Saturday, Matt and I did the staged reading for the play we co-wrote. This was my first time doing a staged reading. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We put the reading together in four weeks, which I knew wasn’t a great amount of time, but I thought things would happen faster. We started by thinking, “Oh yeah, we’ll take a week for casting then have a rehearsal a week before the reading.” That didn’t happen. We had half the cast in about two weeks. What I didn’t take into account was people don’t respond right away to emails or phone calls. Then I had some people who said they could do it not be able to. One of my favorite responses from an actor was, “I can do the reading, but not that week.” This was my first time dealing with actors in this way. There were times where my loving relationship with them was tested.
Once we got the cast together, it took a little bit of time for the theatre to confirm which space we had. I would rather have a cast together and find out we had no theatre than finding out we had a theatre and no cast. Luckily, we got a great cast of very professional actors who came super-prepared. I was extremely grateful that they took the time to really get to know their characters and breathe life into the story.
Having the reading with an audience was really helpful. There were times when I could hear the audience gasping. That told me they were really into it. I got caught up in watching some the actors, but was able to keep my writer’s cap on. I tried to read along with the script, but my copy was out of order. That’s what I call being prepared.
After the reading, we had a feedback session with the actors and the audience, which was the predominant reason we did the reading. There’s only so much Matt and I can get out of a script by reading it to each other. There comes a time where I feel that I’m trapped in a tunnel and I need someone to show me the way out. Other people’s perspectives are the way out. Hearing opinions, whether I agree or not, is important. If someone says something about the story that I don’t agree with, it can challenge me to think, “Why does this not fit?” When I hear a suggestion I like, I feel inspired. It gives me a direction to take the story. Feedback allows me to find out whether or not I’m conveying the story I want to tell in a way that other people can understand. It’s a lot different when I’m reading a script and I know exactly what I mean than handing it to somebody else. It’s also interesting to get people’s emotional responses. People project a lot onto what you write. They take things personally that I never would have thought of. As a writer, it’s also my job to weed through what is their emotional stuff and what is a critique. Sometimes, it’s very hard to tell the difference.
Now, it’s our job to take the feedback, decide what we want to fix, and rewrite. Writing is rewriting! I’m also taking a sitcom writing class, so I’ve gotten critiques about what I’m working on for that class this weekend too. So right now, I feel like I’m on critique overload. No matter what the critique, I try to respond as politely as I can, even when I want to scream, “That’s not the story I’m telling! Write your own damn play!” I’m grateful that we did the reading, and even though Matt and I have a lot of work ahead of us, I’m excited by the new ideas we have.