Picking up where I left off in end May! If that's been way too long, part 1 outlined the first 18 months of developing My Stroke of Luck. (If you are new to my mailing list, or as forgetful as I, my blog of 5/25 Part 1: So Much Fun Bringing the Show back home will catch you up.)
We left off right as I finished the read through of my initial completed script:
There it was! Out into the world!
David Ford moderated the feedback session with the same questions as our workshops. My self appointed task: listen, record. Do not react, do not get defensive, don’t trip. Hear what is being said. I whipsawed through a range of emotions as people spoke, igniting mental images and memories, reigning my attention back to the speaker on more than one occasion. An hour or so later, we adjourned. Though I take copious notes while I listen to feedback, the times I have recorded and transcribed feedback, I find huge chunks and subtleties not faithfully recorded in my notes. And of course, this time was no exception. But more important than the verbatim recording were David’s interpretations of what was said. Master script developer and director genius that he is, he took the many comments and translated them a clear vision of the work to be done. Then he broke down that vision and offered it to me in bite sized, digestible chunks with the concrete tasks requisite for me to attack revisions.
In addition, the manuscript, was long. So we had invited Mark Kenward to listen with his editor’s ear for ways to streamline the script. So afterwards, I worked with him on editing and in some cases rearranging the parts we would keep.
Then it was back to writing, but with a much clearer sense of the shape of the show, and of the the missing details that would bring it to life. To gauge the success of the revisions, I had a “living room” performance for a group of strangers and new to the work creatives.
Some re-tweeking, then time to get the entire piece “on its feet”, moving from the page to the stage, from reading to performance. Time to fill out the moments, set the intention behind each line = acting, get “off book” = memorize, then block = design stage movement, with David directing. (That could fill a years posts!)
I won 4 of the Fringe lotteries I entered, and chose 3, dropping one known for giving out of towners a dreadful schedule. Summer of 2016, I took the show on the road, opening at The Orlando Fringe Festival then moving on to London,Ontario.
Of course, it was exciting: audiences of strangers, surrounded by other artists, more shows than anyone could see, and relentless self promotion.
I had 2 months gap between Orlando, London and Vancouver Fringe, and in that time, building on what I learned from audience reactions, I reworked some aspects of script and added new stage bits.
4 months, 3 cities and 22 performances later, I was thrilled to secure a Marsh Rising that fall, a one night only full length presentation of show which, essentially, is an audition for a run.
House sold out, standing ovation, and I was feeling great! People congratulated me, sent kudos.
Then, came the question: “Are you open to feedback?”
Uh, oh! As Ann Randolph would say, “Yeah! Boo!” Part of the creative cycle, and the theme of her newest show, Inappropriate in All The Right Ways.
Putting it on its feet revealed new weaknesses that needed to be addressed. YIKES!!!
So, back to the drawing board?
The task felt daunting. With all that I had done, I wasn’t quite ready to hear the piece needed more work. And if it did, I didn’t have a clue what work was needed. Hadn’t I already been at this for almost as long as I was in medical school??
So feeling rather disheartened and stuck, I signed up for a repeat workshop with Ann Randolph, in Kauai, Hawaii, hoping for a creative reboot. I had taken my first workshop with her after seeing one of her shows at David Ford’s suggestion: “She defines the outer limits of what a female performer can get away with on stage.” Ok, then! (Yes, and!!!!)
Wow! Talk about an energy, courage booster shot! Much of the work in her workshops in physical, responding to prompts, and storytelling, with a smaller part written. Fun, and exhilarating, a serious stretch for an introvert and a wonderful way to get out of my own head about my piece. At the end of workshop wrap, I shared my consternation about the feedback from my Rising with Ann.
“Work with my director, Joshua Townshend,” she said. “He saw your Rising. He has some ideas. He’s expensive, but so worth it. You’ll benefit from working with him. I’m so sure of that, I’ll reimburse you for the first session If you don’t think it was worth it!.”
Whoa!! That’s a vote of confidence!! She then enumerated the moments in her show where his feedback totally changed her delivery, and the way the moment landed. And I had a glimpse into his genius.
So, with nothing to lose, I contact Joshua. His feedback is laser focused. Certainly, because he is a genius. But likely his perceptions were all the sharper because he hadn’t been on the ride with me. Hadn’t heard the 150 pages of script I’d discarded! Had no memory or knowledge beyond what he saw in the performance. So he could only respond to exactly what he saw and what he didn’t see that he needed to.
Since he is based in LA, I performed the show for him over Skype in segments, and line by line we went over the show. He assigned deep diving writing on various topics, and I wrote and wrote. Each session, I read what I wrote, which might prompt another exercise. I wrote volumes, so much so that my entire life went on hold. I did nothing else for four intense months. Writing, performing not just over Skype, but also in my creative support group and then in public venues. Though I often only extracted a sentence or two from each deep dive, I created a new opening segment, tweaked the ending, lost some material from the middle.
Of course, then it was time to share with David.
“I always thought the beginning was the beginning, but this new material really helps.”
Stamp of approval!!!
Then time to show to an audience again, some creatives, some newbies. A few more tweaks, then, a final script, the show was the show I’m doing now, save a few sentences that have changed over the run.
Of course, there were the acting hurdles, to bring each moment to life. Along the way, accepted to perform at Tell It on Tuesdays, a curated monthly show at the Marsh Berkeley run by Rebecca Fisher and Bridget Frederick. Rehearsing with Rebecca, I found new moments, and decided to work with her direction. Also engaged coaches to finesse character development (Julia Neal) and movement (Jill Vice). But that’s for another day.
So after a total of 6 large venues for My Stroke of Luck, 4 for the new version, blessings of blessings, I book a 6 week run at The Marsh, SF fall of 2017! Then extended twice! YES!
In the meantime, invitations came for me to perform elsewhere: universities, medical schools, senior and stroke centers spread out over North America. I’ve now performed in 10 different major metropolitan areas (not counting multiple venues in one area), and been requested to do encore performances at some, with theaters up to 460 seats!
YES!!! But I’m still so grateful to have been able to bring it home. Where it began.
What a ride. With gratitude.