On the plane ride home, I was trying to understand why this particular workshop had been so successful compared to others. And as I sit on my couch, I'm also trying to understand why I feel the need to blog about this (particularly at this moment when I should be preparing for a meeting that starts in 45 minutes). Returning to the first thought, for one thing, our work was hyper focused. For three days, we worked on the final scene of the play (also the most difficult), which is roughly 12 pages. We examined text, we shared research, John made these amazing mock-up projection designs that we played with in the space. That was it. There was no final presentation. We never looked at any other pages in the play. And between rehearsal times, I spend a lot of time with John (also based in NYC) and Chip, a KC local, talking about the world of the play and all the possibilities. We also talked about the world we're living in from the frightening fires in L.A. to #metoo to the She's Gotta Have It reboot and none of it felt like time wasted.
Following the three-day exploration, we had auditions for the production, which were productive and even led to more discussion about the play; from Chip giving the actors direction, we discovered things we want to see from certain scenes when we get into rehearsal. My last day in town, I got to spend a little more time with some of the KC Rep staff including Marissa Wolf, Director of New Works/Artistic Associate and Nathan Louis Jackson, KC Rep's Playwright-in-Residence (both kick-ass humans) while eating way too many holiday-themed desserts. As I was leaving, Marissa said something interesting to me: she thanked me for embracing their community. This touched me. But that wouldn't have been possible if the community hadn't been SO welcoming and generous. I know that generosity is complicated in the field of theatre. In our capitalist-governed society, scarcity is what we have in abundance; there are only so many opportunities to go around and people will pop in and out of our lives as they hop from gig to gig, so I understand the default instinct to keep everyone at a safe distance. Nonetheless, magical things can happen when we're more open. I've seen such magic at New Dramatists—one of the most welcoming organizations I've ever had the fortune to be a part of, including the Girl Scouts. We started brewing some magic last week in KC.
A few years ago, I thought I was finished pursuing a career as a playwright. I had a lot of reasons, but a particularly harrowing development experience clinched it for me. A few weeks after I made this decision, positivity somehow intervened and I realized, "I don't hate everything about being playwright. But I do hate development for the sake of development." And I arrived at a far better judgment: no more development for the sake of development. Simple. If I workshop a play, it's because a theatre has already committed to producing it (or they've convinced me that they are seriously considering producing it) or it will be with New Dramatists, where I'm not only trying to improve a script, but cultivating autonomy over my work, aesthetic, and career. Ergo development with clear intentions.
So I guess it's not so mysterious why I'm calling last week's work a "Workshop w/an Exclamation Point! Not a period." Kansas City Rep has already committed to producing the play, our work was microscope-level focused, and I was surrounded by a supportive community that's just as excited to put this show up as I am. And wasn't afraid to express it. I felt an immediate warmth toward the play and me upon arriving and that foundation only made the work better, What we accomplished in three days, far exceeded my expectations. Huge gratitude to Artistic Director Eric Rosen and Marissa for giving us the time and space to play!
When building something together with collaborators, why not be welcoming? Why not be generous? Hell, why not be exuberant? It can't possibly hurt the process. It might even propel you further than you thought you could go.
If you'll be in or near Kansas City this spring, come out and support the Origin KC Festival!