Today is our run through for designers. We’re working in the performance space. There’s so much to do just to prepare for the run-through and I’ve been busy. Not sleeping much. I did an update on my website this week about Tiger and it got me thinking more about the evolution of the show.
Sam, Gaby and I have been working together on this thing off and on for almost three years now. We started in the Fall of 2010. People have described the play as “deeply personal” and I think that’s why. All three of us have had our head in this game for a very long time. We go off and do other projects, then come back to this with new knowledge and deeper perspective.
We’ve expanded our team with designers and, of course, Vincent. The next month will be a blur. But I still completely love the rehearsal process. I went to Home Depot at 11:30pm last night to get the right kind of rope for a rehearsal prop today. Seriously, who gets to do stuff like that but theater people?
FleshEatingTiger at Highways Performance Space
Director in LA. Playwright in Chicago. Yeah, this was one of those. But both were very nice and very funny. Which I guess is a good sign since the play is a comedy. But that fun kind of Colbert-comedy that takes a few jabs at our American-ishness.
Haven’t seen this one yet but I hear it’s getting rave reviews.
LA STAGE Times article on The North Plan at The Elephant
It’s so important to bring new eyes to something you think you know. Even if those new eyes are getting it wrong. There is always something they are getting right. And if you let go and let the noise of the responses sift through a filter, you really can learn a few things. And you can get better at writing.
We’ve been meeting with designers on FleshEatingTiger and I love to hear where a first read-through of a script takes them. Only one of the designers has seen the show in its original form. So most are coming at it purely from reading the script. Some of them already have images and moods they feel inspired to create. They have scenes they love and good questions I’d never thought to ask.
It seems obvious. But when you’re in the early stages of rehearsal, it’s easy to forget how much the minds of designers will bring to the table. They are all off working now. We will be seeing what they come up with soon. And then we tweak and adjust and make it all work together.
No. Now THIS is the best part.
Tickets for TIGER at Highways
I drove out to Rancho Cucamonga to be a fly on the wall for this show’s design presentations at the first rehearsal. The drive took about 20 minutes longer than I had planned (WITH extra time). But I got there just before things got started.
It was really fun to sit in the rehearsal room and learn the design concepts along with the actors. Then I took the design team and director outside for quick interview. It was like having all the fun of that first rehearsal day without the stress of tech week a few weeks later.
LA STAGE Times article on The Phantom Tollbooth
Tom Cruise was in my dream this morning. No, not like that. I never got into Tom Cruise. I was more into (young) Harrison Ford and Matt Damon. Ewan McGregor. Can’t really explain it.
Tom Cruise was in my dream and we were working on something. And he was SUCH A NICE GUY. And I remember in the dream feeling bad about thinking he’s some crazy Scientologist. Because he was SO NICE. We were visiting a set for a project and the color was was all wrong.
He picked up a paint brush and started showing the scenic designers how to mix the blue with something to make it shinier and more blue. And then he said we should paint the door orange not red. He was this crazy color expert. But he was dressed in all black.
As we were leaving to go to another meeting I told him I couldn’t wait to see his new film. (I was kinda being nice…because he was being so nice.) He stopped and sighed heavily, like he was lost in thought a moment. Then he said, “Don’t bother. I’m really not very happy with it. Wait until the next one.”
I’m writing in the middle of the night to post sometime tomorrow because I have 10 thousand things to do. I envy “real” people with Saturdays, set aside for sleeping in and getting the car detailed.
But how can I be anything but thrilled? We had a rehearsal today/yesterday that was so spectacular, so enlightening about the characters and the script…the director called me tonight and we were giddy talking about it.
How do we bottle it? How do we transfer the magic of the laboratory into the public exhibition of performance?
My play is hard. The more we work on it, the more I realize this. It has a strong through line, but it has only key chronological moments. And they aren’t all based in reality. Each scene demands the actors drop everything from the scene before but also keep a sense of continuity. I can only explain it as an emotional logic to the story. The actors get it. And thanks to a director who drills down and doesn’t settle…each scene is becoming razor sharp.
We’ve started design meetings. The circle widens. The trust grows and the creative energy builds all over again. I do envy those people who have their Saturdays. But I wonder if they’ve ever felt something like this — something that can feel closer than a found family. It’s the project that binds us together. It delights us as we sit in traffic.
It’s why theater will never truly die. No matter what anyone says.
Tickets for FleshEatingTiger are on sale now at Highways
I recently went to Seattle where I was able to spend about 4 days completely focused on my play WhiteDevil-LovingMother. This is a play I’ve had around for a while. I’d work on it, then put it down for several months. It takes place in 1890s San Francisco. Research on the time and place was imperative. The story is inspired by a real person but I’ve completely made up the story I’m telling.
When you write plays everything becomes a challenge to really hear it. You spend so much time writing by yourself and figuring out how you think it will work. But eventually you need actors to read the parts. You need a director, dramaturg or second party of some kind to help dissect what you’ve done. Then eventually you need to stage the thing.
In film and TV you’re writing a script that can feel completely self-contained. You write in the images that help convey the story. (And a director is going to come in and change a bunch of it anyway.) And in TV you’re in each scene late and out early. You’re constantly economizing without sacrificing character.
But in plays you want to create something that will stand the test of time. You want the words, the poetry, the structure, the characters — you want it all to exist on the page perfectly. Plays are meant to be performed exactly as written. You can’t fix it in post. You can’t CGI the monster or the blood or ADR the dialog in the final key scene.
It takes focused time. It takes people. It takes a process. It was awesome to have these things for a few days in Seattle. My play made some leaps thanks to the talented actors and an intelligent, insightful director. And now I’m back with more writing work to be done.