by Padraic Lillis · July 22, 2014
Late in the evening of July 15th I received the first draft of Lindsay's play for the college collaboration project. I didn't read it at first. I don't know why. I liked that it was in my inbox. I was excited to share it with three other schools. It was like a gift that was wrapped and waiting to be opened by others - waiting for their joy and excitement. Or at least I hoped the script would bring joy. This project, it is my first time commissioning something, has been exciting for all of the opportunities it creates. All of the possibilities. And I have enjoyed that part of the process tremendously.
The commission process is truly about creating opportunity. Opportunity for the playwright. And in this case, opportunity for the schools.
The moment I started to read the play the process shifted. This was now moving from theoretical to real. The characters are alive and their lives are important. The world is rich and full and wanting to be realized. The first half of the script is really strong. The second half, like many first drafts, needs some time to mature. And it will. It has time to do that. This process is about giving the play the time and attention it needs for maturation. However, as I began to read the play my mind shifted to dramaturgy. And casting of the workshop. And the practical directorial things that I do with a script. It was still interesting but it became smaller. My job became smaller. I was reverting back into a role I have done before. Director of a new script. I enjoy that role. I'm comfortable in that role. But the excitement of this process has been involving many voices into the process.
The day after I read it, I spoke with Scott Hudson about the play. He had shared the play with the department at Ashland University and they were excited. Yes, everyone agrees the play needs work. And everyone is excited to watch the play evolve. Mostly they were excited because they could see that this playwright has a unique voice and has captured an issue that is so close to the lives of their students. At the school they have already begun discussions of setting up partnerships with counselors around the issue of the play. They are excited to begin using the play as a prompt for a larger dialogue with their community. This is what's thrilling. The larger discussion of theater. The reach a play has beyond the entertainment of one night's audience. It is the inclusion of each artist in the development process as well as the conversation with each collaborator, audience, and community member during the birth of the play.
I am looking forward to meeting with Lindsay and discussing the play. I am excited to cast the August workshop. That work will happen as diligently and specifically as it has happened in many processes before. However, the conversation with Scott reminded me that entering the process of development of the script does not limit the conversation and engagement. It gives it focus.
At all points the play will be the center of the focus. And the playwright's need for developing that work. However, this process, including this blog, The Farm Report, is about a larger discussion. And a longer discussion around the development of a play.
The next step of the process is to make sure in the room of the workshop are many supportive, diverse, engaged minds. Faculty members and students from each school will be in the room , as well as, talented thoughtful actors, and designers who want to discuss the play. It is a conversation the play will be prompting for the next nine months. And that is thrilling.
Thank you to all of you for being part of the conversation.
Congratulations Lindsay on a first draft!