Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hair Like the Sun - The Writer is Least Important

I've been mesmerized watching rehearsals of 'Hair Like the Sun.' I spent over three years with this script, but seeing it in the hands of actors, being guided by the director, make me feel as if I never really knew my own script. What I'm seeing, from the director's understanding of the script, to the actors' interpretations of the characters, goes far beyond my mere words. That's when I understand this harsh, but necessary truth.

The playwright is the least important person involved in the play.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the playwright is unimportant. After all, that's who created the play in the first place. No, it's not that this person doesn't matter, it's just that the actors, directors, set builders, costumers, and crew are more important. They are turning the words on the page into something magical. The make it real.

I'm having to remind myself of this truth as I watch these rehearsals. Thankfully the director, cast, and crew are doing right by this play, so it's not that difficult to let go and trust them with my baby. At the same time, there's this constant tug-of-war between how I saw it in my head when I wrote it and what I'm seeing and hearing onstage. Yes, what I'm seeing is even better than I'd imagined, but we're talking about my ego here.

My time of being the sole voice in this project is over. That's how theater works. Every play is interpreted differently by a director and cast. It's why I love theater. Every time I see a show, even if I've already seen it, I know I'll see something new. It's wonderful seeing a familiar scene reinterpreted to give it an entirely different meaning, sometimes surprising meaning. Sometimes an actor sings a song and adds in wonderful subtext. Other times, one specific line reading changes everything about that character, her motivations, and what's to come.

Theater is about people. It's about watching a group of actors tell a story and share it with an audience. The power of theater lies in the direct connection between actor and audience. As much as I love movies, you don't get that same connection. A movie is static; what you see is the same each time. A play is always changing, and each show is unique.

That's why I understand my role in this. Yes, I wrote it, but now I take a step back and let everyone else take charge. I'm still on hand for any script issues that come up, but for the most part, I'm mostly in the passenger seat. I'm fine with that, by the way, because I know that the end result is going to be something powerful, something personal, and something unique.

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