During the days of April 18th through April 21st I got the incredible privilege to workshop LEFTOVERS; a hilarious and resonating play written by Josh Wilder being produced this summer by Company One. At the top of the month a Company One representative reached out to me via email and asked about my interest in this workshop process. I did a quick google search of the playwright and was impressed with his credentials. I responded quickly with an eagerness to work.
The process happened in several phases. The first phase was the initial reading. The actors and dramaturges read through the script without the director or playwright in the room. We stopped after each scene and discussed moment we felt were important or confusing and made clear any questions that we had as the story unravelled. Summer L. Williams, our director, was present for the next phase, as was Josh Wilder. She assigned our roles, some different this time, and we read through the script again. This time we saved the discussion for after the entire read through. By the end of this phase it was already so interesting to see how the roles came to life in a different way, being read by different actors. It was also very empowering to sit across from Josh Wilder and have him genuinely consider my opinions and questions in the development of his play. He made me feel as though this story was something that he was still figuring out and he needed my help to do so. For the third phase we receive a new script with some dramatic changes and worked in the same way as the day before. Throughout this read it was clear to see that Josh had deeply considered some of the things we offered him and I could see changes in the script that came from our discussion the day before. By this time the efforts of the dramaturg, Ilana Brownstein, became palpable to me. I recognized some character development and plot synthesizing that came from some seeds she had planted the night before. We ended the night by continuing the discussion with Josh and offering him feedback about the trajectory so far. I continued to bring in my personal experiences and how it helped me meet this play and if nothing else I believe that speaks to the humanity of his characters. We asked more questions about threads that we noticed could use his attention and left the room knowing we would receive a new, possibly incomplete draft the next day for our invited reading, the final phase. For the final phase, Summer gave us some very minor movement notes and some overarching acting notes. These notes, I realized were her way of making the play as tangible as possible with a reading. She moved us into the world and circumstances of the play and attempted to lift its life from the page for Josh’s sake. The reading went very well! It was fascinating to witness this playwright take in the audience as they took in his play. We had a post show discussion and and I could see the secrets flying behind his eyes as audience members deciphered the play from their own perspective.
All in all, this experience has ultimately reminded me of the importance of the script. A playwright has a baby then many other collaborators jump in to tweak and specify and work to give that baby life. The choices in a well workshopped script are hyper specific and the syntax is important.
I hope to maintain a relationship with those involved, the theatre company and the playwright, This experience has given me a very thoughtful professional foundation.