A Staged Reading

by Cynthia Wands

Wands_16_Shakespeares Understanding of Madness I







In December of this past year, I was given the chance to hear my script, THE LOST YEARS, in a staged reading at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre up in the Bay Area.  The finished script had never been heard, although there had been three readings of the piece in development. And let’s just say that it had been a long time since I had heard the voices of these characters, and I was excited and anxious to be able to hear them again.  Marilyn Langbehn, who directed the reading, is the Artistic Director at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre, and also works with the California Shakespeare Theater. I’ve known Marilyn for many years – and was very happy to have her helm the reading.

I was anxious because I was going to hear the script read out loud by actors I didn’t know (up until this point I’d been involved in the casting/rehearsal/sounds of every actor who had read the script); I was nervous because friends/actresses/kindred spirits were driving over to listen to the reading; I was also fraught that although my loving brother and his wife were coming, my partner, Eric couldn’t be there, (and he has had to live through the development of this script for some time now) and I was blue about that.  I was also back in the land of Berkeley, where I no longer live, although I had fallen in love there and performed there, it isn’t my home base any longer, and that was rather disorienting.  And I wasn’t sure what I would get out of a one night reading:  what if I hated it, or discovered that I needed to rewrite it entirely from another point of view, or – what if.  And then fortune and fate interceded, and my twin sister flew in from New York to come to the reading.  She found us a wonderful place to stay, took me out to dinner with dear friends, and jollied me along.  And, when I came down with a migraine the day before the reading, she tended to me so I could rally and manage it.  So I will say that I was given incredible support to experience the reading, and it went by in an instant.

One moment I was sitting by my friend Ellen at the theatre listening to the script being read out loud by six actors, and then we were out having a beer with some of the friends and family afterwards, and it was done.  That astonished me: that disconnect with time and place had sometimes happened to me in and after performances on stage – I didn’t know it could happen to playwrights.

It was magical to hear the laughter, and the knowing nods from the audience during the reading, and I struggled with some of the – missing bits – that some of the exchanges in the script needed.  But the play itself held up well, and I was so happy to hear those voices again. I was really heartened by some of the characters revelations that I hadn’t seen before, and was able to witness in a reading by the generosity of those that put the reading together.

So, yes.  It was absolutely worth the nerves, and the apprehension and the helplessness I felt in watching those words come to life.  In the mean time, I’ve been able to fine tune the parts of the last scene, and make some minor edits along the way.  It was a wonderful night that gave me a lot of impetus to go another step.

Wands_16_Shakespeares Understanding of Madness III








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