Monday, April 11, 2011

WWN at Brave New Works: Final Thoughts

The cast gathered at the theater bright and early on Saturday morning for our final rehearsal of "Without Which Nothing," followed by our first staged reading of the work.

We began in a flurry of activity, with Anne, our stage manager, hurridly printing pages for a new scene to be inserted that day (!), and Clint rushing in after being blockaded in his neighborhood by marathon runners. Work continued on our opening image for the prologue, as we set more specific actions with our bodies that would compliment Raven's language. We read through our new scenes and decided they made the cut for now, and scrutinized the stage directions throughout the piece, discussing what would be helpful for the audience to hear and what could be left out. After one final read through, we took a break for lunch, feeling nervous and excited in anticipation for the afternoon's staged reading.

A little after 2pm, Matt Huff, our director, and Margaret Baldwin, our lead writer, took the stage and introduced the work, explaining to the audience that today they would be hearing the first movement of the piece. Overall, the reading went well. We had a great team of actors, from the incomparable Clint Thornton, to Emory grad Nick Surbey, to our awesome student actors -- Sophie Edwards, Josh Izaak, Madeline Teissler, and Robin Iriele -- go Emory! It was incredibly helpful to see what moments the audience responded to, what was funny or confusing, where the play dragged on or, conversely, where it felt rushed and compacted.  

Out of Hand Co-Artistic Director, Adam Fristoe, lead an engaging talkback session. Audience members were asked to close their eyes, then call out any images or moments that stuck with them as compelling or evocative. Responses included the songs woven throughout; Raven's wings in the beginning; the plight of Perceval the Frog; generational relationships; the rotation of narrators; imagery of water and physical bodies; willful destruction; and the three very different worlds depicted in the play.

Discussion then moved to connections the audience perceived between the three narrative streams in the play (consisting of a scientist searching for water on Mars; three women in a dry place searching for water for a funeral rite; and a modern re-telling of the Frog Prince fairytale). One audience member voiced that a main connection was the quest to obtain or find water, though reasons for this might differ in each stream. Another member added that water seemed to mean different things to different people in each stream, while a third felt the parts of the play were connected through rituals that involved water, whether they be daily or heightened rituals. Raven's interactions and role as a trickster in the Frog and Well Women streams stood out to the audience, and some voiced a desire to see him interact more with Dr. Which and his quest to find water on Mars. Science peeps were well represented in the audience, and commented on the tension between astrophysics and microbiology that emerges through the writing. 

As the work we presented in the reading was only the first half of the piece, one question we asked of the audience was, "How do you see this all coming together?" One audience member sensed that the funeral for which the Well Women characters are preparing would be the point of convergence, while another felt that Ada, the youngest character in the Well Women stream, could help connect all narratives in the end, as she is caught between old ways and the new, between the myths of her grandmother and the science she studies in America.

We left the theater feeling accomplished and relieved, with many ideas and much helpful feedback to consider as we move into the next stage of development for "Without Which Nothing."
- Erin Weller Dalton
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