Getting to the Other Side

This past Tuesday was the great big blow-out season finale at Tuesdays at Nine, the cold reading series which I co-curate and co-host. As we’ve done for the past thirty three years (with me co-hosting for the last five of them), we gathered together to read ten-page excerpts of works in progress, see how they played in front of a live audience – as opposed to around a classroom table or the like, discussing how a piece might hypothetically be staged or might be received in the rare and happy event of a full production. No, our feedback is raucous, immediate, and real (much like the drinking afterwards) – and we made sure to involve as many people as possible in all of that, given it was our last event of the season.

Except it wasn’t, really. This weekend, at Under Saint Marks, we finally got to see the full production of Bill Schaumberg’s Three Chickens Confront Existence, a play which we’ve workshopped at Tuesdays at Nine. (It’s gone through a number of names and drafts over time – you can find it on NPX under a different name, and in a slightly different draft, right here.) Its excerpts have always been some of the most promising I’ve ever seen – a barmy but heartfelt mash-up of Samuel Beckett and The Far Side – and right there, in all their feathered glory, were the three feathered protagonists.

After seven years.

Yes, I can’t really claim to have “discovered” this piece, since excerpts of it were read two years prior to me assuming my current position. Once I was in a position to select pieces, putting up excerpts of one of the most beloved stories to our community was something of a no-brainer. We put up excerpts throughout the years of covid quarantine, watching our chicken friends on our zoom screens, and used them to celebrate our return to in-person programming when that time came. We had a First Mondays reading of the entire script two years ago. So this weekend’s performance represents a seven year development journey through our program – which doesn’t take into account Bill’s years of planning and writing before that.

So for all the joy I felt in watching this production – and I did feel, if not a parental pride, then perhaps a godfatherly sort of affection – I couldn’t shake a feeling of dismay as well. Seven years. That’s how long the process takes these days. And that’s a long time for humans – just think of how many chickens’ lifetimes that represents!

NOTE: This weekend’s performances simply represented the New York appearance; this production is slated to go to this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe as well! If you wanted to help with travel costs and the like, or just really like chickens, feel free to help them out here.

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