Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Great Divide

Last night was one of those good news/bad news nights. The good news: we managed to get through a record number of plays: ten, to be exact. The bad news: we had to split the group into two rooms to do it.

I thought it would be worth an experiment, and I'm glad that we did it. But in our end-of-the-evening talkback, the response was loud and clear: nearly everyone hated it. With a total of 20 people attending, we ended up with only 10 people were in each room and most felt that this alone significantly lowered the energy level. Some also complained that they had to miss out on half the plays while the small-cast group felt like second-class citizens being shuttled to a smallish conference room for the readings.

I hear you. As we continue to grow, we've got to figure out a way to handle the burgeoning number of scripts. But clearly, this isn't it.

Surprisingly, several people said they'd prefer to go to twice-monthly meetings, if needed. Unfortunately, this would pose a huge time commitment from everyone and I think there's good change attendance would drop, putting us right back in the same low-energy boat again. But I'm always willing to try new things, and it might work just fine, especially if we move the second meeting to an off-night like Tuesday, allowing people who can't make our regular night to attend.

But the best idea, I think, came from Jess Weaver, who is fresh off a reading at our neighbor to the north, Denver's Rough Draught Playwrights. Jess said they do some things poorly (for one thing, they cut off your reading at 10 minutes, no matter how long your play is), but there's at least one thing they do very well: feedback. Instead of giving the audience as much time as they want to discuss a particular play, each person is given a handy dandy little notecard to write their comments on.

So we're going to try that next. I doubt it'll allow us to double our throughput like the other options would. Most of our time is taken up by the readings themselves, and I refuse to cut the page counts. But it should allow us to get through more than the 6 or 7 plays we've been doing lately.

Another challenge of the evening was the fact that one of the UCCS classes was using our room until 7:30pm (between the late start this caused and our extended post-reading discussion, the meeting didn't end until about 10:15!). I'll see if we can get that room at 7pm next month. If not, there are at least three other classrooms we can use.

Anyway, on to the meeting. As I said, we read ten plays in two rooms, with the groups divided by cast size.

Our regular classroom (Room 109) held the large-cast plays. We opened with some new pages from August Mergelman's The Tragedy of Dracula. Next up was Sue Bachman's short comedy, BFF's Forever? After that , we read a couple of scenes from Tim Phillips' Prohibition-era romance Notes from the Heart. We followed that with the latest pages from my museum farce I Want My Mummy. And we closed with a couple of scenes from Jess Weaver's sex comedy Just a Game.

The conference room next door was where we read the small-cast plays, in a session that was capably led by Grant Swenson. There we started with some more pages from Chuck Cabell's fantasy comedy Diabolus Ex Machina. That was followed by Grant's short play Career Move. Next up was Barbara Summerville's one-pager Radiation! And we ended with the first two plays that Sallie Walker has ever brought us, Three Men and a Cross and John and Marsha.

We were also thrilled to welcome two new actors to the fold, Stephanie Schlis and Char Rozina. They both did a fine job and I hope they come back.

Our next meeting is Monday, October 13. And I promise we'll be one big happy family again. See you all then!

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