A Higher Standard of Discovery

by Padraic Lillis · September 27, 2014


I have been thinking a lot about the value of this blog. I am interested in the discoveries made throughout the process of creating. I am interested in what someone learns about the craft of an art while they are making art. Creating theater seems to be the best way to learn about theater. I view this blog as a way to document what is being learned.

The Ashland University cast of 'In the Event of my Death' have a Facebook page that is there for them to share thoughts on their roles and the play and anything that is relevant to the process. It does not have to be right. It is not the product that they are selling to an audience. It is the process which includes inspiration, mistakes, and discoveries. The discoveries rarely happen without inspiration and mistakes. Learning rarely happens without trying something new.

I am grateful they are sharing their discoveries with us. Here are a few.

De'Andre who is playing Trevor:

"Trevor and I have really become good friends. I have been nothing but open to this characters emotional life and putting aide preconceived thoughts of how I think he feels. My thought has changed from “the character coming to me, but me going to the character” and letting the script Lindsay has constructed share who Trevor really is. Which to his core, is the spouse who lost his lover and NO ONE knows about their love and Trevor CAN’T tell anyone because it was Freddy’s wish to wait until he was ready...*SPOILER ALERT* Freddy is dead! Because Trevor threatens post pictures of the two of them on Facebook… are you catching the “Oh Snap, Shit just got real” moment, yeah. So what we have here is man ready to burst with so much hurt, remorse, and guilt that just about anything will break him down literally to the ground. So as an openly out man myself and actor this role has posed such a challenge for me (one I’m excited to have in this educational setting) because it’s so close to home for me and dealing with places I as just De’Andre do not won’t to go, but have to because well Trevor needs to get his message out!"

I love the understanding that he is not playing himself in this situation. That he is drawing from himself. That through the process of respect for the details in the character Lindsay has created and the need for the authentic story that they are telling he has a committed sense of being faithful and discoveries that are specifically about Trevor.

Natalyn, who plays Amber, shares a moment of connection that grew out of the process:

"We were sitting around the table doing lines and trying to reach the emotional connection for the beginning with Amber and Peter. Scott told me to get angry, not act it, but to truly get angry. I went into another room, and well I got pretty dang angry. After feeling that emotional life connected to the text, whoooo what a feeling. All kinds of raw emotions came out. Tears, snot, all that gross stuff. And it was AMAZING! I've had emotional connections with my character before, but never like that."

Scott's post identified their growth and commitment to the process:

"The actors are working impulsively in accordance to what is being set up inside of them. Their consentration on really achieving their intentions through precission based actions are acutely surfacing. We have an ensemble now. We speak a laguage of acting that is effective and efficiatant and it is a joy. It has come at the cost of intense concentration and a discipline to remain open to the process and above all to one another. Tonight was a dance between directing and acting and we move with a playful dramatic ease to Lindsay's words."

The Facebook page of the Ashland cast is marked private. It is for their ensemble, Lindsay, and I am grateful to be invited to join. I asked the students and Scott if I could share some of their postings from the Facebook page. They said, 'yes, that's why it's there.' Not specifically for me to share on this blog but for us to share with other artists about the process. To be clear that answer was not shared with any sense of vanity. It was about the idea of being in discussion with other artists about the process of creating. I was wondering then why is it 'private'.

Scott and I talked further about the idea of process. It has to be at a safe place. Not safe from 'judgement'. We all judge in one way or another. We are making judgements on what is more useful in the story process. It is vital to be safe from the expectation of product. The product is where we invite the audience in and share with them what we have created. Even then it is part of the process of us learning about what has been created. However, most of the time they are coming in to see what we have created through the process. Not necessarily to be a part of it.

I will write at another time about the desire for the conversation about the creation of the play and the subject of the play to expand beyond this blog, the casts of the three universities, and their audiences - but for now I am interested in the process and our relationship with you - the reader of this blog. You are part of the process. Part of the dialogue. You are listening. Baring witness to the mistakes, inspiration, and discoveries along the way. I read this quote from Sarah Ruhl in an interview with Polly Carl on HowlRound: "It’s like that physics principle, the observer effect, where the observer changes the object. I’ve seen it with really brilliant directors just by the act of their listening and watching, the actors are brought to a higher standard without them saying a word, and the notion of the brilliant dramaturg is the brilliant listener is the brilliant question-asker, it’s very hard to teach that and in a way that’s why we don’t see it as much."Your listening holds us to a higher standard with our work.

Thank you.

Talk with you soon.






More about the playwright in this article:
Thoughts on the College Collaboration: The Process and the Product
Playwright/professor Gino DiIorio was the Clark University contact for the College Collaboration Project. Here, after attending the post-project reading of the play in NYC, he reflects on the play development process used here, as well as the final product, i.e., Lindsay Joy's new play.
Day Two Clark
Padraic Lillis talks about the second performance of the Farm Project play at Clark University.
Day One at Clark
Padriac Lillis talks about seeing the first peformance of the Farm Project play by Lindsay Joy at its third stop, Clark University.