Grasshopper

For the past five years, it’s been my privilege to serve as co-creative director of Tuesdays at Nine, a weekly cold reading series for developing new works.  As much of a grind as it can be, it’s very fulfilling to find new writing to showcase, and figure out the weekly puzzle of casting each piece to best effect (which is not done in advance – we pull our actors from each week’s attendees).  The issue for me, of course, is the risk of neglecting my own work as I provide this sort of developmental support for other writers.  I can put up my own writing, of course – we did so only a few weeks ago, in fact – but it’s the sort of thing that can only happen sporadically.  If the throngs of aspiring writers hoping for one of our precious few weekly spots come and see my work in one of those spots once too often, they’re apt to become discouraged.  A mite cranky, even.  Usually, I designate my own writing as what I refer to as “emergency pages” – if some last-minute conflict should arise with an author who’d been confirmed in a given week, I’ve got something which can go up in its stead.  And if the emergency doesn’t arise – which is, of course, the goal – the emergency pages wait another week.

They tend to wait a good long while.

Fortunately, there are other development outlets of which I can avail myself.  Recently, Morgana Watson, an actor/writer herself and one of our regular attendees, began running a program similar to Tuesdays.  It’s a monthly program up in Sherman, Connecticut – and as luck would have it, last month my schedule happened to work out in such a way that I could make it up there and attend.  So, with a fun little road trip arranged, I got to simply be a writer at one of these cold reading events.  To see things from the other side of the divide.

It seemed strangely familiar.

Morgana’s running a nice little program up in Sherman.  The writers are solid, and she has enough of a talent pool to work with to realize their visions.  But as I watched her coordinate the evening, something remarkable began to occur to me – I was sitting there in the theater, watching myself.

The scowling look of concentration when surveying the assembled actors, when all of your initial casting ideas have been scuttled and you have to come up with a new play on the fly?  I recognized it immediately.  The fast-paced introductions of writer and actor, which have to take place within the whirl of activity going on before readings begin?  So very familiar.  The introductory spiel to the audience and patter in between pieces, wherein the speaker is trying to be engaging and comprehensive while ever-so-conscious that the evening needs to move along as swiftly as possible?  I was certain I’d heard those words, that phrasing, that tone of voice before.

And I have, many times, usually coming out of my own life.

A long time ago, I entertained the thought of being a teacher – or at least getting the sort of advanced degree which would make that possible.  For a variety of reasons, it became clear that wasn’t the life for me, and I’ve pursued the arts ever since – but it’s still nagged me that I left that calling behind.  Except, apparently, I haven’t – because without realizing it, it seems I’ve taught people how to host developmental cold reading nights.

Hey, it’s something.  And Morgana’s really good at it – so permit me some teacherly pride.

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