SMU's New Visions, New Voices festival is presented by the theater department every spring. It is entirely student-run: the playwrights, directors, and actors are all undergraduate theater students. Amy D., a playwright, journals about her experiences creating a production in spring 2007.
I canít believe weíre opening the show tonight. Weíve been in rehearsals for weeks, the director and I had discussed the show for weeks before that and I had been working on the script for months. Everyone keeps asking me if Iím nervous, but Iím not. The actors are ready for this and I wouldnít change anything to the script if I could. Iím so excited to see it and I know everybodyís going to do well. Happy Opening Night!
Going into tech rehearsals is always stressful. Tech rehearsals are when we take the show into the theatre space and start adding in all the technical elementsÖhence, the name. Lights, sound, costumes. It can be challenging because youíre teaching a crew how the set is supposed to be set up and the stage managers are handling a lot tasks more than they were in regular rehearsals. The actors are learning how to play on the real set and they are working with new props and their costume changes. The process of transition is stressful and as the playwright, Iím not so much concerned about that part of the show. Iím still worried about the script and if itís in the right place for an audience to see it, but itís too late for changes! Once we were done with slogging through the tech rehearsals, we were able to do a dress rehearsal. Thatís basically a run just like an actual show, just without an audience. To see the entire show with sound, costumes, the new music, lights, itís an amazing experience. After that run, I realized that the show was really ready for audience. The actors are ready to have that new energy from having an audience.
Weíre back from Spring Break (sadly) and rehearsals are underway again. They feel more intense, considering we go into tech rehearsal late next week. Last night I watched a run of the show in the actual theatre space with most of our furniture in place. It felt very new to see the entire play in the theatre space. The actors are beginning to feel how much energy itís going to take to fill up the entire theatre. Theyíre doing a great job and all of them are mostly off-book. (That means youíve got all your lines memorized.)
My playwriting professor, Gretchen Smith, watched as well and we both took notes on parts that still werenít working. Travis, my professor and I had a long talk afterwards – the showís looking really good and we discussed ways to make it stronger. Itís an advantage when you can get an outside eye, because itís a fresh take on the play.
I have a specific way of taking notes – I follow in my script and whenever something strikes me, something that I want to change or I think I should look at, I write a note on a post-it and put the post-it on that page. I do the same thing for the notes that Travis and Gretchen give me.
Today I went to Starbucks and made myself go through every single post-it. Sometimes itís a small change and I make a note to tell the cast and have them change it in their script. However, sometimes the change is larger and then I type up a new page to print and have distributed to the cast. The distribution is the stage managersí job. Then weíll go over all the changes in rehearsal. The process is moving along smoothly, Travis and all the actors are doing a great job.
New Visions New Voices is the play festival that takes place each April. Itís part of the Theatre Departmentís yearly season. Every year, the seniors in the playwriting track write a full length play in the fall to be considered for NVNV. I wrote a play that I titled Circus Dreaming, a realistic drama set in Chicago about a women in her mid-thirties who comes to a breaking point in her career and her marriage and has to chose whatís most important to her. Three of the plays are chosen in early November and then we look to the senior and junior directing classes to find a director for each play. Iíve been looking forward to participating in NVNV since I was a perspective student so I was ecstatic when my playwriting professor called to tell me Circus Dreaming had been selected.
Once the process got started, my professor and I selected a director, a friend of mine in the junior class, Travis. To me it was really important to work a director I felt very comfortable with, because the show I wrote is now in his hands. The playwright is solely in charge of the script and the director makes all the artistic decisions. We participated in auditions and callbacks and came up with a cast we were incredibly happy to have.
After the Thanksgiving break we came back and had a first read-through. This is the first chance for me to hear the script read out loud by the actors playing the roles. Travis, my playwriting professor and the designers were also present at the read-through. After that, we all went away on Winter break and I revised parts of the script.
The words come to
Revising the script is an important process for NVNV. The draft we turn in in November is just a first draft. Once you have actors reading the lines you can hear whatís working and whatís not, if a line sounds awkward or wordy. We went into rehearsals on February 14th. Travis holds rehearsals and I come in on a semi-regular basis to see a scene or a rough run-through of the show. He and I chat almost daily about questions he has about the script or a character or discoveries that heís making (some of which I didnít even know I wrote in!) Itís amazing to see actors get so invested in characters that you created months before.
Now the showís at the point where Travis has blocked all of it. This means all the movement onstage has been basically sketched out. Heís working scenes and doing a lot of specific character work with the actors. Iíve made most of the major changes to my script- wrote a new scene, reworked the ending, etc. Now Iím working on smaller changes- listening to the way lines sound, if theyíre really communicating what the character is trying to say. Everybody seems to be having a great time working on Circus Dreaming, but I know weíre also looking forward to Spring Break. Only 6 weeks till we open!