Tag Archives: CAKE productions

Piece of CAKE

I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous to see my show Thursday night at the 4th St. Theatre at the New York Theatre Workshop.  I think it’s to do with the fact that it was a completely new experience for me and my little playwright brain couldn’t grasp the reality of it all- aside from the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway festival I had participated in 4 years ago, this was my first production in NY… and it was completely different and amazing for a whole-exciting-bunch of all new reasons.

But when I walked into the theatre, I was greeted by a voiceless director who was exhausted from the last minute tech-insanity, but who also seemed really happy with the work… so I settled in, took a breath, and let go.

And it was wonderful!

The play began with an entirely different interpretation of the first scene than I’d imagined (there was dancing and shadow play!) and it completely surprised me – but in a really great way.  You see, I’d written this play to be interpreted and designed – The text is the text is the text, but the staging and design of the play are not strongly indicated, so a director/design team can (and should) have fun manifesting the metaphorical nature of the events of the play… which of course runs the risk of someone getting a little too auteurish with the script, which in turn might make me cringe someday, but the fact is that I like writing for designers and directors and actors.  I like giving them a jumping off point – dialogue, plot, a lot of visual challenges, and room to stretch their creative wings.

And I really loved the design that CAKE Productions and their director, Paul Urcioli, created.

The set was all white, the back wall moved as we dove deeper and deeper into Jane’s nightmare, the many doors provided funny and poignant entrances and exits, and the lighting was really cool.

And the actors were amazing.

Having seen the show twice before in LA, I was prepared for the embraced wackiness of the play, but the actors and direction in this production actually grounded the play more than I’d seen before and it brought a wonderfully genuine gravity to the play.  The play leans to the absurd, but Jane’s crisis is a very real problem… the humor and pathos was really well-balanced in this production, and it drove the plays meaning all the way home – at least I thought so.

And I enjoyed the surprises – having worked on the play for so long, I’m very familiar with the text, but hearing it aloud again after the 4 years since the last production was a treat because I had done some rewrites.  There were a few places I had honestly forgotten that I’d rewritten, so I found myself leaning in a bit more and being surprised by my own work.  Then there were a few places where the director’s choices changed the way a scene or moment played and I thought “Wow – that was totally not how I’d imagined it/seen it done before!” but in a really interesting and purposeful way that served the play well.

I walked out of the theatre feeling like a proud and honored playwright, like I’d just been to the interior of my play – past my own expectations and further into the world of Jane Doe.

And I can’t wait to see it again tonight.



Control Freak

Of all the readings and workshops that In the Company of Jane Doe  has had over the years, this – my first NY production – is the first one I haven’t been able to help rehearse.  On one hand, it’s kind of exciting because it will be a completely new experience for me to walk into a space and see the play done based solely on someone else’s interpretation of what’s on the page (and a few email clarifications between myself and the producer).  On the other hand, it’s kind of terrifying to think that I will walk into a space and see the play done based solely on someone else’s interpretation of what’s on the page (and only a few email clarifications between myself and the producer).

It’s been a healthy challenge in learning to “let go”…

It’s been a healthy challenge in learning to respond to notes and questions coming from people meeting the play for the first time as well.

I don’t even remember sending the play to CAKE productions two (or was it three now?) years ago.  Apparently they had posted a call for female-focus plays and I had sent them Jane Doe.  They received so many submissions from that call that they  simply read till they found something they liked, produced it, and then went back to the pile of unread scripts for year two.  When they called me to ask if they could do a reading of the play, I was surprised (as I confessed, I didn’t remember sending them the script) and I was also over the moon excited.  When, after the reading, they said they’d like to produce it, I was over the moon again.

But when they asked me if I would take some script notes, I crash-landed at my desk and began to sweat like a mother-f***er.

My neurotic Playwright Brain began to torture me with panic:  What if I don’t agree with their notes?  Will they not do it?  What if I can’t fix the hiccups they’ve identified?  Will they not do it?   What if I make all the changes and it makes the play worse?  Will they not do it?  And even worse-   Do I even know how to write plays???  What if all this panic leaches into my brain and erases everything I’ve learned and I just sit here at my desk like a cucumber, staring blankly at the screen and thinking horribly blank vegetable-like thoughts…

Every email they sent, I sweated over, so dreadfully afraid was I that they were going to change their mind at any second and this super-cool-awesome-can’t believe-I’m-going-up-in-NY reality would dissolve into “Too bad, so sad, and bye bye Tiff!”

But only a few of those emails had notes –  really good notes – notes that challenged me to look at this thing I’d written at the start of my playwriting career and tighten it up with tools from my “7 years later” tool box.

So I wrangled the notes – I didn’t turn into a cucumber – and CAKE took the play into rehearsal.

They sent me a few more “Can we cut this, Can you write a bit more of that” emails that I listened to and worried over – it was really hard not being in the room and hearing these beats skip in the way they said –  but all in all, I had to trust them and trust myself, and negotiate my own view of the play with what they were hammering out in rehearsals in regards to which changes needed to be made and which did not.

It was a crazy new experience… and one I hope I managed well.  I guess I’ll know when I see the play on Thursday!

But all in all, this new step of “playwriting from the opposite coast” brought with it a lot by way of learning to let go, and just trusting in the play – quite a feat for an self-admitted control freak.