Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wow! I mean "Wow!" Our first musical drama on TMPW! !

Eric Sirota's ten-minute musical drama, "," is a true musical piece complete with accompaniment and singing parts. The script is a sweet story, and the singing and musical score come together to carry the audience through the Biblical story of Lot, Abraham's son and a maiden he meets at the well.

Lauren Eigenbrode (a soprano who worked with Eric in NYC last summer during a musical production) joined in from San Francisco and sang the part without ever having heard the score before! What a performance!

I have absolutely no expertise in the musical realm, but this was a hoot of a session! Being able to follow a story through the musical score and dive into the character relationships was such fun. We spent time also talking about narration, and if the narration in the piece added or detracted from the story line. and see what you think.

I don't know if this sort of thing has ever been done before, but, dang! was this fun!

My thanks to Eric for breaking ground on TMPW by figuring out how to do a remote musical piece and to Lauren for doing such a great job with the "cold reading" of the piece and doing a live performance without any rehearsal!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

I found myself nearly bursting at the seams throughout Session 50. March Schrader hits so many themes in his script, "," that are poignant that I could barely stop smiling.

And, it was Session 50, so something emotional was happening inside me. Yes, I have a few more sessions to take care of some re-scheduled sessions, and two upcoming "Anonymous Workshopping Experiments" but this was Session 50. If I smoked, I'd use the classic line. You know the one. But I don't smoke, so I'll let that piece of dialogue happen in your mind instead of on the page.

Schrader's script is filled with wonderful bantering and tender dialogue. To us, he hit the 19-something genre perfectly, even if I was surprised by how much (and what) they now talk about without blushing.

Jane Denitz Smith (see her script in ) joined in as a workshopper, and we had a blast reading the script and going through it with March for a good long time. Why does it feel like the sessions are getting better? Maybe the reps of doing (nearly) 50 sessions in seven weeks is like one of those weight-lifting programs: if you go to the gym every day, your body will begin to look like you go to the gym everyday.

Whatever the reason, this session was especially dear to me, and I thank March and Jane for being a part of it. A , and a fun workshop. Thank you!

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Jane Denitz Smith's "" is a script that made me feel like I was in the room, grabbing a spoon out of the drawer and tasting the soup and sorbet along with the main characters.

Vivid dialogue, a glimpse at issues that could easily encourage another couple of scenes, and characters (both on-stage and off) that felt as familiar as my own skin bring Smith's script to life.

After a natural read with workshopper March Schrader (his script is coming up in ), the workshop focused on the arc of the characters, the relationship they have with each ther and the dialogue that moves that relationship along, and our desire for a deeper look at the myriad issues the script encompasses. This script is a definite .

As I approach that magical number 50 for workshops this semester, I am finding that I am speaking less and listening more and letting the workshoppers and author have the discussions that are happening naturally. I'm not so sure the gag-order we often use during workshopping is relevant (to me, at least, anymore), especially if the author is aware enough to know what to ask for and to hear the workshop for the value it holds for their script. Either I've been blessed with incredibly mature authors or have learned to set the stage enough to get meaningful discussions as the natural outcome (any comments on this are welcome!). This workshop was a wonderful example of what can develop when an author approaches their work with confidence.

My thanks to Jane for sharing her script and for March for workshopping it with me.

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Well, it's happened! I just can't let go of this idea. Due to the Hurricane on the East Coast and a couple of scheduling issues, these session's scripts have been put on the "Spring 2013 TMPW List." Yup, I have had such a blast doing this all semester, I have decided to keep TMPW going. The five scripts that fell victim to a series of scheduling conflicts will be the first invitees for the Spring 2013 TMPW Sessions.

And you thought we were coming to the end of the play!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Self-image, loss, grief, societal expectations... all of this is the meat of Raymond Cothern's script "." But don't expect a sad story. Somehow, in the ten pages of Cothern's script, he brings connection to the surface: human connection. And in this connection, everything becomes itself, and we are left knowing characters that reach a state of tenderness even though they have tripped over themselves and their own struggles. Somehow, by struggling, even simply in proximity to each other, and recognizing it, they come out having changed. And isn't that what every script is supposed to do: demonstrate change in at least one of the characters? Cothern delivers.

Patrick Riviere (see his script in ) joined in the session as a workshopper (thanks for the repeat performances, Patrick!) and, even though there is a bit of audio feedback on the reading of the script, we definitely had a blast reading this script!

My thanks to Raymond for sharing his script and to Patrick for joining in on the workshop.

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Dennis and Ken Agle's script, "," took me back to my restaurant days. Two brothers, a restaurant critic who can make (or break) their restaurant, and ten minutes of fabulous build-up to the fated end - Agle's script is !

John Byrne (see his script in ) joined in to workshop Agle's script and we had a blast. The discussion centered around the action of the script, and how it flowed. These two gentlemen helped me begin to understand the beauty of running a workshop on a script that was beyond being a toddler, and even a teenager, and was moving into adult maturity.

If there's anything I have learned from all of these sessions, it is that the authors themselves are the key to the depth of a workshop. Dennis helped us get deep into discussion and really dissect the characters and their actions and relationships. What a treat! There really is something to having folks I've worked with before come back together and continue the collaboration. Agle's script is tight and moves and winds to an outcome that is definitely .

