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Keyword: ‘Brian Zoldessy’

Building the Play: Beginnings

January 4th, 2011 No comments

So, I’m always harping on Clyde at convergence to use the blog that was set-up to provide patrons an inside view of how a play is staged: from the selection, to the dramaturgy, to the actual decisions made leading to production and even a section maintained by the actors who describe their experience. This is a long way about saying that I need to put my money where my mouth is and do the same thing for my own production.

My thesis play, Patterns, is being put up at CPT. It will be staged three times on March 11, 12, and 13. Information available online at CPT. Enough of the commercial plugs. This process is exciting because it supports a vision of playwriting education that moves beyond the classroom and into the “real world”. It is a process that requires a vision to support it and the students in the NEOMFA program are fortunate to have the support of both Mike Geither, at CSU, and Raymond Bobgan, and CPT. Mike has been a strong advocate for playwrights in the NEOMFA program and has strengthened the relationship of the playwright with the local theater community, including my own staged production at convergence-continuum in 2008. I know that Mike envisions even more of these relationships as the program matures and as time goes on and partnerships emerge such as that between CSU, the Cleveland Playhouse, and Playhouse Square.

Patterns is one of three plays in what is being branded as the NEOMFA Playwrights Festival and it will provide a nice closure to my MFA experience. My two fellow playwrights: Michael Parsons and Jennifer Willoh will be staged in succeeding weekends.

During the first group production meeting it was explained that the model for the festival was Big [BOX] +; Big BOX is happening right now at CPT and I strongly encourage people to attend. The plus (+) as explained to me includes the fact that CPT is paying actors, hosting the audition process, and providing the space for rehearsals. Additional resources are being provided regarding production costs but it has been unclear to me what those are at this time.

Patterns is being directed by Brian Zoldessy, who so far has been a great person to work with. I googled Brian and learned about his extensive career on the local theater scene as well as his rather harrowing experience with a kidney transplant a few years back; which makes his contribution and work on this project all the more amazing.

I was hesitant, at first, as I’m sure he was, as it is always difficult to define the playwright/director relationship, especially when you have never worked with a person. My experience has been limited to working with one student director (Drew Kopas) and one professional director (Clyde Simon); so expanding the portfolio of directorial relationships came with reservations and concerns. Again, Brian has been great and demonstrated his commitment to the project when we met at the Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland Heights and he broke out chess pieces, diagrams, and sticky notes to demonstrate how he saw characters moving in the three dimensional space of the stage. Brian discussed configurations of the space, movement of characters within the space, concerns over where characters would be when not active in the space, and so on. Needless to say, it was a productive meeting and gave me confidence that the director was both interested and concerned about the play. It was interesting to listen also to Brian’s interest in teaching the audience to see the play based on certain light cues (which I included in the script) as well as audio cues, which I did not. Other things of interest included subtle things like the color coordination of hair of actors (related characters) in the play, and so forth. That is, Brian had not only become familiar with the play, but was crafting a vision of his own for the play. That is both delightful and challenging, as I must remind myself that theater is a participatory art form in which many people have role and that the director’s vision is just as important as the playwrights.

Soon after that meeting, I went home and examined the actors required for the characters in the play (I have 21 characters distributed across 7 actors) and looked again at the timing of their presence on stage, and set along my character breakdown as well as my description of the play:

What do you author and what authors you? One young woman’s life is explored via the metatheatrical act of play creation. By combining myth, fairy tale, personal history, dress making and play making, layers of conscious reality are laid bare and meaning in one woman’s life is prodded, crucified, drawn and quartered, and reconstructed again and again and again.

I look forward to upcoming meetings and will post more as we move along.

Rehearsal Reports

February 9th, 2011 No comments

So for the rehearsal updates I am taking advantage of the very fine work that Jarod Witkowski is doing with the rehearsal reports. I have removed some content that is not generally necessary (such as attendance and theater specific requests). The full report is at the bottom of the post.

