Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hair Like the Sun - Table Read

The cast of 'Hair Like the Sun'
Maya Angelou tells the story of the first time she heard someone read A Tale of Two Cities aloud. She'd read the book before and found it adequate, at best. She didn't understand what it really meant until a mentor of hers took the book in hand and read it, using her voice to illuminate the meaning and delve beyond the ink of the page. it was only then that she truly understood what the book was about and what it truly meant.

This is a little how I felt when I sat down for the first official table read for my play. I thought I understood what these words truly meant. After all, I was the one writing them; I'd been writing and rewriting them for the past 3 years. A huge chunk of my life has been dedicated to these particular words. So you'd think that I, the author, knew what they meant.

As many writers come to understand, it is often the human voice that gives meaning to the words we write. Last night I saw a group of seven amazing actors bring these characters to life, giving voice to people I'd only heard talk in my head. For the first time, I felt like I truly understood who these characters are and what their story truly means.

This is the magic of theater. yes, the playwright actually writes the play. His or her words are the reason that a cast is even assembled in the first place. But, in the scheme of things, the writer isn't who gives the play its meaning. It's the actors, guided by the director, who take this assemblage of words and create art. That's what I saw last night, art.

When Angelou heard A Tale of Two Cities read aloud, she wondered whether or not she'd actually read that book. When I heard the cast delivering my lines with such skill and mastery, bear in mind this was the first day, I wondered to myself, "Did I actually write this play? Are they using my script?"

They are, of course. My name is on the poster. But they are doing so much more than just reading. They are becoming the characters, discovering the characters, and finding things I never even thought of. They discover hidden character facets I never consciously considered. They find depth and backstory. More importantly, they make me believe that these lines aren't coming from a script, but from living, breathing people.

This is where I, as a writer, have to learn to let go. The play is no longer just mine. It belongs to the cast. They give it their own meaning, their own interpretation, and I have to trust them to do right by the script. So far, that's exactly what they are doing.

Perhaps I'm waxing a bit poetic. But to see the validation of three years of work, to understand that this labor of love was no longer just a pipe dream, it was a profoundly moving experience. Not just because it's my play, but because I know that this is the culmination of a project that began long before I heard the name Ruth Mix.

This is a project which began when Ruth's daughter, Claire Mix, first began producing a documentary about her mother's experience. It was Claire's final project, and after a documentary and a book, Claire wanted to create a play. I consider myself so privileged to have known Claire, to have worked with her on crafting this script. I mourned her passing, not just because the world lost an amazing woman, but because she didn't live to see this dream fulfilled.

Last night I was moved to tears when the cast finished the table read. I was moved for several reasons. The first, obviously, was because they did such an amazing job bringing this script to life. But the second reason is that I promised myself that I would do right by Claire with this script. I wanted to create something that would continue her mission of sharing her mother's story with the world and using it to ensure that we never repeat the horrible mistakes of the past. That table read let me know that I had succeeded in honoring Claire and Ruth with this script.

So I guess you can say that I'm so very excited about this production. This is going to be something special, I just know it, and last night I caught my first glimpse. I can't wait to see what's next.

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