My thanks to Dennis for sharing his script and to John for being a workshopper on yet another TMPW session!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Marshall Botvinick's "" is a poignant story of what our society does with its own characters, and how love can often be mis-placed.

The workshop of this piece was a strong conversation about how the characters relate to each other, and how, by allowing a little more tension and urgency, the story could cascade into the layers of meaning it truly holds. Botvinick did a great job taking in the workshop and showed his experience as a dramaturg and director by sitting back and simply listening to the workshop. Truly well done!

Jay Asher (see  for Jay's script) and Lynn Johanson (see  for Lynn's script) joined in the workshop (thanks, gentlemen, for becoming TMPW regulars!) and, as I watched the three men in the session go to it, I learned that if you let three mature men loose in a workshop, they'll go to town! Pointed and clear, the workshop session was a great example of how writers can help each other by reading a new piece and then giving feedback about the highs and lows of a script. I'm not sure I did my best job leading the session, but Marshall did a great job helping me along the way (thanks, Marshall!).

I learned more from this session than from most of them. Botvinick's script is strong, and the workshop challenged him to make it even more layered and deep, to satisfy our longing for more emotion and more connection among the characters.

My thanks to Marshall for sharing his script and to Jay and Lynn for workshopping it with me.

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Cecelia Raker's "" was as intriguing as it was captivating. A dream-like script casts the audience into a dream-like trance as two characters flirt with love and possibilities and reality.

Jay Asher (see for Jay's script) and Lynn Johanson (see for Lynn's script) joined in the workshop and together we had a vivid discussion of a script that we all wanted to see go on! Raker's script allows for the first four minutes to be taken up with dancing, and is the first ten-minute play I've read that is part ballet, part stageplay.

Her characters banter through the mundane and turn it into a love affair that, we all agreed, we wanted to see more of. Maybe it was the dream-like quality that so lured us into the lair, or maybe it was that the age-old story of a princess and her frog-prince is deep within all of us, always wanting to become reality. Whatever it was, Raker's script was captivating in a way that surprised me, and led us down a workshopping path of wanting more and more.

The last few minutes of the workshop allowed us to dig into the title, and play with what could be. Titles are so personal, but Raker allowed us to move through the discussion and simply take it all in - truly a seasoned author!

My thanks to Cecelia for sharing her script and to Jay and Lynn for the vivid workshopping they did!

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Darren Caulley spent the entire month of August writing a ten-minute play every day. That's right, every day! This script, "," is one of those scripts. ( features another of Darren's scripts, ".")

Caulley's script portrays a singer/songwriter who masks pain while relating to a younger version of himself. The script is full of tight dialogue and moves at a pace that lets the audience reflect on their own stories. It is definitely worth .

But, here's the added benefit of doing an online reading: Caulley's script starts with a song and Thomas Constantine Moore, one of the workshoppers (who's also an acting student at ) does TMPW (and himself) proud by performing the song impromptu! This session is definitely worth !

The workshop focused on the relationship between the characters and if Caulley gave us enough time and material to be able to become attached enough to them. Tiahnan Trent joined in the workshop from Washington, and brought up some direct points in the script that she wanted more from. Ah, the poignancy of workshopping live! I had a great time in this session and loved every minute of it. From the singing to popen the script to the deep dive into the characters during the workshop, this session was one of my favorites!

My thanks to Darren for his script and to Tiahnan and Thomas for joining in!

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Session 38 has been re-purposed! I am saving Session 38 for one of the last sessions, and using it to host an anonymous workshop session. Here's the low-down on this experiment:

Two scripts will be posted for a double-session, and I'm asking for another three folks to join in each workshopping experiment. We'll meet for a 40-minute session online and do a workshop on the two scripts (for each script, we'll cast, read and workshop it), but the author's identities will not be known. My question is this: will the workshop session feel different when we know the author is in the session, but we don't know who it is… and will the authors be more free to critique their own work?

If you'd like to be a part of this experiment, either as a reader/critic or to have one of your scripts in the workshop, please let me know. I'm going to do two of these anonymous workshop sessions (each with two scripts in them).

Sound crazy? Sound like fun? Either way, join in the experiment or - TMPW needs you!

If ever there was a cold reading of a fast-moving script that you should listen to, Session 37 is it!

Theodore Kemper's script, "," was read by one of my professors, , and Joël Doty and it was hot! The script is fast-moving, thought-provoking, and, as Professor Blanton said, "episodic."

The bulk of the workshop was spent talking about how to craft a nearly absurdist notion that challenges the societal norms and still come out believable. Kemper's script truly delivers, and is worth and .

Doing this session with Professor Blanton from made me realize that I need to begin building a glossary to include in the booklet I am writing about this project (working title: "A Student's Gude to Workshopping the Ten-Minute Play"). "Episodic," "economy of dialogue," these terms rolled off Professor Blanton's tongue as if he were writing a grocery list, and it made me realize that, indeed, we have our own language when workshopping.

My thanks to Theodore for his wonderful script and to Professor Blanton and Joël for workshopping it with me.

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Due to the Hurricane that hit the east coast, Raymond Cothern's session has been rescheduled. Keep an eye out for it this coming week.