Working with Maria Striar and Adam Greenfield on a Superlab of my new play Honey Drop has been the most productive development week that I have ever participated in as a writer. New play development is difficult because there are so many factors that must be “right” in order for true development to take place. Let me track in what ways this development process was so successful.
First of all, Maria Striar knew that my first draft of Honey Drop was not ready for a Superlab. I was sure it was ready to be rehearsed and contemplated in that format but Maria thought the draft was not there yet. Maria and I have worked together for many years, and we have recently been discussing my tendency to underwrite plays. Coming from a “less is more” approach, I often leave so much out of a play that the story does not get fully told and the audience is left wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way. So the first component in effective development of new plays is knowing when is the most beneficial time to be in a rehearsal room with actors and a director. I was sure Honey Drop was ready for a Superlab, but Maria could see it needed more time in the hopper. So I wrote more and a few months later I resubmitted the play to Maria and Adam. Both Adam and Maria decided the new draft was in a place that was ready for an intensive, collaborative, feedback oriented process.
The second effective practice that Superlab did so well is the ability to match the writer with a director who is experienced in new play development and who is the right aesthetic match for the play. In order to find the right director, Maria, Adam and I engaged in a conversation regarding my goals for the piece, the rehearsal approach that might best suit those goals, and they asked me to brainstorm what directors I had worked with in the past or what new directors I might be interested in forging a new relationship with. Maria, Adam and I were all interested in the work of May Adrales and we all felt she was the best director to work with on this project. Even though May has had a very busy season, she read the play in one sitting and emotionally connected with it right away. May and I had a long, very productive meeting where we discussed goals for the play. I expressed my fears about what parts of the play were pat or cliché, and she discussed the way she felt the play was emotionally true and places for further exploration. Like all good directors, she asked great questions and she listened intently to my answers.