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Reverence for Plays

I’ve come to a realization, I had to fail in order to do it, but I suppose that’s the case with many realizations. As I have said in my first blog post, I have been reading a lot of new plays recently, and one thing I have been doing is  volunteering to read some new plays for a theater. By doing so I have learned a big lesson about how to treat a script.

Going into this experience, I made an effort to try and reminded myself “Remember, it’s not about good or bad, figure out what the play is doing, look at the world of the play, no judgments” I’ve learned how to do this, I know how to read plays, I felt prepared, I felt like I knew what I was doing…and then I read the first play.

The play was hard to get through. I kept trying to look at it without judgment, see it for what it was, but there was a nagging feeling that I just couldn’t place, or shake for that matter. But I ignored it, and I slogged through this play.

Then I get to the reader response form, and I see at the bottom of the form a number system, a “1-10” of  where I would place this play , and whether it should be considered any further. That was the feeling, I’d almost forgotten. I knew I had to give this script a score, I had to say whether or not this script gets to be considered  I had to make a judgment call.

But there was the trap. Because I had to put a number on this thing, because I had to say yes or no,  I wrongfully gave myself permission to bypass really thinking about the play, and go right to good or bad. I didn’t do it maliciously, nor do I regret the score that I gave it, but something deep down felt very wrong.

Then, down the road, I’m reading another script, and I notice something. This play that I was reading didn’t particularly light my fire, nor could I in good faith recommend it to the theater, but as I read it, it was undeniable that this play was put together with love and care. By the end of the play I had come to the realization that I was in possession of somebody’s baby.

I then realized that, every time I opened a script, I had somebodies baby. It’s one of those things that you know, but you don’t know, until you know. (that may be confusing, but it seems to be a common theme for me)

I then thought about the way in which I had wrote about those other plays in my responses. I thought about how in retrospect my responses seemed sterile, flat, and most importantly, devoid of the plays I was supposed to be writing about. It’s not that the analysis in my response wasn’t well thought out or that it was inaccurate, but I knew something would be wrong if I went back and read them.

I knew if I went back and read my responses, I would be able to discern whether I thought the play worked or not, but I would not be able to discern what the play actually was. That is a big problem.

I then realized my mistake. And, I have found moving forward, that a crucial part of reading a play, is finding the reverence for it. I don’t have to like the play, I can even hate the play. But if I believe, even conceptually, that plays can be worthwhile things, which I do, then the very act of writing a play, deserves a level of respect.

I can give a play a “1 out of 10” and still give it the reverence it deserves. In fact, it is only when I give a play the reverence it deserves, that I may be allowed to go ahead and give it a “1”. Because if I am tasked with making a judgment on somebody’s baby, I better take that task very seriously, and give the play the time and effort it deserves. If I don’t, then it is not just a disrespect to the play and its writer, which it is, but it is a disrespect to the craft itself (that might be a bit extreme, but I think it’s the truth).

From now on, when I read a play, not just in this way but in any way, I will make a conscious effort to show the play the respect it deserves. And my hunch is, by doing that, I’ll learn more about plays then I ever could before.

 

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