by Padraic Lillis · August 16, 2014
Today was the first day of the workshop of the College Collaboration Play. Today is the day that the collaboration began. Everyone has been working on this project in their own way but today was the day we were in the same room together. Today was thrilling. It was exactly what was envisioned when the project was first imagined. There were 14 artists in the room ready to work and share their experience with the play.
The actors: Jacob Perkins, Blake Merriman, Rachel Berger, Jessica O'Hara-Baker, Jordan Kamp, Amanda Dieli, Jamie Dunn, and Sevrin Mason are excellent. I had worked with all of them before and was excited to have them in the room. They are all experienced at working on new plays, understand the role of the actor but also are more than generous in sharing their insights and life experience that relate to the play. Also in the room from Centre College were Hayley, Mariele, Matt and Patrick. Matt I have known for many years. It was more than a pleasure to have them in the room.
First we read the play. It is a good play. It is an excellent first draft of a play. The story is about 8 people in their early twenties, 7 of them knew each other in high school, convening after the funeral of one of their classmates. Lindsay's writing is engaging, entertaining, and honest. Everyone of the characters is recognizable from our own lives and more importantly each of them are vital to the play. It was good to hear the play...that was needed so that we can then discuss the world of the play.
The discussion of the play was lively and thorough. It lasted two hours. Lindsay spoke about where she was in the process, what she heard, and the rhythm of the play. I spoke a little bit about how I felt the play was fertile for greater exploration because each character has a strong need for why they are where there are at that moment. And then Patrick spoke up, explaining that Trevor, the one gay character, was militant in his belief - and that the strength of that needed to be recognized. 'Militant' - a great word. A strong choice. And correct on the character. He then went on to speak about how all of these characters were representative of the generation just exiting and still in college. He used a great phrase that I can't fully recall - hopefully someone will share it in the comments section. This statement and appreciation for each character inspired each of us to talk about the needs of each character. What it means to stay in your home town. What it means to return. What it means to not be enough for someone. What it means to love someone. One of the things that I recognized is that all of the conversation evolved back to where the love is for each person.
All of the actors shared with great detail and passion about their thoughts regarding the play. One moment in particular that struck me was when Centre College student Mariele spoke about Trevor and that his point of view was not one of blaming Freddie for his suicide but framing in the hetero-normal societal views. This was wonderful because it reframed the thinking of the character to what was probably closer to his thinking regarding his closeted lover. And it shined a light on the issue and the thinking of Freddie and Trevor that allowed everyone in the room to have compassion and to see the love that motivated each of them, as well as, to tilt their perspective on the character. Also, there is one character that didn't attend the funeral of Freddie - and as we all spoke about why that could be or might be; Mariele, again, pointed at the specific action in the past that this character had done to Fred that would cause enough shame to keep her away. Nailing the specifics. I loved this moment in the room because it grounded the conversation in specifics and it created a way for all of us to talk about that character with empathy and appreciation. Mariele is a Centre College student who was a tad shy to jump in but when she did - she captured the room. I am excited for all of the students throughout the process to have a opportunity to work on a new play, learn their craft - but most important to me is for them to recognize the value of their voice in the collaborative process. That value was on display today.
Everyone brought their 'A' game. And everyone in the room, actor, student, directors, designers - each contributed beautifully to fueling and feeding Lindsay as she thinks about the play. Like the characters in the play - all of the voices in the room are valuable.
The discussion truly enlarged the play today. The topic of the play is important. The people in the play are needed. Loved. I am excited about the collaboration for the process of the long conversation that a play can create with a community. I am grateful that the conversation has begun.
Creating a play, a world, carries an incredible responsibility to the needs of the individuals involved. Each of them. And today we heard those needs. We respected those needs. And we know there are more to learn about them.
We ended the day talking about how the play is good and that it is clean in its structure. The exciting thing now is to let it 'sit in the mud of process' and discover where it wants to go next.
My goal with the project is multifaceted. It is to have a long conversation with a large community around and through the experience of creating a play. It is to foster community through creative collaboration. It is to educate and empower students of theater and to connect them to working artists. And it is to give an emerging playwright a full experience that will allow her to reach the next level of artistry. Today, the collaboration in the room, laid a strong foundation for Lindsay to take the step to the next level.
I am looking forward to Day 2.
Talk with you soon.