This is my second play as a cohort. One fear I had of being a cohort would be that if I looked behind the scenes and got to see how the magic is made, I might not enjoy the magic as much.
Good news. When I saw Going to See the Kid I truly enjoyed the play as a plain old subscriber and fully enjoyed the experience. The play was great. I enjoyed the talent of the cast – especially Veronika since I watched her putting together characters for 45 Plays for 45 Presidents.
And onto the 2 weeks of Making of a Great Moment so far. That is a very short time and the first preview is less than a week away.
I showed up for the first day. Around the table were Sean, the playwright Peter, Danny the actor, and Casey of Stage Management. I was actually introduced which didn’t happen for the first play. But I was the first cohort to arrive apparently and Sean explained us to Danny and Peter.
On this first day, Sean, Peter, and Danny are going through the script at a table with nothing but the script and without Aysan, the other half of the cast, to become familiar with the play and to learn how it should be played. Before this, Sean, Aysan, Danny, and Peter met in San Francisco and Abu Dabi to work on ideas for the play which Peter is writing explicitly for Aysan and Danny. So now there is a real script and a real production to put on. I loved seeing the questions about how to play the role – is a line serious or sarcastic? What is the motivation? What is the character really thinking and conveying? Danny reads some lines one way and then another and they all decide.
The question that kept (and keeps) crossing my mind is who is in control? The script is written by Peter and it seems he has the ultimate control of that, but it is such a mutual collaboration of playwright, director, and actor. It seems each one at some point is leading the process of creation.
As an audience member who has only worked on a couple of plays in high school decades ago I expect a play to be a set thing from a playwright. A playwright’s creation which actors play out what is intended and the director makes it all happen. The play exists and is brought to life. I picture a playwright sitting alone creating a script and later someone picks it up to act it out.
But here, the actors and director have participated from early on in the creation. The play isn’t fixed on paper to be acted out. The creation is still taking place – very cool.
I return a couple of days later. Aysan has arrived and the actors are on the rehearsal floor with scripts in hand. Positions are worked out. Some props are there and of course the bicycles. But it’s minimal. Oh and Peter wasn’t there. I thought to myself he has polished it off and done, but Sean tells me he is in his apartment rewriting, adding, deleting, changing scenes. So here we are, 2 weeks to the first preview, and the play is being changed. This amazes me – how can all the details be worked out – where to be, how do props and scenery work, what are the lines, what are the characters doing and what’s going on – and it’s all changing.
There’s a lot of talent clearly to make that happen. To play with options so quickly and creatively, to chose a way to go, and for Danny and Aysan to have that instantly nailed down and to be able to repeat it. That’s 104 pages of a script for them to memorize all those lines. That’s 104 pages of script to remember all the inflections and expressions and where to be and how to interact. I am amazed they can change that so quickly and it sticks. Me, I can’t remember why I walked onto the room and what was I came for….
And this will all happen in two and a half weeks? Oh and Christmas and New Year’s are in the middle of this. Cross country flights for a 3 day Christmas break. So, subtract that from the 2.5 weeks. Add the jetlag…
In the week before Christmas a lot has been worked out, but Danny and Aysan are still working with scripts in hand. A week and a half to preview 1.
So now Tuesday back from Christmas and a couple of other days of the week I get to visit. Things are jelling, but scripts are still in hand. I have faith that it will all work out. Tech is to happen on the weekend. A glorious New Year’s Eve/Day working 11AM to 11PM. That’s a lot of hard work and dedication.
One of the things I have truly enjoyed is sitting near Peter during rehearsal. He is very easy to talk to and shares what it’s like and the writing process. It takes a long time for a script to come together which doesn’t surprise me. And then it’s a completely different pace to come together and lift it off the page and onto the stage. Peter is great at collaboration. There was only one time I saw him interject to clarify his intent in some lines. Otherwise it has been questions and collaborations to determine what will be.
I truly thank Sean for having us cohorts. It’s a real privilege and joy to watch this creative process.
Oh, the scary thing this time? Well, on day one Danny and Peter were discussing if a line was funny as Danny had read it. And Danny says, pointing behind him to me, “well this guy laughed”. Oops, I thought we were just observers… Don’t trust my sense of humor…
-Geoff Bryant, Cohort
The Making of a Great Moment runs January 4 – 29