Actually, my friend Michael wrote a play. And after getting feedback from three playwrights and writing three new drafts, he had his first read-through last night. And I got to read!
I’ve never done anything like this, and it was a fascinating experience. Most of the other people there were working actors who were accustomed to creating characters on the spot and refining them as they worked through the script. Two women in particular jumped right in and gave fearless, insightful, performance-worthy readings. I felt like I held my own, though I’ve never really considered myself to be much of an actor. I’ve had tons of voice and dance training and I’m way more confident belting out a show tune or drumming out a paradiddle in my tap shoes. But I seem to be way too uptight to take risks and fall into an unfamiliar character when all I have are lines to read. It didn’t help that my character last night was a romantic supporting lead, which is way harder to make real than the goofy caricatures I’ve played in the past.
I was also impressed how the other actors took detailed notes as they read and then offered thoughtful, intelligent feedback to Michael about his script when we were done. While they made suggestions about character development and story arcs and natural rhythms, I kept getting caught up on the elements of verisimilitude: If X happens in Act I, would Y really happen two days later in Act II? I’m not sure if that’s the kind of feedback Michael was looking for, but things like that are usually what keep me from enjoying plays and movies, and that’s what I tend to gravitate toward when I’m evaluating something critically. I also suggested that the show needed more dance numbers, but I get the feeling Michael didn’t agree with me.
The play is a noirish murder mystery about a woman stalked by a serial killer, and Michael did a masterful job of making everyone look like a suspect at one point or another. I had the killer narrowed down to two people: the gay next-door neighbor or me, the 30-something (ahem) cop assigned to protect the protagonist. But once I got shot and then stabbed, I quickly eliminated myself as a suspect.
Michael taped everything, and he’s now throwing himself into digesting all our feedback and writing his fourth draft. And as long as I can pass for 30-something (I thank you for keeping your comments to yourselves), I hope to come back next time for another brutal offing. This time with a dramatic tap solo.