Scenic Orbits... or Space: The Final Frontier

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Intrepid readers, this is Anne again, sitting in the cool of her home away from the sun, which feels awfully close to the planet right now.

The sun is, of course, a star, and it's behaving as it should this time of year... bearing down the heat, lingering far into the evening before giving way to the small universe of other stars we see each night.

If you've been following Inkblog, you'll know that we've been musing on stars and their odd, erratic ways, having just finished an Inkreading of Blue Straggler by Rebecca Bossen.

I'm about to share with you her experience in her own words of working with director Amber Jackson and a terrific cast.  But before I give this blog over to Rebecca, I want to share with you a moment that completely surprised and delighted all of us in this process... a deviation in the playmaking orbit.

When we spoke with Rebecca before the rehearsal process started, she was pretty sure that she would not have time to rewrite her play, which is totally fine with us.  This is the playwright's experience, and we are happy to explore a script as is to see what we discover.

And then she surprised us with a new draft the day of the reading.  We were delighted.  But what surprised and delighted us so much was that she was inspired to revise after talking with Collin Ranney about possible set designs for her play.

As part of the Inkreading process, we try to bring on a consulting designer to dream up the million-dollar production for the playwright.  We hope it helps playwrights dream big about their plays and to see how their play will function in three dimensions.

What Rebecca discovered is a whole other dimension to her play, which began to change the rules of Blue Straggler's universe.  Hooray!  It was more than we could hope for and was a teaching moment for all of us.  Rebecca describes it below.  I myself was reminded of how important it is to bring all kinds of playmakers to the table in the early stages of play development.  And, as Rebecca says, a play is quickly owned by many people... in a beautiful way.

Here's Rebecca's Inkreading experience.


A playwright sits at a keyboard, speedily click-clacking her way to theatrical brilliance. She hands her script to the right person and--voila!--her play is immediately produced, a critical and commercial success.

Ah, if only it were so easy. I'm sure that this has happened somewhere, for someone, at some time, and I continue to hold out hope that one day this will happen for me. For most of us, however, the path from the keyboard to a theatre is a bit more tortuous (and occasionally torturous). There is the writing itself, which can take months and months. And then maybe a reading and a rewrite. And a rewrite of the rewrite. And another reading, if you're lucky. Which, naturally, will lead to another rewrite. And so on.

At each step of the way, the writer is grateful for the further refining of the piece, the little bits of diamond that begin to glitter among the coal. Then a strange problem arises--the play becomes a better and better piece of writing, but not necessarily a better play. We can get stuck relating to the words in their two-dimensional format, forgetting that they need to one day live and breathe in three-dimensional space. (Or possibly even more dimensions than that--see Blue Straggler for details.)

Enter The Inkwell to the rescue! In their wisdom, they teamed me up with Amber Jackson, a wonderful director who is allergic to music-stand-style readings. She staged the piece more fully and fluidly than I ever could have hoped for, especially given the fact that she was handed an extensively rewritten script 24 hours before we had an audience. That rewrite was due in large part to another one of The Inkwell's fantastic ideas--they gave us the opportunity to work with a set designer (the very talented Collin Ranney) and discuss how a full production of Blue Straggler might look.

A light bulb went on in my head during that conversation with Amber and Collin. Thinking about the characters acting, reacting, and interacting with objects in actual space helped me solve a fundamental storytelling problem. And when I saw Collin's renderings, they took my breath away. Collin's design and Amber's staging gave me a rush of giddy delight, the slightly surreal euphoria of seeing my internal thoughts becoming an external reality.

Of course, the magic of theatre is that the thoughts are no longer mine alone; they are the amalgamation of the thoughts of everyone involved in the process. That kind of alchemy takes time. Despite my writer's fantasy of the instant success, I know that the time taken for such amazing collaboration has brought Blue Straggler into an infinitely better space.


And here are some of the gorgeous set renderings that Collin Ranney put together for Blue Straggler.  The play takes place in many different orbits, all of which revolve around Lisa, an astrophysicist who finds love and loss tearing her universe apart.

Blue Straggler Scenic #3.jpgSo you'll see in this next rendering all these trunks popped open by Aspen Trees.  This was the idea from Collin that fundamentally changed the trajectory of Blue Straggler.  Collin helped Rebecca imagine another element in the universe of the play, that there are trunks leading to different moments in time and space.  She's taken this idea and run with it in the second act.

Blue Straggler Scenic #1.jpgBlue Straggler Scenic #2.jpg

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This page contains a single entry by The Inkwell published on July 10, 2011 10:01 AM.

Pushing as far as you can was the previous entry in this blog.

Inside the Particle Accelerator is the next entry in this blog.

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