Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
By. Lauren Mitchell
Last year, I attended Page to Stage at the Kennedy Center and was filled with wonder at witnessing part of the raw development process of theatre. When I heard that the Catholic University playwrights were again invited to participate this summer, there was never any question in my mind of whether or not to do it. I began brainstorming right away.
Selecting which of my plays to present was the tricky part. Whichever one I picked would be in front of an audience for the first time in its short life, and I wanted to make sure I picked the work that would benefit the most from a live audience reaction.
I remembered a play I had started two years ago called Table for Two. It had been born out of a professor’s suggestion that I write a piece that I was afraid to tackle, which at the time happened to be a fifteen-minute farce. The play was nowhere near presentable in the shape it was in, so I furiously began rewriting and reimagining. Ultimately, half the pages were chopped, another half were added, a character’s gender changed, and all stage directions were cut to accommodate a new, streamlined organization. I gathered a handful of the best actors I know, and set out for Page to Stage.
When we got to the lounge in which we’d be performing, I was sick with anticipation. This was the first time my words would be read out loud in a public setting. Would the dialogue fall flat? Would the actors be able to give the characters the depth I was hoping for? Would the audience get it? My play was introduced, and it began.
The actors got every word. The characters, who in my mind appeared so vivid, were portrayed better than I ever could have imagined by the actors at their stands. They were all perfectly cast, and giving a life to the words that I had written. The audience found places to laugh and places to hold their breath, and with every reaction I better understood the shapes and changes my play needed, as well as the ones it had already adapted to.
Being able to be a part of Page to Stage allowed me to engage in community feedback and process in a unique way. To present your work in such a constructive environment, surrounded by creators of all kinds is an amazing opportunity. Needless to say, it was an invaluable experience and I look forward to participating again next year.