Living Room Reading Of BEYOND WORDS

I always forget that actors like to act.

Tonight I had an informal living room reading of the play that’s going to be in the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Since the BASH portion is only presenting an excerpt, I’m hoping that someone somewhere is intrigued enough to ask for the whole thing — so I wanted to hear the latest draft all the way through with actors.

Organizing this thing was easier than I’d imagined. In my mind, I’m asking actors to take one of their few nights off to come do me a favor. But it turns out actors actually enjoy having a chance to act. Who knew?

For the three main roles, I brought in Eric Hayes, Danielle Thys and Joe O’Malley (who’s currently playing Hamlet here). I totally spaced and introduced them to each other as if they hadn’t met, when in fact they were all in a piece done for the PlayGround that, um, I WROTE. You would think that might have occurred to me.

For the role of Thea, Joe brought his roommate: a fantastic actor and improviser named Lauren Pizzi. I’m starting to realize that the part was probably unconsciously written for an improviser. The actor playing Thea has to speak (and sing!) in a made-up, foreign-sounding gibberish. I was a mainstage improv guy for years and years; I guess I was drawing on that as I was writing the piece.

Anyway, the whole evening was a lot of fun. That’s why playwrights write, you know: so we can hang out and drink with actors.

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4 Replies to “Living Room Reading Of BEYOND WORDS”

  1. Sounds cool, Tim! It helps so much to hear something out loud. And the BAPF sounds like it is going to be an amazing opportunity.

    I’m planning to work with some actors from the theater company I belong to in August. I’m trying to expand and develop a play that I have a draft of, but want to expand. Any tips? I’ve told them I’d like to meet 3-4 times through the month, with me rewriting and writing new stuff in between times. But I don’t want them to be bored… Still not too experienced at working with actors.

  2. I think it depends on whether there’s going to be an audience. Two or three rehearsals for a staged reading with an audience sounds about right. Three or four without an audience might start to be too many. If it’s just for you, you might bring in actors, do a rewrite, and then have them do a second reading. Any more than that — unless they’re specifically volunteering to help develop the piece — might bore them. But don’t be afraid to ask them. I’ve found most actors only bite when you specifically write it into the script.

  3. From an actor’s perspective: It helps if you have good snacks. Also, if you want them to keep coming back, you might consider (if budget permits) paying them a little after the first time. The first time is fun, the second you’d do as a favor, and after that the time commitment starts to be a little excessive unless you specifically volunteered to help develop it (or unless there’s some other incentive). If you pay them, say, $25 a pop, they could justify coming back again for a third or fourth. But if there’s no audience, at least feed ’em something. :-) Hope that helps!

  4. Good point. We had a veritable feast for the actors — plus plenty of wine and beer afterwards. People will do a lot for free beer.

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