Onsite Theatre Commission: Day 6 (+Alice +Playground +Safe House)

I thought about Onsite not at all today, but I did finish a draft of Alice. We’ll rehearse tomorrow and see if any of the new stuff works. I’m anxious to see the new Alice in Wonderland movie, though (I am not proud to admit) am silently rejoicing a little that it is not getting good reviews. I had this fear it would be amazing and dwarf what we are creating. Petty. And also silly: two very different approaches . . . I assume. My other fear is that Tim Burton is doing all the stuff we’re doing and people would think we copied his ideas. Actually, I created our Mad Hatter in direct opposition to what I have seen of Johnny Depp in the previews: our Mad Hatter is a quiet gentleman who is hyperbolically rational: he is made mad by the act of following rational thought out to the extremities of logic, because if we think about anything too hard everything will become absurd. Or we will find god. Our Mad Hatter has not found god.

I just got back from SF Playhouse’s production of Geetha Reddy’s Safe House, a production of a local playwright’s local play. Safe House was the first gig I got in San Francisco: I was the production assistant for the Playwrights Foundation’s script-in-hand production during their Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Being a production assistant is a really hard job for a dramaturg: you have to keep quiet. Being quiet is a skill that every dramaturg has to master. It is not their room; it is the director’s room. Comments should be reserved for appropriate moments. The problem with being a production assistant—when there is another dramaturg assigned to the project—is that there is no appropriate moment (unless the playwright comes up to you and says, “What do you think?”). I believe not only in the authority of the director, but also that too many cooks in the kitchen means no one is going to eat a decent meal. So there was a lot of keeping my thoughts to myself during that process. And it turned out really well. Seeing it tonight though made me realize how much more growing it had to do, because it has blossomed into something really lovely.

This production is notable for members of the Playground writing pool, and a few emails have been sent around . . . and apparently we have a google group?

What should really be of interest to the PlayGround pool, however, is the development process that culminates (so far) in this premiere production. Safe House began life as a 10-minute play in PlayGround’s Monday Night series in October 2003. Geetha’s play was Honey I’m Home, and it was one of the entries in the 2004 Best of Festival—and it was just as hilarious and moving in its concentrated 10-minute way as the full-length production that’s at SF Playhouse now. PlayGround saw the potential and when an opportunity came for an alumni commission from Geetha, Honey was the starting off point, and Safe House began to take shape. The resulting full-length was presented in conjunction with another Best of PlayGround Festival.

The play then received further development when selected for the SF playwrights Foundation Festival in summer of 2008, where it was performed to great acclaim. And now, PlayGround has seized the initiative again and given it a world-premiere production in the collaborative Sandbox project with SF Playhouse. This is a quintessential development process for those of us in the PlayGround Writers Pool. I urge you to go see the production and get a taste of where all the sweat and toil that goes into a Monday night 10-minute piece can eventually lead. This is OUR path to a potential production — yours and mine. It’s an amazing and major evolution of PlayGround’s mission to step up and bring our writing to a fully-realized full-length world premiere production. With a stellar cast — it must be noted. If nothing else, it should inspire us all to write the best damn plays we can for Monday nights. The potential rewards are great!

There were some members of the writing pool there tonight. I confessed that I was still planning to skip this month despite having started a couple superhero-related plays in the past. They told me to revisit one of those older plays. It’s an interesting idea. Geetha started with a 10-minute play and expanded into a full-length; I could start with an idea for a full-length and see how I can concentrate it into a 10-minute play . . . perhaps.


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