Playing in TheatreWork’s New Works Festival

Okay, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s jump right in!

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Chairs. Stands. Lights. And voice. If you’ve been following this blog for some time you’ll know that I do my best to promote new work on stage. And new work often comes in various forms, and one of them are stage readings. If I’ve done a good enough job curating my blog, then this link should give you access to every stage reading post.

It might be worth noting that at the time this opportunity found me, I was HUNGRY for this. It’d been some time since I worked with other theatre artists in this capacity. So what opportunity presents itself so deliciously? The TheatreWork’s New Work Festival. I worked at TW for a couple of years and was never able to directly work in the festival.  2016, different story. I’m in it! And I took my role as Stage Directions Reader very seriously- I was, after all, helping tell a story.

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This year’s line up was banging! I’ll spare you any “You-had-to-be-there” stories, or any in-depth regaling of each show because frankly, I don’t trust my economy of words to keep this entry concise. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least share with you the shows and their playwrights:

So I landed in ARCHDUKE. And it was close to what I’d imaged a frenetic play creating atmosphere to be. Day 1 (and the other days come to think of it) consisted of coffee, pastries, and fresh pages. And lo! Only three scenes! It’s a two act play and we’ve got three scenes (to be fair, an entire draft had been scraped for a brand new take). EXCITING! In my mind I recalled scenes from the movie Radioland Murders (minus the murderizing); Fresh pages being written and handed out as we reached the end of the last scene(s). EXCITING!

I cannot express enough how lucky I felt being in a room surrounded by incredible talent and artistic pedigree. AND WARMTH! I’m exactly where I needed to be, and at exactly when I needed to be. BLESS.

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The ARCHDUKE team. Top L-R: Rolf Saxon, Stephen Stocking, Giovanna Sardelli, Rajiv Joseph, Jimmy Mason, Jennifer Le Blanc. Bottom L-R: Nina McMurtrie, Josh Schell, Remi Sandry, Tasi Alabastro, Len Reinhart

The festival schedule afforded us a few days of rehearsal before our first presentation slot. No time wasted! We rolled through pages, scenes, and finally an Act. Rinse, repeat, flesh out specificities. One question really helped guide each rehearsal: “What story are we telling here?”

The question lingered and followed me home. It swirled in my mind on the train ride home. It jounced around my brain space as I navigated through the late evening commuting crowds. You see, the start of the rehearsal block gently overlapped a post-breakup self-care binge and recovery. It’s like I’d repaired a broken mirror, setting the last shard back in place- but now I’ve got an image that isn’t fully me. I desperately wanted to tell myself the story of my experience, so I could hear it as I’ve processed it. I’ve always known art to heal, and like medicine, some types are just better at doing it than others. In my case, time in rehearsal/stage has always expedited a healing process.

Whoa, I digressed like a boss.
Right, let’s get back on track.

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In between all of the festival happenings, TheatreWorks supported their cast and creatives in a lot of wonderful ways. Between the accommodating rides to the train station from staff and the swag bags, they also threw two key events: A cast and creatives get together party, and It’s-It Ice Cream Day! I can’t think of the last time I saw so many familiar faces in the theatre community outside of the Theatre Bay Area Conferences, but boy, I was in good company for sure. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also kept in mind the many outstanding members of the community who were not at the event. To them I also raise my ice cream sandwich.

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Our first performance (sold out!) was a high! The anticipation was palpable. And when we were handed the end of the play during tech, well, the experience felt complete. LOVE IT! Watching everyone kick into higher gear and make bold choices, with the help of the “What story are we telling here” beacon, was a memorable observation. It’s one thing to be in a full production, and have weeks of rehearsal, it’s another to be ready to act out on a cold read. But what am I saying, they’re professionals. Wait, we’re professionals. And it was a thing of beauty.

By second (and final) performance, we had the full script, had a few days of additional rehearsals under our belt an—and then we get ten new pages. HOT DAMN, I’m loving this! I can’t say enough about how effortlessly Rajiv made creating these words live in the story. We took them, and ran with them. And the audience reception was, from my point of view, overwhelmingly positive. GO TEAM!

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The pretty much sums up an aspect of my experience. What am I omitting? The specifics of the work. The lunch break bantering and bonding. My thoughts on the other shows in the festival (which were spectacular). The new people I met. The spirit of championing new work. …yeah. Lots.

If you happened to have attended the festival, what did you think of the shows? What was your favorite part?

If you’re new to the blog, or a returning (and curious) reader, don’t forget, you can subscribe via email and you’ll never miss a post!

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