Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finding Out What I Didn't Know by Ann Eisenberg

As a new playwright, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’d been writing fiction for many years, and I had taken Playwriting I and II with Elizabeth Heffron, but I hadn’t yet worked with actors, a director or an audience. The New Play Lab changed all that.

The twice-a-week, month-long format of meeting with fellow writers created a safe place to take risks, develop and revise my play. Elizabeth carefully guided us through structure, voice, character development, plot and various issues that came up as we wrote. But those intense writing development classes were only the beginning. At the end of the month we met with our directors and discussed our plays. Then we auditioned actors and rehearsed.

One of my characters, Patty, began as a minor character, but in rehearsal she came alive. She suddenly had the actress’s dark hair and forceful body language. I went home that night and wrote many more lines for Patty and reworked the scene altogether. The director pointed out that my character knew information before being told, and that, too, sparked my imagination. Ultimately I wrote a much better scene and the changed the direction of the play.

During the two performances of our scenes in front of a live audience I was very nervous. After the first performance I was told my characters were flat, after the second I was praised for their depth. I learned the importance of separating myself from my work, allowing the audience to have their responses and not taking things personally. I took risks, I made mistakes, I had successes and I learned. I learned that I want to continue on this magical playwriting path of discovery, mystery and humanity.

Photo above: Ann Eisenberg's play being read at The New Play Lab in 2011

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