'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Thursday, March 24, 2005 ]

Man, are we at the end already?

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Yup, that's right. "Welcome To The Terrordome" ends this weekend.

This very weblog has seen the beginning of this idea, through the outline, through some initial reactions, to the beginning of the production, to our notorious final rehearsal, and now, two jobs, two theater companies, one marriage, a handful of friendships and relationships, four drafts, three apartments, one front set of teeth, and one SWAT team later, we're at the end of the line.

It's weird how I feel about this show, for many reasons. It's my first full-length not done by Broom Street, as well as the first full-length show that I didn't direct myself.

Actually, I was a lot more involved with this than I had expected to be, mainly having to do with a series of personal and theatre conflicts leading up to the beginning of the rehearsal process--originally, I was only supposed to be available to clarify script decisions and whatnot, and ended up being full-on stage manager.

Not that I'm complaining--this has been a ride. Oh, not all of it has been pleasant--this schedule has been a nightmare, and trying to coordinate it with a production staff of just Kathy and I has been a bitch and a half. It doesn't help that when we cast this almost two years ago, a few of the actors hadn't done a lot of shows, and by the time we started rehearsal, they were all in demand--not to mention having to find spaces to rehearse (this led to a lot of general frustration, until we finally found the Atwood Community Center), and having to work around the cast's work and other theatre schedules--at one point, I equated the show to the filming of "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow," with rehearsing with each actor individually and then putting it all together.

I'd be complaining, but WHY?!? Looking back, that's kinda what makes the whole thing cool.

Let's face it, we don't do theatre for the money, or to be famous, or whatever. We do it to be a part of The Story. I mean, it's been hard, but I can't say that it's been boring, that's for sure.

David Devilbiss, who designed our lights, told me that this is what he loves about the process--the whole seat-of-your-pants, crazy-ass, maybe-we'll-do-it-maybe-we-won't attitude. His lighting for the show is just great--and if you've seen the space, you know it's not the easiest space to light.

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R. Peter Hunt, probably the member of the cast that I've known the shortest amount of time, is also wonderful to work with. He and I talked a little bit about the role of Almo, and what I told him I liked about his performance was that the character of Almo could easily be the most thankless role in the show--I mean, he's sort of the sidekick of the heavy...but Peter really likes playing the character. He said something about being the character who just reacts without speaking, or stands to the side...sometimes that can be the most interesting character to play. Honestly, the way he plays the role, I don't think anyone thinks of Almo as a secondary character.

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And then there's Casey Sean Grimm, as Ives. Of course, I wrote this script with him originally in mind for Ives, basing the writing around his genuine intelligence, and wanting to give him a role I hadn't seen him play yet (of course, since 2001, he's played a variety crazy roles without needing help from me). One of the fun things about being able to sit in on the rehearsal process has been watching Casey evolve as Ives, and watch Ives become something crazed, then mean, then human, then all of the above. Like I say, I wrote this with Casey in mind, but it wasn't anything I'd seen him do yet--I just had faith that he could and wanted to. It's the bizarre relationship between him and Peter, as well as the even stranger dynamic that he has with Molly, that helps this be more than just "Death And The Maiden, 90210."

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Speaking of Molly Vanderlin, she's another one who I wrote the script having her in mind. She was in Yoshi's Heroes, the first full-length show I did, as the character of Daisy, who was sort of the serious, tragic character of that show. It seems strange to say, knowing Molly, who's one of the nicest, sweetest people I know, to think that one of her great strengths is that she can bring an air of tragedy to a role. When she's sad, you're sad. The whole world is sad. That said, she also has a core of playfulness, too, which seemed right for Psychos In Love. Part of who Polly is is that she's smart, yes, but also funny, and a little wiley. Of the cast, Molly's the person I've known the longest, and I know that this has been a hard role for her, not just physically, but emotionally. This show is an emotional marathon, and Molly's been called upon to cry real tears while the audience is laughing. I'll be the first to admit that there wasn't alot on the page for the character of Polly (I had more or less intended her to be the center of gravity for the audience), nor could I think of a good way to get that backstory out there with being obviously expositional. She and Kathy Lynn Sliter, the director, worked out some general backstory, but for the most part, Molly just jumps into it and claws her way out. Without an actress who's willing to do that, none of it works. Speaking of such...

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Amy Sawyers as Nyx. Holy fucking shit. Nyx was the character I wrote with no one in particular in mind, and just hoped that we could find someone who looked teenage-aged, and could play it. About a year later, I was casting the show Bash for Mercury Players, and she read for it. Although I didn't cast her (she was too young for it), in the back of my head, I instantly thought of her as Nyx. Nyx is one of those characters that can seem thankless (she has the least amount of stage time, yet the arc of the show revoles around her). The thing about that character is that she's talked about and built up to so much that the real danger is not having a performance that matches that buildup. What I wanted with Nyx was to have all this hinting and buildup, and when she finally enters, it's like we're in a WHOLE NEW PLAY. And that's what Amy brings to the table. She's got this weird intensity, and is another actress who's not afraid to take a few bullets (or, conversely, lose a few teeth) to get it right. And I love how she exits the stage after her first scene--not like she's gonna do some damage, but like she's on her way to the prom.

And, last, but not least...

Kathy, Kathy, Kathy Lynn Sliter, our director.

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The first thing I'd seen her direct was a script that I had read in advance, thinking it was seriously one of the worst scripts ever. And yet, the play was interesting, moving, touching, and emotional--pretty much all the things that the script wasn't. Usually, in theatre, the director only gets noticed if he or she is bad, or incompetant. It's just the nature of the medium. Kathy was someone who I eventually, worked with on Psychos In Love, where she acted for me, and somewhere in there, I gave her a copy of the script. She wanted to direct it, and I wanted her to. Kathy's gone from being a director I admired, to an actress I loved working with, to being my friend, to being my best friend, to being one of the most important people in my life. Part of what's kept us going on this is her determination and drive to not just push the script, but me personally as well. What she's helped to do is punch forward all of the dramatic elements, and force us to see the--of all things--humanity in the situation. She can take the horrific and make it human. (I feel a parody of "The Candyman" coming on.) Let's face it, this show would just not have happened if not for her.

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So, to everyone involved (in no particular order), Kathy, Molly, Casey, David, Amy, and Peter, thank you, thank you, thank you. This was just some random thing I wrote during a Christmas break on a dare, but you've helped make it something I'm proud to be a part of.

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Closing weekend, kiddies.

Go and do.

posted by Rob on 2:27 PM | link



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