Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New opportunity

It was a busy night last night. With fourteen people attending, we got through seven plays (or parts thereof), the most we've had in a while, and we spent some time at the end of the meeting discussing a proposed new theatre project with TheatreWorks.

We opened with the end of Sienna Swenson's action comedy Secret Island. The adventure was wrapped up neatly as the kids quickly solved the remaining math problems as well as the puzzle of the rocks themselves. Everyone thought the play was very good.

Next up was a rewrite of Grant Swenson's sci fi comedy The Earth Experience, which was first read at Springs Ensemble Theatre's New Short Works Festival last year. In it, Earth is turned into a theme park overseen by hard-nosed atmospheric engineer Eve, who wants to keep it pristine and peaceful, and the fun-loving temp Adam, who wants to make it more exciting. One person thought it was a little unclear who the protagonist was, but several people said they couldn't wait to see what happens next.

We then read Tim Phillip' drama Tam Lin, based on the legend of a Scottish Casanova who is enslaved by the Queen of the Fairies and enlists a young woman to break the Queen's spell. Tim added a dash of A Midsummer Night's Dream, naming the Queen after that play's Titania and tossing in Robin Goodfellow as well. People felt that the Queen's dialog was a little stilted and that Tam Lin could have been more conflicted with regards to his beautiful captor but agreed that the play was a lot of fun.

After that we read a scene from my small town comedy Trouble in Paradise Junction that we somehow missed the first time we went through the play. Here the townsfolk gather to watch the first episode of the reality show being filmed there. People liked how the dialogue from the previous scene was manipulated by the host to drive a wedge between the townsfolk, but one commenter felt that the tension would be greater if Martha--who's humiliated for being a bad baker--was actually a good one.

Next we read two short comedies reprising the characters of Stella and Mavis, two addled old ladies who first appeared in a skit at the Six Women Play Festival. It was a real treat as those ladies were first played by Sue Bachman and Sallie Walker and they were again played to perfect comedic timing by Sue and Sallie here. Sallie wrote Stella and Mavis at the Doctor and Sue wrote Stella and Mavis at the Polls. They both did a great job of capturing the kooky banter of the original.

We wrapped up with the beginning of another Sue Bachman play, this one a rewrite of her relationship drama Taking It All Back. It's about an older lawyer who dumps his loving wife in order to marry his mistress, only to be sent reeling when the mistress rejects his marriage proposal. People thought the emotional tension was very intense and were surprised that although the man treats his wife cruelly, by the time his proposal is rejected, they found themselves feeling sorry for him.

After the meeting, we stuck around for about 20 minutes to discuss the new opportunity that TheatreWorks Education and Outreach Coordinator Joye-Cook-Levy and I came up with during our meeting two weeks ago.

I started off by explaining that the Drama Lab's longtime champion Drew Martorella is under pressure to make sure that all groups meeting on UCCS property is aligned in some way with the university's mission.

What Joye and I are proposing is an intergenational theatre project between: 1) Drama Lab writers and younger actors, and 2) Drama Lab Actors and younger writers. The younger actors and writers would be supplied through Joye's school connections and would consist of two groups: high school students and college students. Each writer would be assigned a group of actors and would meet with them on a regular basis for several weeks or months in order to develop and rehearse a play to be read as part of an evening of staged readings at the end of the semester. The high school/Drama Lab plays would be one reading (say in fall) and the college/Drama Lab plays would be another reading (say in spring). All plays would be 10-20 minutes long.

My original thought was that all of the actors that are assigned to one writer would be a similar age (either young or old), but our group last night agreed that each should be mixed as that will be a much more meaningful experience for all involved. Also, one writer said she would prefer to work on an existing play for this project rather than a new one. I'll take both of these suggestions back to Joye.

It should be noted that this project is completely voluntary and is in addition to, not instead of, our monthly play readings. You can opt out of the project and still participate in the readings as much as you want.

The next step is for Joye and I to hammer out some of the details needed to launch this project at the start of the coming school year. I'm excited about the opportunity and I hope everyone else is (or will be!) too.

See you all next month!