As an undergrad theatre major, I’m rarely granted the opportunity to chose the shows I get to work on. My friends and I often lament how unfair the school’s casting system can be, however we often forget one key fact of life—professional actors rarely get to choose the projects they work on either. However this week I have the opportunity to petition into a project I feel strongly about. The script’s message, the artists involved, and the rehearsal process appeals to me on many levels, mostly because the script is still in development. I was asked to write a proposal on why this particular project meant so much to me and why it’s an important next step for me as an artist. As I began thinking and writing my proposal I discovered why new work in general means so much to me.
The character I would play is still a mystery to the writer. He’s a vital part of the plot, but we still don’t know who he is. His backstory, his ticks, his secrets all remain unknown—save for his relationship with one of the central characters. All these unknown details are the greatest gifts in this process, as well as the greatest challenges because new work requires more then just risk-taking actors. New work requires intelligent actors who rely on an unfinished script, ambitious actors willing to throw themselves into scenes that may soon be removed from the text, fearless actors able to discuss their character to the playwright who dreamt their name in the first place, and (most importantly) respectful actors who can listen to the playwright when the entire story has changed.
I often hear my peers say things such as “I just want to work on a published script”, but I’ve yet to understand why. In the callback for the show the playwright told me that one of the choices I made was going to be put into the script because it worked so well. To my knowledge Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, and many other talented (and dead) writers have not ever responded to an actor’s choices. Why do actors like to engage in a conversation with a dead person who doesn’t care about their opinions? Living playwrights want actors, they want collaboration, they want to be heard! Shakespeare doesn’t need to be heard, but new playwrights wants audiences to listen! Let’s listen to them!