In Love and Warcraft Workshop
Celise Kalke, our Director of New Projects, was in Washington DC at the end of July for the Kennedy Center’s New Play Dramaturgy Intensive and workshop of IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT, a hilarious new play by Madhuri Shekar and winner of our 2014 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT looks at relationships in the digital age through the eyes of an avid gamer who feels safer in her relationships behind a monitor than IRL (in real life). The Alliance Theatre will give the world premiere of IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT in Atlanta in February, 2014.
The workshop at the Kennedy Center is the first step in the life of our award-winning play – it’s usually the first opportunity the playwright has to work with a director and see the play read by professional actors. It’s a week of important insights, re-writes, and helpful character development. Celise kept a log of her experiences in the rehearsal hall and is pleased to share her notes from this valuable, behind-the-scenes process.
Monday, July 29
I am often told that I have a "fun" job because I work with new plays. And this is somewhat true, but it sometimes means going down some pretty grim content areas: alcoholism, Middle East history and politics, and the 2008 recession, for example. But sometimes it really IS as fun as my friends think. Like today, sitting around talking about LOVE (everyone's dating history as undergraduates) and WARCRAFT (from Ms. Packman to Neuromancer to Playstation and Grand Theft Auto, everyone's gaming history from the TRS-80s to the present). This play is one that makes everyone grin and over-share and be a little bit naughty. Such a good time! And WoW (World of Warcraft) is addictive; I’m resisting the urge to sign up just so I can hang out with the pandas.
Tuesday, July 30
Tuesday. I bring Kit Kats and classy chocolate. I am laughed at (in a nice way) by our two on it assistant directors. I say “You can’t talk about sex as much as this play needs us to talk about sex after lunch without chocolate.”
The AD said “I’m writing that down.”
I am just a few years from college (she blogs with a wink because “a few” is stretching things) and it was a great afternoon of specifying what college coming-of-age means to each character. I found that Enrico, the actor playing the “love interest” went to my alma mater and so I got to do some Oberlin bonding. Madhuri did some new fun writing, we all did a lot of helpful talking, and the play took a step forward. And there was a lot of laughter and (a little) squirming. And the chocolate had all disappeared by end of day. I’ll have to go shopping before rehearsal tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 31
Over breakfast, Madhuri and I indulged in one of my favorite dramaturgical activities – talking about the characters. Who are they/how do they change over the course of the play/what are their fantasies. . . It’s like following a soap opera except the writer is sitting across the table from me, so if I think maybe two of our characters are roommates rather than friends she has to at least think about it (see the play in February and find out if that idea stuck!).
Then Madhuri went away and brought in a lot of new material to rehearsal, which like all good rewrites went in quickly and easily and made the cast kind of perk up. That’s a trade secret – if rewrites need a lot of processing, they aren’t all that good. Good rewrites flow into the room like butter spread on a biscuit out of the oven.
Besides having so much fun with IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT there are also an amazing number of playwrights, dramaturgs and directors here for the Dramaturgy Intensive. Including Lisa Adler from Horizon Theatre and Freddie Ashley from Actor’s Express, both members of NNPN, the National New Play Network which is a powerful network of theatres across the country supporting new work. So in between rehearsals we are all networking, talking shop and thinking about ways to work together to support new play production. It sounds corporate, but these elevator, Metro and hallway conversations can lead to a play having 3 productions instead of 1 production and is a great tool for a more dynamic American Theatre.
Today we are reading the whole play from start to finish with some guests from the conference (and Alliance/Kendeda winner David Robinson – author of Carapace – who is dropping by) to see if it is as hilarious as everyone in the rehearsal room thinks it is.
Thursday, August 1
Put some new pages in. Ok a lot of new pages in. Ok madly stuffing new pages into the script - will we get to read it once before an audience comes in? Sure. Oh. No? No problem, there are just a few playwrights and a friend or two of mine and a friend or two of Madhuri’s. Shirley Serotsky, our wonderful DC based workshop director is cool and calm editing stage directions and giving this madcap adventure a test of theatrical structure. And Laura Kepley, the Interim AD of the Cleveland Playhouse who will be directing the show in Atlanta. But suddenly there are forty people in our tiny rehearsal room. I guess word of all the naughty bits had gotten around the Kennedy Center. And then they all started laughing and we were off and running.
There is little more exciting than hearing a group of people laugh at new jokes, new discoveries, and naughty props (curious, right? Again see the show in February). One spectator got so caught up in the action he would laugh to himself while clapping softly until the rest of the audience caught up and then he would explode. One can make up some crazy stories about an audience’s private life watching this play. Who is knowing what, about what activities when, is very amusing.
Laura, Madhuri and I had a number of good conversations about the play including over breakfast the next day (a careful reader of this blog may catch the many connections between food and new play development) and I left Washington excited (or to use IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT vernacular STOKED) about having this hilarious and thought-provoking play in Atlanta early in 2014. I have just enough time to learn to play the game...
Photo Credit - The cast of the Kennedy Center In Love and Warcraft workshop, taken by Madhuri Shekar.