I didn’t blog yesterday because I was polishing Wind in the Willows like mad. It’s to be given to the cast on Saturday, ready to go. I should have been looking for typos, misspellings, and incorrect indentations, but couldn’t stop myself from tweaking. I tightened a line, took out a word, added a word, then took out the line, etc. At one point, cross-eyed, I thought, “I’m changing the ending. Why am I changing the ending!?” A small voice said, “Because this ending is better.”
I could find out. One of the amazing and wonderful things about living in L.A. is that actors are everywhere. They fall out of trees and into the arms of aspiring playwrights and if lured with wine and cheese and crackers, they will read their plays for them. They will read in Starbucks, in living rooms, in church basements, in recreation centers, and they help the play to change and grow.
I am grateful to all those kind people who have read first, second, and third drafts of my plays. Actors always bring something to the table and just to hear the words is so instructive. You can hear where the holes and missteps are, can hear what is overwritten, can smell the filler and the false sentiment.
The theatres that offer staged readings are invaluable. The Blank Theatre’s Living Room Series, Seedlings at Theatricum Botanicum, New Works labs, ALAP’s In Our Own Voices, Live@the Libe, to mention only a few, are worth submitting to and offer great staged readings for works in progress.
The Q. and A.s are always bracing. My play, The Last Of The Daytons, was read several times. At one reading, an audience member, another playwright, said after a long silence, “I think you’re missing a scene.” The light went on. That one comment transformed the writing for me. I added the scene and learned a lot that was new about the characters and the play took a different turn. Beautiful.
Not everybody is helpful, of course. I can always spot The Spoiler, the man or woman who comes to all the readings for the joy of cutting the playwright down.
I enjoy going to readings by other playwrights, too. It’s like going to a club to hear a fellow musician play. Here’s two coming up: The Happy Wanderer by Nancy Beverly at the Celebration Theatre, June 1 at 7:30 pm, and Sara Israel’s Bad Art at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica, June 6th at 7 pm.
Next week, the kids will start studying their parts in Wind in the Willows. Rehearsals begin after school ends and I hope to be back to share what comes next.