but I do want to say both of the scripts were excellent, the readings were well done, with a tremendous commitment from the actors.  For those of you who are interested in writing plays, attending the readings is a must, and for those who attend plays a reading offers a perspective on how plays come to life.

And leads me to the heart of what I want to talk about: the Playwright’s collaborative is about audience, playwright, and actors coming together in a workshop environment.  All three elements contribute.

A typical full length play can be 90 minutes or more, and yet at the end when the audience is asked for feedback, there are so many points raised, and so much feedback given at all levels.  The audience really commits, and it’s a fun thing to see, and a learning experience. Different people see the play from many different angles, so there are a wide range of comments, from the mundane to the incredibly insightful.  Not that everybody agrees with each other, or that the playwright agrees, but that is part of the process.

I guess this is an example of “crowd-sourcing”,  or “ideation”.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s a great creative process.  I’ve really come to respect it.  One key learning that I get: leave the ego at the door, and be open to the idea that the process might be painful at times, but if you want to make gold, you need fire.  Which I might add, is true for beer as well.

I continue to be impressed with the quality of plays that get read at these workshops. Crowd turnout is good, and the feedback is excellent.  Even though the theaters are small (BIT is about 50 seats, Lambda is 42)  it’s amazing how much drama can be packed into these spaces.

Right now I’m casting for the “Justice/Injustice” reading, which is another exciting aspect of the reading process.  Put another way, perhaps more honestly: it’s fun.  This play has a dozen characters and room for extras, a complicated plot, a couple of themes, and it’s full length.   And there are parts I am rewriting all the time.  So far I have two parts under serious consideration.

Well that’s it for now, have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

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