Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

riding the rail

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…there is no real way of giving the full description of a writer’s life..

It often wobbles somewhere between obscurity and, in a subsequent second, for an evening (or a phone call), celebrity. The daily pulse, however, is the whittling of character, and the connection of point to plot. Good days involve finding the rail through the subject of the moment, and riding it evenly, creatively, and effectively, hammering together all the seams of narrative and leaving no scars to derail an audience on a tight curve.

Most of this occurs in the writer’s mind, or, if particularly lucky, on the page. And, when luck is involved, there are instances of serendipity, where that page gets handed to interested parties who feel the need to expose the words to a live gathering of folks, who will applaud it, or leave you with nightmares of an experience to gnash and blush over..

But, either way, the whole point of writing anything is to reach out –to lay down words which connect to other people’s hearts, minds, wonder, and curiosity.. and facilitate a journey they’d not contemplated taking, one, hopefully, enjoyed.

My connection with the Berkshire Playwrights Lab came as a true gift of serendipity, and has only reinforced my belief in that, every time I’ve been fortunate to work with them.

This is the third year of the Lab’s existence, and last Friday evening, 21st May, was its Gala Opening event.

A ten minute work of mine, Groundwork, was in the roster of the evening, and last Tuesday I drove up to Great Barrington with Joe Cacaci, one of BPL’s artistic directors, and Carol Schneider, another of the playwrights being plat-formed.

Joe was directing Carol’s piece, and, once we got to Great Barrington, they disappeared into rehearsals and weren’t seen again until evening, at a terrific dinner at the Old Mill, a local restaurant. It was the first time for the whole company, minus a straggler or two, to come together and learn of one another’s presentations.

Though I knew of the two actors assigned to my piece, it was at this dinner that I first met Dan Lauria and Jay Thomas.

Bob Jaffe, another of the artistic directors of BPL, was the director of my play. We started rehearsal the next morning at 9.

..ok –you’ve got to know that having Dan and Jay in the same room, not to mention sharing the same stage, is an event of hysteric proportion; they’re old friends, and have wanted to have a whack at one another from the same script for some time!

Jay, is ever ready with a story; from New Orleans, ‘fable curling’ comes off his lips like limitless honey, while Dan, a solid northerner, cuts to the chase of a tale with a no nonsense delivery, and always has the listener rapt. I filled volumes of notebooks on stories these two let fly, and read them now daily, to savor the ribald, wrenching, and unbelievable that I was witness to, laughing uncontrollably.

But the process, of Dan and Jay finding their feet in my words, was a privileged one to watch.

The rehearsal started at a long table, in a large classroom at the Great Barrington Community College, where they first read through the piece. There was a bit of back and forth afterwards, about ‘word reading’ and word meaning, and then Bob asked if they were feeling like they might like to ‘move it’. They were ready to, and so Dan and Jay walked about for the second reading. In the course of this came movements, connected to particular lines that shaped an action in a particular moment.

Bob massaged these moments, and asked Dan and Jay to see if a different connection could be made to a word, facilitating a different action.

..the rest of us in the room, Abby Edber, BPL intern, Don Kimmel, stage manager, and I, would be silent and hanging on every instance, watching these two actors create, from nothing but words, characters, relationship, comedy and entertainment.

We ran the piece several times in that first rehearsal, and each time round I was able to marvel –what had first existed as a conversation between two voices in my head, was now in the flesh in front of me, pulsing with a wit and life I’d only sketched as guide.

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When the connection is a good one, magic happens. It came in that first rehearsal, and stayed rich through opening night!


One Response

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  1. Your description made me feel as if I was there with you! It sounded fantastic!


    May 27, 2010 at 5:33 PM

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