Some thoughts on the rehearsal and creation of When is a Clock. I hope you find them interesting as I mean to make this ongoing (without spoiling the play) until the opening. Let me know if this sort of thing interests you.
First thought: I am ambivalent about attending rehearsals.
This play has already gone through four and a half drafts since I started writing it (which was in...January? I think?) and it contains ideas that have been stolen/lifted/borrowed/sampled from two earlier plays of mine, one of which I wrote nearly ten years ago. I've hashed it out with Kyle, added characters, reordered the scenes, added and subtracted text.
Now, the play will be performed in just about three weeks. The actors and the director are working on it. I often feel like an intrusion when I'm in the room, watching them work... even though I've never had anyone complain about me being there, the expectation is that I am perfectly welcome, and I tend to work with people I know well and trust.
The flip side of it is that I truly enjoy being in the room.
I've spent a great deal of time on stage. I love acting and love the social and collaborative dynamics of rehearsal. As a playwright, I'm outside those dynamics. I can be invited in; I can observe and enjoy; I can even, when I feel its necessary, contribute. I cannot, or at least should not, upset the dynamics between the actors, make choices for them, undermine Kyle's process, or fill in gaps that are not filled in by the script.
For example...Monday night I attended rehearsal and was asked by one of the actors if two characters were having an affair. It is not, expressly, revealed in the script. These characters certainly have an intimacy, but the nature of it is shrouded by the construction of the play: it's never completely made clear to the audience. So... the actors need to decide for themselves.
I could, in that circumstance, come down on one side or another, which would do a disservice to those rehearsing. Part of their process is that discovery, that decision making. What they propose without me is almost always better than how I might box them in.
So... throughout the coming weeks there are rehearsals. The team that's been assembled is wonderful and I love to be around, be helpful, and most of all, I love to watch them wrestle with and act the hell out of something that existed, until now, only on the page or in my head.
Adding to my desire to be a hanger-on is that the cast has wound up being a mish-mash of old friends from different times in my life, and people both new to me and new to my work:
Tom Staggs, who plays Gordon, played Mordred in The Death of King Arthur in 2001.
Tracy Gilbert, who plays Bronwyn, has never bee in one of my plays before, but her husband, Bob, played Henry in The Great Escape. She's terrific.
Ian Gould, who plays Sean, is someone I've known since we went to Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts together in 1992. This is the first time we've worked together since then.
Laura Desmond, who plays Caroline, was in The White Swallow, The Most Wonderful Love and The Great Escape.
Beau Allulli, who plays Alex, is someone who was nearly cast in The Americans, and I'm excited to finally be working with.
Megan Tusing, who plays Lucy, is entirely new to my work, but we met her during The Baby Jesus One-Act Jubilee at the Brick Theater in December.
And, of course, Matthew Trumbull and David DelGrosso (who you might remember from any number of my plays) will both be there to ruin the entire evening with their incompetence.
Suffice to say... when I read about theater tribes, I don't have to look far.
So, as you could guess, it's a roomful of people I enjoy being around.
But they are, in this case, actors working on a play that isn't easy... how much do I indulge my own sense of fun, so to speak, at the expense of interrupting the process? And how much do I need, truly, to tread lightly? Is my self-consciousness unwarranted?
Rehearsals have been going since last week, but tonight is our first read-through (the first time the entire cast can sit down together as such.) Exciting.
For those interested in things like editing and what have you: the first draft, which I think was completed in November, was about 104 pages. The draft we're working with now is 86 pages. So we've lost around 18 pages, give or take stage directions, since last year.
More to come.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.