On February 20, 2013, we held our first Piece/Meal performative reading of the year with our 24-Hour Playwriting Contest winner Kyle Capstick. After his win, and a mini-residency with us, we brought him back to workshop his piece I’m Not Anybody. Kyle had allies in the room with director Luke Brown, four actors, and dramaturges Lisa O’Connell and Carina Gaspar, and as a group we worked through problems that arose, took risks, and continually questioned our assumptions.
“Our goal was to work with what’s on the page and, as a director, to find solutions to problems that arise in the exact same manner as you would if the playwright wasn’t in the room.” – Luke Brown
In dealing with such a text-heavy, imagistic, mostly-monologue piece, we kept coming back to the question: how do we make this piece active? Director Luke Brown found that “the process of directing a workshop, especially one where the script is as complex as I’m Not Anybody, is an exciting one,” and it’s very much because of the rich poetic of the text. With such complex and beautiful roving text, how do we keep an audience attentive? It’s always the concern with theatre, but it’s made even more challenging when it comes to the limitations of a staged reading.
One way we tackled this problem was to play the moment, the classic ‘show versus tell’ model. We were longing to see these interactions between the characters, so Kyle experimented with pages of dialogue. These new scenes of dialogue not only provide a break from the ongoing monologue, but also served the relationships between the characters. It became more active storytelling.
This experiment brought about another question of how to develop the world around the main character, while still keeping the inherently solitary aspect of the show. In monologue-driven pieces, it is easy to get wrapped up in that character’s thoughts and to lose the sense of space around her. We had a heavy focus on the transitions within the piece, oscillating between protagonist Bernadette’s interior world of her monologue to the more external one of the rest of the characters. It became a way to root the main character in the space of the play, and to also make the transitions from monologue to dialogue, interior space to external space smoother. In this sense, it was beneficial to take Kyle out of his comfort zone, and similarly getting the main character out of her comfort zone, too.
The turnaround time in such a short developmental process is demanding and can be difficult. After a full day of workshopping, Kyle often worked late into the evening to rewrite the draft for the following day. He was open to the experimentation, which sometimes meant that the dialogue wasn’t as tight or the space of the play as well developed, but it was crucial that he was taking risks; it gave us something to sink our teeth into, and we were happily kept on our toes.
In the end, we intentionally chose to present the ‘messy’ draft for the Piece/Meal reading. Perhaps not the cleanest or most succinct, perhaps the dialogue not as tight or the transitions as clear, but it was what was needed. Ultimately, the process for Piece/Meal is exactly that: a process. It’s meant to help the playwright develop the script, as opposed to providing a polished production. The risk and experimentation became more important than getting a clean draft because it opened up the possibilities of where the piece could go.
Carina Gaspar, Dramaturgical Associate