Barn Storming Project of Day Three – what a great conversation!
Day two was great. Christopher was inspired by the discussion and brought in 21 rewritten pages for the script. One move was to put the narrative of the ghost story right at the top. It was great for us to have that awareness at the beginning. He also clarified a couple of style, theatrical style, within the play. The play feels as though it is getting more specific. One of the things that this project affords the writer is to write a play for a cast larger than ten people. The schools requested a larger cast to involve as many students as possible. With that comes the challenge of shaping a specific and detailed life, want, and relationship between and for each of the characters. Every detail the playwright addresses raises another question or brings to light an additional meaning of a moment or interaction for another character.
We spent day two working in detail through each scene. Asking the questions: What is the event of this scene? Why are they here? What do they want? What’s the expectation? etc. It was a good conversation to flush out the text. We got about half way through the script before the end of the day. The next day we thought we’d pick up and do the same work before reading through the draft.
We didn’t work through the script. We began a conversation about race, casting, and moving the needle forward in acceptance and diversity within the theater, world, and academia.
This project was inspired by the three schools in Maryland. Each school has a diverse and unique make up. One school is 99% white, one school is the 99% non-white, and the third school is made up of the most concentration of mixed race relationships in the countries. The idea of the project was sparked with issue of race that were at the forefront of awareness that raised in the Baltimore area after Freddie Gray death-and all of the issues that were happening across the country.
I’m impressed and inspired that the schools wanted to address this issue through theater and by collaborating with the three schools to build this project and develop this script together.
One of the things that makes Chris’ writing so exciting is the pulse of a diverse that he captures. This particular play on one level is about a group of artists ‘squatting’ or taking back the world from colonialism. The play and characters are vibrant, alive, exciting – all of it. The schools are excited by the discussion of the play, are seeing how the play is progressing through only one day of development…but there is a concern. The concern is that they are not sure that they are able to fully cast and support this play with the racial make up of their three campuses. Some students may be excluded – other characters in the play may not be properly represented.
The most charged conversation happening in college theaters across the country right now is diversity in casting, in the make up of departments, in play selection, etc. It is charged.
My plan was to have the three faculty members, Chris, and myself address this after rehearsal on the third day. I am so grateful and inspired by the faculty’s suggestion and encouragement to involve the entire room in the discussion. There reason was that these artists are incredibly collaborative and thoughtful. It would be great to hear their thoughts on the issue. And it was.
When I posed the issue or challenge to the group: the first response was, ‘well why can’t a squatter by white?’ – then you realize if you’re taking back colonialism, race of the people recapturing property matters. The conversation was incredibly respectful, thoughtful, and personal. The parts that stood out to me was everyone in the room wanted to make sure that the project created the potential for it to be as inclusive as it can be for everyone on campus. I heard something that was – ‘don’t switch the asian characters to white’. It was pointed out how easy it is to white wash or not think of that ethnicity as specific because their relationship in society’s eyes to issue of racism is different. I mention this one comment because that was the one that made me look at my perspective differently. I thought it could happen…then realized that that is about my conditioning. All of it was an amazing conversation. The best part was that it was in an open and safe environment.
We wrapped up the conversation after an hour and then we read thru the draft as it stands today.
The thing that was reiterated and appreciated by all in the room is that this project is not about developing a play. It is about having a year and half conversation on a topic. That conversation began in earnest at a very deep level today. What everyone shared in the room with impact the students throughout this project and the development of this play. I am grateful for everyone’s participation.
As I wrote after day one – the group became tight after doing the work.
Talk with you soon.