by Simon Levy
Note: Being sick away from home is not recommended when you’re at the start of workshopping a new work. I finally took myself to George Washington University Hospital ER on Wednesday night to find out what was going on. Apparently my oxygen level was below normal and they were fearful I might have either a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) or pneumonia. After 5 hours of lying on a gurney, being put on a drip, having a battery of tests – while down the corridor a poor baby was hollering in pain and some inebriated woman was screaming, “I GOTTA GO HOME! I WANT TO GO HOME! I CAN’T STAY HERE!” over and over for nearly an hour – it was determined that I have a mild pneumonia in my right lung. They kept testing my oxygen level so they could decide whether to keep me overnight on oxygen and an antibiotic drip or send me back to my hotel with pills. Happily, I’m here with my antibiotics and slowly getting better.
It took us 2 days, Tuesday and Wednesday, to do our moment-to-moment work, discussing given circumstances, wants and needs, the dramatic actions, primary objectives, emotional life, the basics of the relationship between Henry and Joyce; throughout, the issue of “glass-ness” was always at the center of our discussions. (All the while I’m sitting there, shriveled up, hacking and hewing, feeling like crap, just trying to make it through and be a good creative partner.)
Because Amanda’s play can be done in a variety of styles – expressionistic, impressionistic, poetic realism, etc. – it’s really open to interpretation. I felt my primary job was to honor the ambiguities in the script while giving the actors specifics. It’s not the actor’s job to “act” theme or metaphor or lofty ideas or ambiguity. Actors act specifically. They have to know why they’re saying what they’re saying, what they want, what they’re trying to make happen in that moment, what’s the dramatic action. Fortunately, the two actors, Kim and Larry, are terrific collaborators. And Amanda became more of a verbal partner in the discourse, letting us know what her intentions were when we asked, but also being honest at times by saying she didn’t know, or that she was thinking of changing that.
She’s very calm in the room, attentive, taking copious notes, never judgmental, eager to soak up all the discussion. So the process was open and lively and remarkably in-depth. Along with Amanda, Miriam, our dramaturg, plus student dramaturgs and visiting dramaturgs and directors, and Laura, our asst. director, we accomplished a remarkable amount of work and got to the end of the play. Hundreds of questions were raised, some answered, some left for thought. Amanda went back to her hotel Wednesday night and promises to have rewrites for us today.
Meanwhile, off in the depths of the Kennedy Center, five other plays are in process, and there have been short meetings for Playwrights and Dramaturgs, Playwrights and Directors, NNPN and Student Dramaturgs, a panel discussion on DC Writers and Writing in the Regions, and a reading of Randy Baker’s FORGOTTEN KINGDOMS (which I missed because I was feeling so lousy).
I’ve already earned a bit of notoriety because I’m the one sitting in rehearsals and wandering around the Kennedy Center with a blanket draped around me. Hey, every director needs their “look”!
Simon Levy is Producing Director/Dramaturg at the Fountain Theatre. He is attending the NNPN/Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights Workshop in Washington, DC, directing a workshop version of THE GLASS MAN by Amanda Shank.