Wednesday, January 5, 2011

From Andrew Dolan (Superlab #2)

As a relatively inexperienced playwright, wrestling with play #2, I feel like a blind

prospector who struck gold with SuperLab. Smart, experienced, congenial
theatre folk giving you their know-how, facilities and $200 to boot for script
development; yeah, I’ll take that, please.

I suppose my prickly play, The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King, was a
good fit. It provokes and challenges in the downtown manner while (mostly)
portraying the articulate, uptown Chardonnay set in a naturalistic, witty manner.
Most importantly, both the Clubbed Thumb and Playwrights Horizons people
“got” it.

You’re always pressed for time in theatre. The swift, professional manner of the
casting process erased any doubts I may have had about potential conflicts
between the two institutions. Everyone on the same page. “This is good.”

The question is asked: would I like a formal reading with invited audience at the
end of the workshop? You bet. Can’t make people uncomfortable with your play
(while entertaining them, while entertaining them!) if there are no people.

The Work.

Play cast. Director (Hal Brooks) chosen. Discussions had. We settle in for a first
read. Adam and Maria share thoughts afterwards. To my surprise, Maria has
trouble with what I would characterize as the more stylistically “downtown”
ending of the play. Indeed, in the weeks preceding the lab I had toyed with
scrapping the funky ending; going for pure naturalism.

But hearing the cast read (and working on it over the 6 days) I abandon that
idea. I see Maria’s (and others’) concern: the tonal shift plays too heavy. It’s not
“earned”. I agree and decide to earn it. I set it up MORE- double down on the
conceit- working backwards to layer in hints of stylistic changes to come.

Some of these changes I integrate into the week’s work with the actors. Others
in the revision I hand the next month. The end result is both more “theatrical”
(downtown-y?) but makes for a more coherent, integrated evening of theatre.

Other improvements include significant cuts to the script along with the addition
of two direct address monologues by the two characters who previously had
none. I’m very pleased with all the changes.

If platitudes in the blogosphere constitute the quintessence of cheese then my
apologies to all. The SuperLab teams from both theatres helped improve my play
profoundly. The script is tighter, clearer and less disjointed (or rather, no longer
disjointed). On a practical level, as my agent sends it out for consideration, it’s
got the imprimatur of two of New York’s finest theatres and that can’t hurt.

I only hope, and indeed expect, that the other SuperLab playwrights had as
much good fortune as I did. My eternal gratitude to Maria, Adam, and everyone
who played along.


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