September 11, 2008

Playwright in the House

Richard Nelson, the author of How Shakespeare Won the West is in the house. Right now - on the day before our press opening - making an adjustment to the opening of the play. And he was here for the first rehearsal. And practically every day in between making daily tweaks and corrections. That's five weeks thus far.

I'm not complaining, mind you, just making sure your understand.

It is standard practice, whenever we do a new play, that the playwright visits and participates in the process. The level of involvement, however, can vary greatly. Even with Richard. He wrote our adaption of The Cherry Orchard a few years back - and I think he was here for just a few days. I expect we'll see a lot of Jose Rivera and Richard Goodwin this season - maybe even Tom Stoppard - who knows.

I think it's pretty cool having these folks in the room. It's when I get a little star struck. I mean really... Richard Nelson, Teresa Rebeck, August Wilson, Tom Stoppard? How can that not be exciting. And then there are folks like Melinda Lopez, Ronan Noone, and Sinan Unel... people who might not (yet) have Tonys, but who you know and root for and talk to like a friend.

You spend a couple of weeks in tech and preview with these folks and you have a new appreciation for their craft - it's amazing how much the experience can heighten your emotional attachment to the work.

What we try to do at the Huntington is create a comfortable environment for our artistic team (the actors, director, designers, and playwright) in order that they can do their best work and bring you the best of their work.

The relationship a playwright has with their play, the director, and the theatre and it's staff is different on each production. Some are primarily interested in the text, some in the direction, some in the technical elements, and some even in participating in casting the production. Some actively seek feedback from the team - and some don't. For most it's some combination of all of the above. Part of the fun of my job is figuring out what that dynamic is and how to best navigate it.

One of the things I like best about my job is that it brings different challenges on a daily basis... this is just one more example.

I would love to hear from those of you out there who have participated in the creation of a new work - people who have been there in the room helping form a new play. Designers, directors, artistic directors (yah you DuBois!), staff, actors, audiences, and even yous playwrights. Yep - I know you are out there...

What kind of collaboration suits you best?

What makes for a productive and valuable relationship between the playwright, director, artistic team and staff? What gets in the way?

What else have you to say on the topic? Click below and let me know...

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