I had just received payment for Playwriting Mentoring and the address was from RUSSIA.
Who from Russia would want me to help them develop a play? This had to be a scam. Maybe the payment would be bounced back and some Cybermole would infect my computer. This couldn't be real. No one had contacted me from Russia about Playwriting Mentoring. The payment just arrived out of nowhere. This made so sense.
So I tentatively sent an email to a Russian email address and thanked "IVAN" for signing up for Playwriting Mentoring, and I asked whether he wanted to create a brand new play, or whether he wanted to work on a piece that he was currently involved in creating. I waited about a day, when I received this email:
Thanks for your quick response!
Answering you questions:
1) I am writing a play already.
If you don`t mind I would like to give more flavour on it.
The play is called "Le Cygne" and is inspired by a known ballet solo named "Le Cygne"..."
And so we began our international creative journey together.
It was a wild idea for a play and wild how he had simply found me on the internet, but something about this seemingly random connection seemed right. He wasn't a Russian hacker, just a passionate creator, so even though we were half a world apart, we were on the same page. We were storytellers.
So Ivan forwarded me his first draft of his play, which I read immediately, and then we arranged to meet via Skype and talk about his play.
And it was incredible. Just incredible. Sitting up in the booth at Manhattan Rep in Midtown Manhattan looking into my production Macbook, I connected to this passionate Russian playwright who was sitting in a coffee shop/ Bar in Moscow at 11 pm Moscow time, half a world away.
And so we started the process.
His play was different, almost like Greek Drama was somehow merged with Shakespeare.
Le Cygne is about a young girl, in the mythical town of Paphlagonia, who discovers that her father is the biggest Drug Lord in the country and how she goes about trying to SAVE HIS SOUL.
We cut things, added pieces, I colloquialized some of his English writing, fixed some grammar, he sent me new pages and changes every couple of days, and we brainstormed and brainstormed and brainstormed on better ways to tell his story. It was a fantastic process.
The play was finally finished (The rehearsal draft) at the end of August. In early October, we held a reading at our brand new theatre on 45th St with about 20 people and everyone loved it. It was different, unique and the story was just wild.
This past weekend, we presented a full production of Le Cygne at Manhattan Rep and it was amazing, and not just because I directed it. No, there was something magical about it, and everyone saw and felt it in performance. There was a quality to this play that could not be described or felt on the page. It stepped up to an entirely different life by virtue of being embodied by actors and BROUGHT TO LIFE. Ivan was unable to get a Visa to attend but I sent him the videos of each performance, and he saw it too. Just amazing.
And this is why every serious playwright needs to bring his work to life at some point, not just wait for someone to produce it. Even a small 2 night self-produced show can change the life and energy of a play. It changes everything! You can see clearly what works and you can see clearly what doesn't. It is the best education for any playwright, and it should absolutely be part of the creative process of playwriting!
Yes, it might prove difficult to bring even a piece of your work to life, and costly too, but it is a fantastic investment, and it's fun too. NOT A PLAY READING for an audience, but a fully memorized and directed workshop performance of your play, one that the audience can get lost in emotionally! With a script in hand, it simply becomes an intellectual exercise! Yuk! Ugh! Blah!
I know I must sound like a broken record at times, but the MOST important thing a playwright can do to develop his work is to bring his work to life - not in an intellectual play reading, but in a small or workshop production so that she or he can really SEE and Experience what works and what doesn't work! This production of Le Cygne transformed Ivan's play into a viable and compelling contemporary play!
Even if it is just in your living room, BRING YOUR PLAY TO LIFE!! This is the most important step to accelerate your career!
(At the risk of making this blog totally self-promoting, check out our Play Production Program on our home page - an easy and pretty exciting way to see your work come to life.)