Playwright and Orange County Playwrights Alliance director, Eric Eberwein, encouraged me to direct the Orange County Playwrights Alliance “OCPA Studios” informal reading of my play Water Closet at the Hunger Artists on May 26th. Eric had participated in many a read and discussion over my dining room table as the play developed over the last two years, and apparently, liked what he heard and saw.
Now I have been fortunate upon several occasions over the last two years to hear a different cadre of talented actors bring the roles of “Mary”, “Oma”, “Philip” and “David” to life. However, that I will forever hold a special place in my heart for the last group of actors, does not take away one iota of sincere appreciation and genuine awe for the abilities of the others, and for the directors who brought them together.
Yet, this reading for OCPA Studios was an entirely different experience for me, and it was because I directed it.
This Directing Thing
I accepted Eric’s suggestion to direct and decided early that I had two choices: 1) Totally freak out or, 2) Not freak out, because the facts are, no matter whether I freaked or not, everything works out in the end.
So, I took my road less traveled; I didn’t freak. Rather, as I observed when I couldn’t cast the piece until the week before the reading, I stayed cool. In fact, I never met the highly-recommended actress who played the lead role of “Mary”, until she showed up at my home three days before the reading for the first read-thru.
Wondrously, Actress Jennifer Pearce was exactly who I saw and heard in my head when I wrote the piece, from her natural beauty to the facility in which she modulated her vocal inflections, and to how she was able to work the punctuation I slave over.
I cast and lost and then recast my narrator, Eric Eberwein, as “Philip”, and his performance took me completely by surprise. With only one rehearsal, he was able to nail the character, who is a sort of rangy, likeable rogue, an academic, who everybody likes, but after meeting, feels like they need a shower.
“Oma” was played with great beauty and exceptional emotional power by playwright and actress Lorin Howard. It was an honor to direct her.
I first met Felipe Leon when he read “David” last January at the Fullerton College Playwright’s Festival, where Water Closet received a workshop and staged reading. Felipe had been directed to play the role with a sort of “Rico Suave”-flair. Yet, Felipe had the ability to make a complete about-face once he realized through two rehearsals and discussions that “David” is totally sincere about his love for “Mary’s words”, as the dialogue suggests, but without ambition; a true artist.
This directing thing? I highly recommend it to any playwright developing a new work. I may never go back. But more about that tomorrow…