Thursday, February 10, 2011
Discovery Moments at Freehold by Jonathan Locke
The Freehold Studio Series is a wonderful event. It's a living experiment. A place to do work and push limits but also to watch and listen and be delighted. And this year, the experimental staging of a scene from my first full-length play, "In Session", marks the end of a journey that started for me more than five years ago in Elizabeth Heffron's playwriting class. I could not have known it at the time, but my desire to write a play would take me to all kinds of inspiring and quite unexpected destinations. If you had asked me before I ventured into Freehold what I thought about acting, I would've certainly said “Are you kidding me? I'm a writer, not an actor. I could never do that.” But Elizabeth got me up on my feet and something happened. Fast forward to 2009 and I found myself wrapping up a year in Robin's immersive, life-changing Meisner class. I began to wonder: "Could it be that I don't know myself as well as I'd like to think?"
Over the past several months, that same process of discovery has come around again. Apparently, I unconsciously decided that the best motivation for getting back to writing a play would be to partially dislocate both of my shoulders and spend months in physical therapy. Although painful, this plan worked well and I soon found myself writing again. But this time my writing was informed by a new understanding. I had some idea not only of what a good script looks like, but also of what actors are looking for in text when they go to interpret it. I knew not only how to write characters, but how to create meaningful conflict and how to make beat shifts clear. But that was not the surprise. I could have told you that before I started writing. The surprise was the way that my new acting background transformed my approach to writing (as well as other aspects of my life).
One of the things that you learn in Freehold acting classes is to value discovery and in-the-moment truth over end-result. And that value system had spilled over into my writing, which became more exploratory and mysterious and less result-oriented. Just being willing to stay engaged in a discovery process -- in a zone of not fully understanding what I was writing -- caused all kinds of interesting visions to emerge. And as I wrote and observed what was happening "in the moment" (with some help from my very sharp writing mentor, Warren Etheredge), my understanding of what I had been writing shifted. It shifted slowly at first. But then, a couple of months into the process, I had the very Discovery Moment I had been secretly hoping for. My writing, a scraggly bunch of disordered apple trees, suddenly lined up in neat, blossoming rows: I was shocked to discover that my play wasn't about what I thought it was about at all! And again, I found myself wondering: "Could it be that I don't know myself as well as I'd like to think?"
And now it's happening yet again. With Rebecca Goldberg, a friend of mine from Meisner class, directing the talented actors E.J. Gong and Amber Zipperer, I'm ready for another Discovery Moment at the Studio Series. I can't wait.
Photo at top: Jonathan Locke
Photo at bottom: Amber Zipperer and E.J. Gong in upcoming Studio Series piece, "In Session"
Freehold's Studio Series is Freehold's highly anticipated yearly event that presents work created by current and former Freehold students, lab members, and faculty. The Series is an opportunity for participants to investigate work in a "studio" setting and then to experience the evolution of the work through performance. This popular series includes original works, scenes written by renowned playwrights and new original works premiering in the series, improv performances and puppet pieces. The Studio Series will run for three weekends with a different line-up of pieces every week. Come and see them all!
The series runs from March 11 through March 26, Friday and Saturday nights with two shows: 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Suggested donation: $10.00. Tickets at the door. For more information about the Studio Series Line-up this year:
Studio Series 2011