Jarod is a fellow playwright in the NEOMFA program and was drafted into working on the playwright festival by Mike Geither as a part of the formative learning process of play production. Jarod is the stage manager for Patterns and is not even getting credit (formal credit) for it; though he’s putting in some serious hours. Additionally, Jarod fills in and reads parts when actors cannot be present. I know he’s proving to be highly valuable to Zoldessy in this process and I certainly respect what he’s doing. He also brought me some Zywiec from Chicago last time he was there, which makes him mighty fine in my book.

During the first full rehearsal (not reading) Zoldessy blocked the first 11 pages of the script. Blocking is the process of articulating how and where actors move in the space and what the actor will be doing at any given point in time. Blocking is always an issue, but it is especially so with a new play, where no template exists for how the thing has been done previously. Obviously, blocking is one of the more important pieces of getting the play up, as actors spend most of their time in motion or speaking. It wasn’t until this process began formally with Patterns that I recognized just how important. In this play there are 7 actors. Excepting one scene in the play, all actors are never on stage at the same time. This begs the rather obvious question: what are the actors doing when they aren’t “on stage”. This is a perceptive question that Geither asked me right off the bat. I admit that I did not understand the full implications of the question until blocking work started.

For instance, taking the most lame-o scenario imaginable: when two actors are “on stage” (I am using that term loosely to mean ‘doing something’ to garner the direct and immediate attention of the audience) the other five actors could be sitting on chairs at the back. (Which is exactly what my lame directorial imagination called up when writing the piece–largely because that was not the focus of my attention.) So, again, two actors acting, five actors sitting. This isn’t so much of a deal until you realize that five people sitting on chairs doing nothing can draw attention. But worse, one of five actors doing anything other than sitting can draw attention, too. So, there’s the discussion of whether or not the actors should “be in character” the whole time they’re sitting. This raises new questions for a play like mine in which actors portray multiple characters.

I brought a video camera and a TV we don’t use around the house. Jared Bendis lent me an Edirol video mixer to run multiple camera sources into one tv output; so, I will be playing with this. The camera is another important piece of the equation which must be mixed in to the blocking and the general timing of events to ensure that it is a part of the flow of the performance and not just a clunky add-on.

Rehearsals right now are in the East Storefront at CPT because the Levin is booked solid with Black Box through March 6. This poses problems of its own which are not uncommon to productions: you rehearse somewhere other than where you will perform. This means that on March 7, when we do get access to the space for Tech Week, the actors will have 4 days to get acclimated to the actual performance space. Unfortunately, these 4 days will not just be acclimation, they also represent time that must be spent testing light positions, light changes, special lighting effects, sound cues, video: in short, the mind will be under assault from a variety of directions and it will take serious focus on everyone’s part.

Date: 2/8/11
Start Time: 6:30 Break: 8:05 – 8:15 End Time: 9:45

Summary:
– Blocked pages 1-11
– Tom brought and hooked up video for use during rehearsal

Director:
– Line change on page 7, Aisa’s line to introduce the “Demented family dynamic causes daughter to live in head” scene previously included actors’ real names, they have been removed and will be removed in every subsequent case. Notes will be made when the time comes. Aisa’s line now reads, “In this scene, I shall play the part of the daughter. Not that this implies anything, you understand? (Calling to house) Family lighting please.”

– Mike will be in charge of camera during page 5’s caption read by Lynna, Laura will operate the camera when Debbie reads the caption on page 7, and Jim will be in charge of camera on Mike’s rant on page 11.

Props:
– One tv, one table, and one camera on tripod were all stored in the space for wednesday’s rehearsal
– The entire props list was completed by Tom/Brian and will be emailed/distributed to everyone by week’s end

Costume:
-none

Set:
-none

Video:
-Tom set up the feed effortlessly, worked flawlessly, and some cast members are aware that they will need to work either behind it, or in front of it at some point

Misc:
-The two center chairs that will be the focal point on the round, raised platform will need to have a straight back and flat seat in order to place the plywood on to make the Queen’s death scene into her death bed, so to speak.

Next Day Schedule:
Wednesday, feb 9th 6:30
We will block pages 11-20, review pages 1-11, and Ali will come in for measurements

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