Gorgeous Actor Brains

Very special thanks to Kirsten Broadbear and Sarah Moser for spending an inspiring afternoon with Helen of Troy and the things that Megan and I wrote down for her to say.

It is so much fun to challenge the assumptions of the way I’m used to working. In many new play development processes, the playwright gets as far as she can on her own, torturing a typewriter by candlelight until there is a complete play that has only ever seen the inside of one person’s imagination. Then, when the playwright is done (and as likely to be looking for validation as for new perspectives), the play gets to go out and play with live actors. The playwright will say something like “thank you, its so helpful to hear it out loud!” And she will probably mean it. Then she’ll go home and make some minor changes, taking advantage of convenient feedback, but leaving the off-the-wall notions that would require the play to go through an intense revision. Most of the time.

This weekend, Megan and I had an amazing time sharing completely unfinished work with some brave and daring actors, and stumbled upon some ideas and images that will radically affect the play as we continue to write. (It was nice to also grab a little validation, okay, I admit it.) But more than all that, it is so inspiring to think of all the opportunities for collaboration before the first draft is done–or even halfway done. And though I am such a language-focused person and I am already head over heels in love with the text we’ve generated for this project, I was astonished and deeply moved by our weird little made-up voyeuristic movement exploration.

My artistic spidey sense has been buzzing for days, and I’ve got this annoying little voice in my head wondering why the standard way of “development” is so, well, standard. We could do so much more than sit around a table and talk about a play.

Now before you scoff and say to youself, “oh look, another twenty-six-year-old who thinks she has invented something” let me assure you that I also cannot stand to listen to people rave about their new idea that has actually been around for centuries if they had bothered to pick up a book and learn something. (Yeah, ouch. We all do it.) And I can totally appreciate the limited resources of time, money, and space to do early-process actor-centric play development. But boy, if I did not just have the most mind-blowing theater in my living room this weekend, for the price of some homemade brownies, friendship, and mutual artistic admiration.

I’ll leave you with Megan’s explanation of why we’re excited to be bring actors into the process so early (because hers is way funnier than mine, and I have talked a lot already):

“Right now we’re trying to make Helen sort of cubist. And we brought you here to show us some different facets that we wouldn’t think of.  Because you have gorgeous actor brains and resources that if we didn’t exploit we’d be idiots. So, let’s light this woman up like a crazy f*cking diamond.”