by Maria Edmundson, Artistic Development Fellow
Last week Arena Stage hosted Charles Randolph-Wright for a workshop to develop his play Love in Afghanistan, which will be the first show in the Kogod Cradle our 2013-2014 Season.
Charles has been working on this play for a year, and this was its second workshop at Arena. For this workshop, Charles brought in a new version of the script to be read and talked through piece by piece. The participants in this discussion included actors reading for each part, a dramaturge, Jocelyn Clarke, the director, Lucie Tiberghien, and the Director of Artistic Programming at Arena Stage, David Snider. The mission of a workshop is to see what works, to strip away what does not, and to help the play become what it is trying to be.
The group’s response to the play was: yes; go deeper.
We talked about structure. Is the rhythm working here? Are these scenes in an order that serves the momentum of the piece?
We talked about clarity. This play has many layers. How does one write a rich, complex story that is also clear and driven? Does the audience understand the right things at the right time? What things are standing out as the most important parts of the play?
We talked about setting. This play takes place at Bagram Air Force Base outside of Kabul, and writing about Afghanistan is like dancing on quicksand. Is this Afghanistan 2010? 2012? 2013? How do the cultural and societal structures of Afghanistan shape what can and cannot happen there?
We talked about stakes. This play is set in a dangerous, uncertain world. What is it like to live in constant danger? How does that affect priorities and what people will do to get what they want? How do the stakes come into greater focus and relief throughout the story?
The version of the script that we worked with did not
ow the play ended, although Charles did have some ideas about what was going to happen. Not having an ending opened our discussion up to explore where the currents of the play were taking each of us. How did we imagine the story progressing? If something about the play changed, how would that influence what might happen later? As we got to know the characters, what did we think they would do next?
Charles invited us into this creative process, just as the audience will be invited to the conversation in the fall. Last week, we worked on the questions of a workshop. In the fall, those questions will already have been answered, but the audience will get to see what questions the production of the play asks.