August 10, 2009

In Praise of the Actor’s Voice

Where does a writer’s voice come from? Beats the hell out of me. But it’s not terribly uncommon to be able to guess at what other kinds of art a playwright gets up to in the other places of his or her life. Poetry, movies, comic books, and music all leave traces on plays. That is to say, if a playwright also writes comic books, certain tropes and storytelling techniques from that literary form often show up in his plays. And vice versa. There’s nothing better for a playwright who struggles with structure than to spend a few years toiling away on a police procedural type television show. It makes perfect sense that who we are in one area of our creative, work or personal lives bleeds into who we are in other areas.

Huntington Playwrighting Fellow Jacqui Parker is a well-known actor and producer in Boston. Her play Jeanie Don't Sing No Mo’ has been a long time coming. She started it in 2005 and picked it up again to work on when she became a fellow. In reading the drafts, I understood intellectually that the language, the structure of the dialogue, is intended to work in a certain rhythm. But, the story is long, the relationships are complex and I wondered how and if it would really come together as a play. Well, dear reader, you’ll be happy to know that the play came together in the reading in a way that I had not anticipated.

As the cast practically sang their way through the script, I remembered that the writing is informed by an experienced actor’s point of view. The actors, of course, understood it immediately. It is the hardest kind of writing for me to recognize, not having been an actor. Ironically, it is often the kind of writing I find most pleasurable. It was a delight really hearing Jacqui’s voice in this play for the first time.

- Lisa Timmel, Director of New Work

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