Inside The Writers’ Room – An Actor’s Perspective
By Kristen Bailey, Jolene in At the Old Place
The opportunity to be a part of the development of a new play in this way is a really special gift. I have spent my three years in Philadelphia devising original works with collaborative theatre companies — we start with the theme, >treat the big idea behind the play, > and work towards the details, the smaller specifics, the skeleton of the story.
But with this kind of process, Rachel starts by herself with the language. In her case, from what I understand, she is inspired by the smaller things first. The details of a moment, and specific language that shifts only slightly. It is our job to start with these details, find out what the bigger movement of this delicate play is, and then go back to the specifics to make the right kinds of moments to support the larger idea. It has been really exciting for me to think about storytelling in this new way… and the process is expedited in a delightful and satisfying way by having the playwright and her beautiful brain in the room with us. That is the gift.
It has been challenging and scary but ultimately exciting as an actor to walk the line of complex inner struggle and straightforward simplicity that this story is asking us for. We talk a lot about how navigating each scene feels like walking a tightrope. Big things are going on inside these characters, but they don’t quite understand them, so they definitely don’t manifest themselves on the surface. Yet that smolder and tumult underneath is what gives the play a heartbeat, and gives those few moments a chance to blossom in their glorious tiny way. This play is more like real life, more a like a film, than any other traditional piece I’ve worked on. Seemingly simple and small, I believe it has the potential to touch us deeply–I think we can more easily see ourselves in these people. I can’t wait to get an audience in the room and share this poem of a play.
At the Old Place was developed in The Writers’ Room, the Arden’s playwright residency program. Performances run July 18-28, 2013.