Monday, April 25, 2022

Scenes From a Night's Dream: First Reading

dissociation n. the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected. In psychiatry: separation of normally related mental processes, resulting in one group functioning independently from the rest, leading in extreme cases to disorders such as multiple personality.
No matter the project, be it for a writers group, as a commission, or the final project for one of MFA classes, I will hold a pre-reading reading with a cadre of close friends and colleagues to hear it in a safe space. Last fall that was in my living room, a year before that via Zoom. But it always happens.

Sunday night a delightful crew of friends (not an unsurprising amount either present or former actor-teachers) gathered on our patio, in perfect weather, to read Scenes From a Night’s Dream.

Random thoughts: Given all the messed up things that happen, some people were most upset by the dead goldfish. “The party downstairs” also set some on edge. The second act is too short (my opinion) which affords the opportunity to address some confusion as to what the company - "Morpheus" - actually does.

New rules:
When holding a post-reading discussion (or in fact, the talkback following the workshop of a new work) the playwright must not answer any questions. You’ll never learn anything about how your play works if you do.

We started and I immediately got one question directed to me and I said, Oh. I’m not answering any questions. What followed was something like forty-five minutes of the assembled going over everything that had just happened.

The disconnect, the dissociation, the dream.

Last fall I mentioned how Mark Ravenhill was sharing 101 tips on playwriting over Twitter. That has developed into the 37 Plays podcast sponsored by the Royal Shakespeare Company where he interviews other playwrights and they discuss their own tips on writing. 

This week, writer and director Chinonyerem Odimba brought up Ravenhill’s Tip #12: There’s something cruel about constructing a play, putting characters in situations that are everything from awkward to very painful. Don’t shy from this cruelty but use it responsibly, explore all its ramifications and don’t use it cynically or for effect. 

This is a thing. I don’t normally indulge in cruelty in my plays. Or not since The Vampyres, anyway. And yet, I failed to provide any kind of content warning as we began reading. I immediately regretted that as we started reading. Sometimes people make light of or in fact scorn or ridicule such advance warning, but those people are children.

Now, I have a page of notes and an entire week to tweak the script before we read it in class. So glad!

UPDATE: A workshop of "Scenes From a Night's Dream" will be presented as part of the 2023 NEOMFA Playwrights Festival at Convergence-Continuum, February 16, 17 & 18, 2023.

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