I figured the first post about Toughest Boy would be something about transgender issues and human rights but… not so…. Working on the Toughest Boy has been a process full of new script pages. The initial text we began with has changed little but it has grown in size with new scenes added regularly.
This means the play has been evolving both at a text and production level.
New ideas supersede thoughts that we were anchoring scenes in early in the process. The prop list has expanded as well and the costume plot.
The play has changed in production style in a slow organic way.
The pressure of the impending opening and the new material has drawn focus for some very standard editing practices of Iron Age. We are an organic company. The actors in the space present new ideas, This means hard discovered moments fade as the play grow into more developed form.
Toughest Boy has let little time for the process and so as we sat after our first run in the Philly space, each member of the team asked me questions about the viability of two seemingly important props.
Very early in our rehearsals KO and I were discussing the experience of worming with new playwrights. We were discussing how a playwright can become committed to an event or emotion or even an idea that after the play has progressed, no longer has a place in that play. KO called it killing babies.
KO, my lead; Heather, my stage manager, Luke, my sound designer; all asked about two set pieces we were using. They grew into the rehearsal process in two ways. One was from a script requirement and the other was from an actor request. Both appeared early in the rehearsal time and became simple parts of the production. As the play grew, these two precious items have lost their value and my team brought that to my attention.
My desire to meet the playwright’s needs made me take these recommendations with a grain of salt and yet as I weighed the thoughts of several trusted team members, I realized these two items, one cool and the other beautiful, were babies best let pass.
I asked the playwright, pulled them from the production, cut a line or two and we were off to the races. And I might mean that literally…losing those pieces accelerated scene changes, relieved actor stress and made the style of the show much more consistent.
I have found that many of the playwrights we have worked with developing new plays over the past 9 years have had their babies who need killing. It is often a struggle to let things go that seem like the core – a treasured bit, a clever prop, a catchy line, a unique image.
I have learned and am learning that it is good to let those things go in favor of a more streamlined production and to trust, not one person, but the impressions of my theatre team, who have been as deeply in the text as I am. It is a hard task for me. I am a hoarder in many ways, both in my messy car and office and in my embrace of the text. It feels good when you make a hard choice and see its value.
So if you come see The Toughest Boy In Philadelphia, June 12-29, you won’t see a phonograph or a podium and thus those lovely and evocative items do not obscure the beauty of Andrea’s text and my cast’s work.