Well... it wasn't exactly a cold read, but it was the first time the script was read aloud by a group of actors. Because of time restraints, we didn't quite make it through to the end... and I'm squirming to get back in there and see the pieces start to knit themselves together.
It's hard to be patient... but I'm learning.
As a writer/director, my experience working with actors is somewhat limited. As an admitted fault, I come from the megalomaniacal approach of "I have a movie in my head and I want it acted and photographed to my precise specifications." Okay, I know that's wrong on so many levels. Foremost is the fact that it would put restraints upon the life that talented actors might breathe into the roles, lifting them above my preconceptions and expectations and taking them in new, potentially more dramatically gratifying directions. I know that. As you can tell, I've read the books. But still, it's hard not
to wish one person could speak that line the way the millionaire yells "Oh loverrr!" in The Lady from Shanghai
, or the way the cop says, "Why do you make me do it? You know I'm gonna make you talk. I always make you talk," in On Dangerous Ground
. And even if I could dig up Everett Sloane, Robert Ryan or the sailor boy from Applause
, it wouldn't be fair to chain them to such specific deliveries of their lines.
I'm a control freak, okay? It's called being a director -- even a soft-spoken one. I am just extremely glad that Alexandre Harrington is assuming the role of director because I wouldn't know where to begin to prepare a cast for a feature-length performance with eighteen hours of rehearsal. As the writer, I'm watching and, like I said, learning. But that's what Brave New Works is about, a nerve-wracking swan dive of theatrical, resourceful creativity.
I spoke to Joseph Skibell, whose novel A Blessing on the Moon
is being adapted in Brave New Works as a musical/dance performance. And I could see he shared (to some degree) the same mixture of exhilaration and terror that are -- I'm told -- natural at this stage in the process.
But mostly exhilaration.
Just to make myself clear, I'm not complaining about where we stand after the first night's read -- just trying to convey the sense of anxiety of wanting one's script to live up to the potential one imagines it to have. That maddening feeling of watching your child walk into the hall where the SAT's are given... wondering if you've done everything you could to insure his/her/its success at one of life's many make-or-break moments.
By and large, I've got to say I'm very happy with where we are, one foot out of the gate. But clearly, a great distance is yet to be traveled. For one thing, I've got to cut away the bulk of the scene description that weighs down the drama like sandbags tied to the side of a hot air balloon. Because when the actors are given room to breathe and speak -- and react to one another -- the story really comes alive (I've gotta say, scenes 30 and 31 were amazing).
So between now and Tuesday 2/13 (rehearsal #2), we'll cut some of the safety ropes and see where the wind -- and a very ambitious cast of actors -- decide to carry it.