IN PLAYWRITING CLASS at NYTI we generate new material from the New York and collaborative experience of our classes. Sometimes material journal-ed in Acting class will appear in a new one act or somehow the quiet of two characters connecting deeply on the page will reflect the work done in our Collaboration workshop. Through exercises, reading, writing and listening, new work is shaped with a focus on character and action, creating a solid and simple structure for the writer. Classes usually ask participants to develop at least two ten minute plays, or longer pieces in one act increments. We write for each other, from our experience and for our public presentations which take place every two weeks. We focus on simple exchange with deep resonance. Classes are held Tues and Thursday afternoons with workshops with guest playwrights sprinkled throughout the six weeks. We also bring in guest writers who offer one day workshops to deepen access to material and offer the participants different perspectives on their work. Last year Obie winner Caridad Svich, Saviana Stanescu and a panel of experienced Ensemble Studio Theatre writers joined us.
- Susan Merson
REP CLASS is loosely based on what might happen week-to-week in a theatre company that specializes in new play development, such as the Ensemble Studio Theatre. The goal of companies like EST is to develop new plays from their earliest stages through to final production.
Our process in Rep echoes some of the stages of development that a new play goes through on its way to becoming a world premiere production. We read and discuss new scripts much the same way writers, actors, directors and dramaturges do in developmental companies like EST. We explore the writing in rehearsals and revise scripts based on the insights from that exploration.
To learn more about how the scripts under consideration will work in performance, we present material in readings, staged readings and occasionally in minimally supported workshop productions. As we explore, discuss, rehearse and revise in Rep Class, we create a performance repertoire.
There is no formula that works in every new play development situation. There are many different theatre companies producing new plays, and many ways to approach both individual and collaborative activity.
Obviously, new play development is not a cookie- cutter process. It will be different from one new play to the next. That said, for a production to come to fruition, every new play must develop through a collaborative process that has some common features.
In Rep Class, we are as interested in recognizable landmarks as we are in the fresh discoveries, because both aspects are important.
COLLABORATION - “We created a collaborative community based on listening deeply to one another’s values. We arrived at agreements by consensus for how we’d proceed to work during our six weeks together, the premise being that since relationships are at the heart of the dramatic form, we would practice specific ways to enhance the quality of our real life relationships first, and by doing so, we then bring those same sensibilities to creating a piece of theater together that was connected to the group’s inner most yearnings and that reflected the audience’s yearnings as well.”
- José Angel Santana, Ph.D.
INNER MUSIC - There is no right or wrong in acting, there is only alive or dead. Aliveness is the expression of an embodied experience – the interplay of being, moment by moment. This beingness is unstudied yet informed; unique yet universal; an expression of individual essence and collective response. It reveals outer radiance, receptivity and resonance. It illuminates inner vibrancy, stillness and reverberance.
In ‘The Open Door’, Peter Brook writes, “…within us at every moment, like a giant instrument ready to be played, are strings whose tones and harmonies are our capacity to respond to vibrations from the invisible spiritual world which we often ignore, yet which we contact with every breath.”
Speaking of music, I just learned today about a group of young musicians who play instruments that were made out of trash from landfills. It struck me that we, as actors and playwrights, also rescue the discarded bits and pieces of our beings and reshape them into stories that are equally transformative - within and without.
This beautiful reclamation of self has certainly been embraced by the students in the New York Theater Intensive this summer, 2013. They have dived inside and excavated their shadow contents with such courage and commitment, bringing
forth personal truths that illuminate an inner music that also resonates within the hearts and souls of others. And so in re-collecting and re-membering through their body’s wisdom they are emerging as authors not just of plays, but also of their own inner journeys.
- Elizabeth Hess