The Deion Sanders of Regional Theater OR Theater 101: What’s a new play reading?

I just got back from a week at the Lark Playwrights Center in NYC working a new play by Lauren Gunderson entitled WE ARE DENMARK.

If you don’t know what new play workshops are– they are opportunities for unproduced plays to get a bit of a work-out.

Think of this as the Research and Development arm of Regional Theaters.

The way these workshops tend to work is that after months of the playwright writing alone in coffee shops or homes – and then performing the show for their cat or fish – a theater company says “sure, we’ll pay to get some actors and a director and a dramaurg in a room with you to see what you got”. Then a director is hired, he/she sweet talks actors into doing it and you find yourself in a rehearsal room with 10 hours to see whatcha got.

This also is a bit of a crucible for the playwrights. Not only do they get to hear the play (imagine hearing your words for the first time, terrifying), but THIS is their moment if they want to hear something new, so a lot of your time is spent with them running back to said coffee shop or cat and re-writing.

For example, on our final day, Lauren brought in 47 new pages of 90 page script.

And then you do the reading – which for us was sold out.

This is a quick way to add in the always missing but present element – the audience. Do they laugh? Do they seem interested? Do they care? It’s another tough/great moment as you find out what other people think. You may have thought you were done…but you’re not…or you may be surprised at how people really loved it.

And often agents, artistic directors, muckety mucks come and hear the play – as a bit of an audition – Do I think my audience would like this? Do I think I like this? So, the pressure is on.

Either way, it’s a great way to do a REAL check in about where your play is at.

Now, where does Deion Sanders come into this?

Well, 44 PRESIDENTS opened on Friday in Rochester, and the reading of WE ARE DENMARK was Saturday in New York City. So, I logged 2000 skymiles going back and forth from NYC to Rochester rehearsing with both casts. And when on twitter, I mentioned I felt like the Deion Sanders of the Regional Theater – attempting to be two places at once – Deion Sanders sent me a tweet with “God Bless”.



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