Sunday, February 27, 2011

"So you wrote it AND you performed it?"

I've been asked a lot of questions about the process I went through for my one-woman show, A Woman In Progress, which recently had it's world premiere at La MaMa E.T.C., regarding script conception, writing, revising, workshopping, rehearsing and ultimately production and performance. I can say without reservation that this was one of the most daunting projects I've ever created/ been a part of, so inevitably, I learned A LOT along the way. I'm happy to share some of that here. I'll break it up into two parts: Writing- Workshopping and then Rehearsals-Performance.

This was my first full-length play. I had written shorter pieces before that I hadn't shared with anyone, and had begun a few other pieces, but hadn't seen them through to completion. I've been writing literally since I learned how, though my forms of choice have usually been short story, essays or journalism. I have no formal training in writing other than what I learned in high school and a few basic courses in college. In the fall of 2009, I enrolled in a Playwrighting Independent Study at SUNY ESC as a part of my bachelors degree. I was assigned to write either two shorter plays or one full-length play. I began to revive a piece I had started years earlier, and quickly lost interest... I was plagued by this nagging voice (which I'd later learn was that of Helen from AWIP) who was insisting that I tell HER story, regardless of where it fit in the piece I was currently working on. Mid-semester, I completely changed gears, and set out to write Helen's story. Initially, she addressed the audience while interacting non-verbally with a series of characters who only spoke through her. I fell into a strict formula for the unfolding of events, and fortunately realized that this would yield a terribly boring play. I re-worked the play frantically during the remaining two weeks of the semester and turned in a solid foundation of a play that was by no means ready to perform, but was well on it's way.

I forgot the play existed, for a while. It sat, untouched, on my computer for several months. I had shared it with a few members of my company, Mind the Art Entertainment, and got some encouraging feedback, but life got in the way and the piece was pushed to the back burner. I began thinking about the play again this past summer and after a few days of reflection, decided to crack it open and have a look around. It was quite refreshing to have completely stepped away from the piece for a period of time and revisiting it with fresh eyes  allowed me to re-envision what needed to be changed structurally while valuing the character and pieces of dialogue that I was quite proud of. I did some extensive editing and re-working on my own, before enlisting the help of my fiance, Joe Kurtz (also a writer and actor). I'm a lucky girl- Joe's writing instincts are usually spot on and I trust him and his feedback. His suggestions were instrumental in getting the piece to a point where I was comfortable sharing it again.

The next few steps in this process took place rather quickly- in the fall of 2010 I re-sent it to my colleagues at Mind the Art, including my dear friend Alessio Cappelletti, with the request that he look over the piece, give feedback, and decide if he was interested in directing it. We had no real plan of when or where the piece would go up. I received a phone call from Christian DeGre asking permission to present the piece to La MaMa E.T.C. as a part of Mind the Art's next Anthology Series and two days later on October 31st, 2010, we received the green light to produce A Woman in Progress on January 21st and 22nd, 2011 at La MaMa E.T.C.. Joy and panic quickly set in- the piece was NOT ready to begin rehearsals, and I was still looking for feedback to do my final edits. Alessio agreed to direct and jumped right in with critiques and ideas. Alessio is another artist who I respect and trust and his background in film shed a whole new light on the potential of the piece. He took the small instances of projected video that I had written into the stage directions and turned them into a vital and dimension adding secondary character. I had two short weeks to produce the final version of the script.