by Marie-Reine Velez
|The Two Kids That Blow Shit Up cast and creative team: Nadja Barlera, Julia Cho, playwright Carla Ching, Raymond Lee, dramaturg Marie-Reine Velez and director Snehal Desai|
I love staged readings. I really enjoy seeing the potential of a play as I’m listening to it, no matter what stage of development the play is in. There’s something about the rawness of the staged reading that I really respond to. Sometimes, most of the time, the play will never be the same again--mostly because a rewrite is usually what follows a staged reading. And that moment, of knowing that things will change, is very exciting.
Earlier this month, Artists at Play presented a day of staged readings: The Two Kids that Blow Shit Up by Carla Ching and Nobody’s Child by Sanaz Toossi. I always have so much fun working on our readings because the nerd in me loves to bask in the dialogue between characters, the language of the play and all of the details. All of them. And the opportunity to be in the rehearsal room for one of these readings is a real treat because everyone is going through a process of discovery. And discovery is a tangible feeling in the room.
(Writer’s note: When I start to talk about how theatre makes me feel, I think that I sound like an addict, with how I extol the “highs” of my theatre process. See: “T.A.A.” from Artists at Play … at Play!)
I had the pleasure of being the dramaturg in the room for The Two Kids that Blow Shit Up and while our process was short (2 rehearsals, 2 weeks apart), the journey the play took felt pretty epic. Before our first rehearsal, Carla never heard the play read by actors. She wrote the play very quickly in a workshop setting, and hadn't worked on it much since then. The dialogue was fast, dirty and playful. The scenes were in non-chronological order when we began. By the end of the second rehearsal, the scenes had been rearranged and set in chronological order for the staged reading. We had big discussions about complicated relationships, the lives of the characters outside of scenes shown in the play, the slippery slope of gambling addiction and why these two kids were blowing shit up. Flushing out these details in the world of the play is what makes this part of the process really fun for people like me who enjoy the art of storytelling in different ways, including “Easter eggs” and playing with language and dialogue.
So then we get to the Reading Day, and I kind of have no idea how the play will be received. Of course, there’s a part of me that knows people will enjoy the play as much as I do, but there’s also a part of me that gets really insecure, the part of me that over thinks things, or the part of me that doesn’t truly believe that my experience is reality. Did I imagine how good the play is? (I didn't.) Did we give Carla too many notes? (We didn’t.) Will people appreciate the chronological order version? (They did.) Or should we have kept it in non-chronological order? (We did the right thing.) But these were all fleeting thoughts—I was just very, very excited to hear the play again, and to hear it with a room full of people.
|The Two Kids That Blow Shit Up staged reading|
Our actors did a fantastic job. I especially got a kick out of hearing Julia swear so much. There was laughter, and then more laughter. You know the sound of people listening? (Hint: it’s not really a “sound,” per se) We had that. Our audience was awesome. And then, before I knew it, the reading was over, and there I was, on stage, leading a talk back discussion about the play we just saw. Audience feedback is tricky. It’s a vital role to the development of the play, but this isn't retail where the customer is always right. Luckily for us, our audience understood their role in this process, and it was a very helpful session to have members of the audience articulate what they just heard. Again, I can’t help but think that the play we heard will never be heard again. There will be rewrites, probably another re-ordering of the scenes.
So now, our role is to wait and see what happens next. Carla is writing a ton, whether it be rewrites for this play, or working on the other plays she has in her drawer. I had a fantastic time and am so grateful to have had this experience to live in Carla’s world for a little while. And I look forward to see what’s to come of the two kids.