I hadn’t realised that Drew Rienstra had been nagging me to come to listen to the Play Club’s play readings until he came out and said it, at last night’s Play Club reading. I was on ‘the panel’ which just gave me an opportunity to talk a little more about what we had experienced. WhatÂ thatÂ was, was a play reading of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a monologue style epic written (to be performed) by Mike Daisey. Here it was read by 7 actors. And there were tons of people squeezed around a table and then in the room at a shop in The Palms centre around the corner from me.
Drew had organised a brilliant Sunday arvie/evening affair, with wine and chocolate and scripts for everybody. It was a real occasion, and it worked. And my opinion of play readings certainly shifted as we sat and listened to these gorgeous young actors read.
The piece itself is another story. I know this kind of theatre well. It is the genre of message-driven monologue that Peter Hayes has been performing for years. (Get Hard, The Tricky Part, The Fence are just titles I can think of.) What I found the most fascinating here was that the audience, pretty much everyone who wasn’t me and other panel members Marina Griebenouw and Matthew Khalil, couldn’t separate the play from the message. I was much more interested in the question of it being a performed piece, while the audience could only experience it as the vehicle for the content. So interesting.
And of course, it got me thinking, about so many things. it got me thinking about my own rehearsals for my own monologue style performance starting today; Drive With Me, and how I have written it for ME to perform, and how my writing is informed by the WHO of the piece. I got thinking about how people NEED their money’s worth when it comes to theatre, and would rather be bored by a long piece than have something short to tickle, inspire and energise them. (The most constant feedback I got for Song And Dance was that it was too short). I got thinking about how people think that if they hear something, written and told by another human being, about something that exists, then it must be true. And that’s why, in this world, people can believe in advertising, and branding, and lifestyle choices, and why writers know that even a news item is just a story, a perspective, a tool, for writing. This piece is deliciously written for an actor, by an actor, to perform. I honour the writing here, more than what it says about Steve Jobs and Apple. But what is interesting is that a South African audience in particular, ate up the message. We did as we were told.
I loved the event. I will go to more Play Club play readings. I am still so full of questions about everything. Why will people go to readings and not to performances? I got to thinking about how shallow and narrow most South Africans’ experience and understanding of theatre is. I got to thinking how desperate I am to change that, or at least be part of the change.
So, rehearsals today, and improv performances at the usual time this week. I’ll go and see more plays, especially local ones, and try and not get depressed when people don’t come and see mine.