Thursday, January 11, 2018

Entry Point (2018)

Rehearsal for "The Lost Diary."
One of the happier surprises last year was Entry Point at Cleveland Public Theatre. When they proposed the idea of inviting audiences to attend a weekend of short scenes from new works, unfinished works, only recently started works -- and then provide feedback, I was skeptical. Who would want to see that?

A lot of people, as it turned out. Better than that it was amazing, exciting, adventurous, like a miniature fringe festival all in one building on a frigid winter’s evening. With free beer!

My participation was as a performer in someone else’s new work, work that has moved into the Test Flight phase (story for another time, perhaps) and also as an audience member. I also got to enjoy the experience from the point of view of my (then) eleven year-old son, who really enjoyed all the different works he experienced, as well as hanging out and having soda pop in the temporary yet cozy lounge that had been created in the downstairs “storefront” space.

Also, and perhaps most importantly for the writers and creators, each brief scene concluded with a strictly moderated feedback session which provided the kind of audience response that was direct and, so it appeared to me, extremely useful.

So, of course, I wanted to get involved this year as a writer.

But not alone. So much work I witnessed last year was collaborative; collaboratively written or devised, with movement and music. I can write a play, host a reading, take notes, edit and move forward. What would justify participation in this unique and uniquely visible process of creation?

Collaboration, of course. To that end I entered into this process with a partner. For a couple years now I have worked with Chennelle Bryant-Harris; she directed one of the scenes for our immersive Love In Pieces, she directed me in a refreshingly new performance of I Hate This, and I directed her in Twelfth Night (As Told By Malvolio).

Now we co-write. And I am so glad.

I am glad, not least of which reasons is because the material is dark, and plunging into a world of paranoia, hate and violence is not an adventure I wanted to wade through alone.

And where are we going? What is this dark material? What is The Lost Diary? Yeah, we’ll get to that.

It’s enough today to report who I get to work with, which includes Kelly Elliott as our director and two splendid actors, Bianca McElroy and David Obney.

Now here’s the thing; right after out first rehearsal, my co-writer, director and I headed to the bar next door to the theater to talk. What happened, exactly? What was the incident? Why was he found like that? Who is she? There is a mystery, and we don’t know the end yet but we were actively figuring it out.

On Sunday, Chennelle and I met for coffee and bagels and hammered out even more of the history. What was the plan, and what is the goal? Traditionally, this is a discussion I have entirely in my own head. It was like a whole new world.

One rehearsal, and we have picked up the writing from where we left it when we handed the Entry Point rehearsal draft to Kelly. It’s not even work that will be performed next weekend, but that’s the thing, we’re not even waiting for the event to move the script forward, the work is already continuing.

Entry Point will be presented at Cleveland Public Theatre, January 18-20, 2018.

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