GEVA: Making the Clay

In writing class this week my instructor was talking about a Memoir entitled “Name All the Animals” by Alison Smith. Just as I do when I write, this particular author journaled furiously for hundreds or thousands of pages just to get her thoughts out there. In other words, she was ‘making the clay’. It certainly wasn’t the book that it would become. But now she had material to work with that she could mould into that book. What I witnessed today at Geva Theater's rehearsal for The Book Club Play was not so different than this. I enjoy all of the characters that Karen Zacarias has created. But, I’m totally in love with the pundits. In a clever way, the playwright has woven these interesting characters with small segments between scenes. They are played by the actors who are cast in the main parts with minimal costume/props. Without much help in this regard, the audience will know exactly who they are supposed to be.

I enjoyed watching the actor who plays the character Will also play a secret service agent who is a lifetime book club member and a Hemingway junkie. I got to hear the actor read it about five times consecutively with different timing and emphasis, and working very hard to bring out one particular idea. The director gave feedback after each about what worked best, where to make adjustments and they tried again. Today was about making the clay and beginning to shape it.

I know that when it comes to my journals I am extremely sensitive. They are raw and unedited. And untried. And buried seven subdirectories deep on my hard drive with obscure names, encryption and passwords that fall into the ‘excellent strength’ category. I cannot imagine the vulnerability involved with ‘making the clay’ with a room full of people and someone giving me feedback as I do it. But that is what I witnessed today.

During this work, I also had a chance to see how this actor will engage the audience directly. Today, he was playing with empty chairs. But in a few weeks some unsuspecting audience members are going to be sitting in those chairs and suddenly be a part of the play. The set design puts the audience on the stage and all around the actors. Why not use them? After rehearsal today, I decided that those particular audience members ought to be my unsuspecting identical twins and, in fact, sent an email to the Geva trying to make this happen for the second night of previews. (Moms are entitled to a little fun, too, you know.)

I wish I could have stayed longer but my busy life of a single-mother-of-four had different ideas for me yesterday including track meets, softball games and dental appointments, to name a few. I’m enjoying the process immensely, though. Perhaps the laundry can wait long enough for me to go play some more today.