Atelier Day 2!

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Armed with a slew of musical research and an arsenal of musical instruments, we read through “To Live, Darling.”For each song, transition or scene requiring sound, we tested beats and melodies over, under and through the text. Musical Collaborator Adrien Reju (pictured) and Director Christopher Sivertsen guided the table read/fabulous cacophony of sounds. 

Cara Pifko (Réjane) and Ilana Turner (Writer/Blanche) read with a new actor, Chris, who volunteered to lend his voice for the day. Directeur du Marketing Michelle Furnace continued her impeccable work noting all that was said, thought or acted.

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Atelier Day 1!

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The fabulous Adrien Reju works something equally fabulous out on our (toy) accordion. (L)

Together Adrien, Director Christopher Sivertsen, Writer Ilana Turner, Actress Cara Pifko (Réjane) and Marketing Director-turned-Stage Manager Michelle Furnace talked through each song or musical interlude in the script. 

We explored musical themes for each character and began to establish a rhythmic pulse to delineate ‘on-stage’ action from real life ‘backstage.’ Michelle was like a stealthy sponge, soaking up everything everyone said and sending an amazing list of to-dos and ideas at the day’s end. 

We also drank a lot of coffee. (See Christopher serving coffee below.) Weeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

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Workshop-i-go-go

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Plane tickets are booked, rehearsal space is reserved and an Indie GoGo campaign to fund the workshop has been launched! This April-May workshop will focus on integrating Adrien Reju’s music into “To Live, Darling.” Christopher Sivertsen will direct. Cara Pifko will return as Réjane and I’m meeting with actors to play the Lover. This workshop will also focus on the relationship between Réjane, the Lover and Blanche, her best friend. I’ll play Blanche. The other characters may join us for a day or two…

Trailer!

Drafted

Tonight we had an enlightening table read of the latest draft of “To Live, Darling.” The lovely and talented Cara Pifko, Marguerite Moreau, Christopher Redman, Joseph Will, Maria Policastri and Kerrie Keane leant me their voices over wine, cheese and über-tasty white bean hummus.

I heard the second act in a whole new way, and am now crystal clear on exactly how to frame the latter part of Réjane’s journey. Stay tuned for a journey to symbolism!

Showing

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The results of our short work week on “To Live, Darling” were shown as a work-in-progress. Despite some technical difficulties and the ever-present time crunch, we staged all of Act 1, and read the last scene from Act 2 and the Epilogue.  

After an introduction, our amazing cast Cara Pifko (Réjane), Kerrie Keane (Mother),  Joseph Will (Porel), Jason Denuszek (the Lover),  Jennie Sheffield (Blanche) and Maria Policastri (Sage of Paris) performed Act 1, then read a scene from Act 2 and the Epilogue. They gave 110% and it was a joy to watch them.

Christopher also talked about his work, the development of his involvement with the project and where we are heading. At the end of the showing, we all answered questions from the audience, which were thoughtful, interesting, and genuinely helpful. Perhaps the wine, cheese and homemade chocolate chip cookies got the audience talking.

Without the support of Olya Petrakova and Bryan Brown whose Art viaCorpora co-produced the workshop and showing with The Réjane Project and The Awake Project, this week would not have been possible. A huge thanks also to Debbie McMahon and Jared Fladeland from AvC/Artworks who jumped in to grab hold with much-needed helping hands.

Workshop

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Over the past four days in Los Angeles, Director Christopher Sivertsen and I have been working on “To Live, Darling,” with a fabulous cast: Cara Pifko (Réjane), Kerrie Keane (Mother),  Joseph Will (Porel), Jason Denuszek (the Lover),  Jennie Sheffield (Blanche) and Maria Policastri (Sage of Paris). We were also lucky to have dancer and choreographer Sophie Bortolussi (Sleep No More) join us for the first two days.

Our main goal in such a short time has been to get as much of the text as possible on its feet so that we can begin to see where movement, music, design and other elements can support and elevate the show’s story. Christopher has been able so some physical work with the actors, and begin to integrate some of the movement into and between the text to create the foundation for a whole piece. 

There is a work-in-progress showing tomorrow night, Thursday October 11th, co-produced by Art viaCorpora at Art/Works in Hollywood. It looks like we’ll present what we’ve worked on for all of Act 1 and read scenes from Act 2 and the Epilogue. Should be a very interesting Q&A…

Table Read

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Two weeks ago some truly wonderful actors: Cara Pifko, Christopher Redman, Kerrie Keane, Nancy Dobbs-Owen, Eric Truehart and Kristen Marie Holly donated their time and lent their voices to a full table read of the play. 

The most striking thing, listening to the post-reading feedback, was the intense (if not quite) war that broke about between the sexes. All the men a the table felt one way about Réjane, while all the women felt another. Having no sense I’ d written a feminist manifesto, it was really interesting to hear how the women were more sympathetic to Réjane’s choices in life and work. 

Also great was the suggestion I shorten the title, and use “To Live, Darling,” which I wholly love. It was Réjane’s joie de vivre and quest for authenticity that make her worth writing about 92 years after her death.

Other jewels were mined from the wine-fueled post reading discussion, but they remain to be cut, set and polished for the stage. 

First Stage, Some page(s)

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An excerpt from “Work is Necessary To Live, Darling,” as the play is now titled, was performed as a staged reading for the infamous First Stage’s Playwrights Express festival last night. 

Stellar actors Marguerite Moreau, Christopher Redman, Tom Elliot and Cara Pifko read three scenes from Act One, and an enthusiastic audience had excellent post-reading feedback. Réjane needs to remain authentic, yet be more sympathetic. They want to know what happens next. People are chasing  play’s joie de vivre dragon, which attempts to mirror Réjane’s own. Most of all, this audience have left their couches and Olympic swimming behind to come to a tiny theatre in beautiful uptown Burbank. This bodes well for this show, certainly, and ART.

Download the Playwrights Express flyer. 

Higher Education

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Skype is the very model of a modern post-graduate model. TRP Dramaturg Tonia N. Sutherland is teaching a class called Archives and Performance at the University of Pittsburgh. From her class syllabus: “Performance is by nature ephemeral, and once it has occurred it transforms into something that is no longer there. At the same time, however, performance lives on in the memories of those involved, directly or indirectly, with creating the work, in the spaces and places in which the performance took place, and in the sources and traces they leave behind.” 

I lectured her class on The Réjane Project research and how it has become the foundation of a new play. Born of in-depth and lengthy historical research, Be Real With Me (as the play I’ve written is now called) is original. Research has informed it, not dictated its story nor its characters. Be Real With Me is not a biography, it is based on the life and work of Réjane. 

Réjane’s work was documented, though only as well as the technology of the Belle Époque allowed. Now, 100+ years later technology has obviously changed for the fancier, yet some of the difficulties of accurately documenting live performance remain. The discussion was lively and entertaining; if these young ladies are the future guardians of the performing arts, there is hope for us all.