Programming with Personality
Each program at The Lark, like each playwright, has its own personality. Some of this has to do with the length of the program, (Playwrights’ Week will inevitably be intensive), whether the program is public facing, (a Roundtable does not feel like a Studio Retreat), or the make-up of participants (different people are different, which is wonderful)! A program’s personality varies from year to year, rendition to rendition, and artist to artist. But, regardless, there is always a unique and specific tone that can be felt.
This May, The Lark presented its annual Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop Reading Series, the culminating, week-long event after nine months of workshops for five fellows. The group included playwrights Clarence Coo, Martyna Majok, Robert Askins, Jeff Augustin, and Lucy Thurber (who chose not to participate in the reading series, as she was busy getting married).
Watching the playwrights tackle these risky moments in front of us all was exhilarating in a way only work in progress could be. In the case of Clarence’s Chapters of a Floating Life, it was exhilarating to see scenes between characters juxtaposed and interplayed with descriptions of Chinese characters. In Queens, Martyna grappled with epic, interwoven stories that crossed oceans, states, and boroughs. Robert’s Prosthesis dealt with a bloody intersection of technology, the human body, and the burden of parenting. And Jeff’s Untitled New England Play presented a deeply personal work that tackled the sense of a region through a specific family’s story.
Despite the risks they were taking in their work, on the nights of their readings the comfort of the writers was thoroughly evidenced by the way each of them remained unabashedly in process. Every Lark reading is preceded by a curtain speech (delivered by Andrea Hiebler if you’re lucky) during which the audience is reminded they are not hearing a performance, but have rather been invited into the next phase of a rehearsal process. However, not every reading owns this premise quite so boldly as these four Workshop readings did. In the case of Chapters of a Floating Life, Untitled…, and Queens, simple descriptions of unwritten or unfinished scenes were included and read aloud by the actors. Martyna’s reading even concluded with the end of Act One, and a lingering “to be continued.” But perhaps the week’s clearest example of owning an artistic process took place during Prosthesis, when playwright Robert Askins stood up a little more than an hour into the reading, announced himself as the artist, and declared the night’s reading complete.