Monday, December 1, 2008

Baseball is Good. A Reading of "Catch" at the Blank

On Monday, November 24th, I had a reading of my "baseball" play, Catch over at the Blank, in their Living Room Series. It went really well. Surprisingly well! I was pleased.

The reason why baseball gets quotes, above, is because the play both is and isn't about baseball. It also is and isn't about child molestation. And swallows. (The bird, I mean.)

I finished writing a draft of this play a couple years ago. On my personal timeline, it was in progress around the same time as Heads. I think of it as my odd little play. It's short (for a full-length), and blows out all sense of space and time, as we follow an accountant named John through his present and past, after a breakdown that follows his testimony, as an adult, about having been molested as a child by a stranger. It's a memory play. It's got magical elements. And the large cast is never supposed to leave the stage. I started Catch in Trey Nichols' playwriting workshop, got some good help on it in Aaron Henne's playwriting workshop, then workshopped it myself at Moving Arts with a great group of actors, trying to figure out what this story wanted to be. It's the first play that I literally cut and pasted -- trying to re-create the fragmentation of PTSD.

The folks over at the Blank have been great about letting me come and play in their playground -- which they call The Living Room Series -- a developmental staged reading series that happens every single Monday night through the school year. Heads had a stage reading there (and was subsequently produced at the Blank -- yay!). They've also done readings of Song of Extinction and Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. It's nice to have a chance like this to not just hear the play, but also stage it out a little and see if the action of it works on a stage. See how it moves. See *if* it moves!

When the folks at the Blank said they'd like to include Catch in the LRS, they asked if I had any directors in mind. I have several "usual suspects" that I love to work with. But readings are always a good way to feel out a director who you haven't worked with before, to see how they cast, how they work, what kind of feedback they can give you, how they pull together a reading and whether or not you enjoy working with them. And, of course, they're doing the same sort of assessments on you. Is this playwright crazy or sane? Good or bad? Willing to work on her play, or not? Fun or boring?

I met Emilie Beck about a year ago, when Song of Extinction was a finalist for the Center Theater Group's Los Angeles-based Sherwood Awards. We corresponded, we met for coffee, and we've been trying to find a way to work together (or see if we'd like to try to work together). This seemed like a great opportunity to do so.

I was nervous about the play. The content is difficult in a different way than my usual fare. The structure is strange. There are magical characters and monologues.

Emilie pulled things together very, very nicely, though. She cast an incredible group of actors. She also asked Caitie Hannon to help out as her Assistant Director.
John: Matt McCray
Ann: Lanai Chapman
George: Jade Dornfeld
Pete: Tom Kiesche
Zach: Hugo Armstrong
Syd: Dinah Lenney
Ben: Jim Ortlieb
Sal: LeShay Tomlinson
Dale: Maia Danziger
Voice: Warren Davis

We had three rehearsals, and she managed to move my big cast around that small stage in a way that gave people a sense of the play without them running into each other. She was great with the actors and very helpful with the text (which she *got*).

I felt like the audience went with us. The actors certainly gave their all. I have a lot more faith in the play now than I did before the reading, and it was wonderful to get a director's eye on it. I was ready for that next step.

I hope I get to work with Emilie and these actors again some time!

(PS: The picture above is not from the reading. We had lots of actors on the stage, but no trained cats. That's Joe, with the softball and mitt that I bought when I was working on the play. Baseball is good.)

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