When I was last in New York I had the unique opportunity to drop in on the rehearsal of a new work written by a playwright I admire. In 2004 I directed The American Revolution by Kirk Wood Bromley, artistic director and playwright-in-residence for Inverse Theater. He specializes in modern verse plays, often creating five-act compositions in imabic pentameter. This most recent piece, It Was A Setup is a brief, personal piece of work, and one I have made plans to see when it debuts next month.
I contacted Bromley earlier in the year - I hadn’t spoken with him since our production of AM REV. At that time, I was delighted when he and a number of his crew journeyed to Cleveland to witness the production. A few months ago I asked if he had anything in the works, and he let me in on this new work. I read the script a few days before visiting in late June, and joined him and the company at his place in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn for the rehearsal.
It Was a Setup is a three-person play, inspired in part by the work of Bromley’s collaborator in this project, Leah Schraeger. She creates “phoems” - or photograph poems. She is also the choreographer for this piece. The script does not consist of realistic dialogue, but the rather the honest, emotional expression of a relationship is crisis. It is poetic, satiric, acidic, forlorn, angry, hilarious … but upon first read I have to admit I had no idea how one could stage it.
The night in question I was privileged to wtiness the most challenging scene of the piece, the least “obvious” of the scenes, where it was not clear to me, reading the script, exactly what was happening. It was fascinating, having this opportunity to watch and listen as the director-playwright explained, negotiated, and shaped the intentions and action of these three performers. Having the chance to watch a rehearsal as an entirely disconnected observer, with nothing at stake as writer, director, performer or designer was truly a unique opportunity, and I am extremely grateful all of the artists involved allowed me to be there.
It was, I felt, a very successful night. There appeared to be a great deal at stake, and after an extremely swift three-hours, these disjointed thoughts had the semblance of a through-line that could be carried forward into the next rehearsal. In brief, Charise and Tim have a relationship which has stalled, and is put into crisis by the appearance of a third character, Juliet. In this scene she is not actually there, but she is, if you follow. This is a sensation which is not unfamiliar to me.
The performance is scheduled to take place in an equally intimate space, identical to the one in which they rehearsed (location to be announced only when you purchase tickets - sweet.) The close proximity of the performers gives the piece an uncomfortable intensity. I cannot imagine how it will feel with twenty other audience members present - for that is all the space will hold.
Today we finalized my plans to return to NYC two weeks from tomorrow, in addition to attending this production I hope to revisit the Performing Arts Library, and maybe even check out the shows at the New York Fringe Festival.