Your support and enthusiasm can solve this problem! Join 3Girls Theatre Club now, during our month-long annual Membership Drive, and claim your place in 3GT’s new play development process. This year’s Salon Reading Series will bring eight new scripts by our resident playwrights to life. That’s eight new plays by women that will make it to the stage because of YOU.
Join 3GT Club before Thanksgiving and your donation will be matched!
Donations made during our 2017-2018 Membership Drive have double the impact! Thanks to members of our Board of Directors, your support for the 3GT core development program will be matched dollar for dollar if we receive it before Thanksgiving. And every dollar we receive from 3GT Club memberships goes directly to paying our incredibly talented theatre artists for their work in the 2017-2018 Salon Reading Series: the playwrights, dramaturgs, directors, actors and associate artists who’ll bring eight new plays to life this season. But the match only lasts for one month — and it expires on Thanksgiving!
How does our new play development process work?
A play starts in the playwright’s imagination, but getting it from page to stage is a whole other story. It takes a crew of dedicated artists, actors and collaborators to turn a script into a production. You, the theater-lover, are one of our most important collaborators.
We asked some of our 3GT company members and patrons to share their experience of the development process. Read on to learn more about how YOU are indispensable to the success of live theatre!
We use PayPal Giving Fund, a secure nonprofit-friendly interface, to process your donation without fees. Just choose your Member Level below, then click to enter your dollar amount at PPGF and we’ll do the rest!
3Gt Resident Playwright Susan Jackson’s play MIRACLE LAKE was a Salon Series Finalist for the 2017 New Works Festival. In addition to her work with 3GT, Susan is the co-founder of Southern Railroad Theater Company. 3GT is proud to be co-producing the west coast premiere of her comedy DEATH BE NOT LOUD, at the Phoenix Theatre in November.
I get my ideas from all over the place, but I am compelled by people trying to figure out what it means to be “good.” Sometimes I’m inspired by people in my life, or from outside sources like an NPR story. I try not to pick stories that I’m too personally invested in. Every writer is different, but for me to write, I have to give up my perspective and let the character’s speak for themselves. I don’t want my personal opinion to get in the way of the characters have to say. I have to let them say it.
In fact, when I’m writing a first draft, I usually don’t even give characters names. I just let the dialogue come out. Only later will I go through, give the characters names, start thinking more critically about dramatic structure, and take out all the unnecessary stuff, like the puns that I wrote because I thought they were clever, not because it’s something the character needed to say. “Suzy Stuff,” my husband calls it.
Readings are the best way to figure out what’s wrong with a play. It can be scary and even embarrassing sometimes, hearing the words out loud brings them to life and shows where the logic is missing in the characters and what they say to each other. Watching the audience respond to this moment or that is incredibly helpful, and I tend to listen to common themes in feedback I receive in talkbacks. There is no substitute for putting your script in front of an engaged (or not-so-engaged) audience to get it to the next level.
I feel so fortunate to be visited by these stories and characters. I find it inspirational and it keeps my life spontaneous.
3GT Associate Artist and resident dramaturg for the 2017-2018 Salon reading series, Zach Kopciak has also produced our 2017 new works festival and assistant directed AJ Baker’s ENTANGLEMENT. He will be leading the 3GT’s Innovators Series this spring, which will provide a platform for emerging experimental theater artists in the Bay Area.
I believe that the very act of witnessing a play makes you a dramaturg. Congratulations! Add it to your resume and feel free to use me as a reference. But what is a dramaturg, you may ask? Merriam-Webster defines a dramaturg as “one who specializes in the art or technique of dramatic composition and theatrical representation.” I define a dramaturg as someone whose role is to keep the historical, literary, socio-economic, and philosophical context of a play at the forefront of the development and rehearsal process. You bring the totality of your experiences to bear on every performance you witness, and in this way, you become a dramaturg and thus, a participant in the theatrical process.
This participation can be explicit. During talkbacks following a show, your contributions to the conversation shape the place the play sits in the lives of everyone else participating in that conversation. Their perceptions of the show are now colored by the unique context you alone bring to the work. If the play is still in development, this contribution may affect revisions the playwright makes, or choices the director, actors, or designers make in later stages of the process. Participation in and with a work of art isn’t always so explicit, however.
The filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell once wrote that “voyeurism is participation.” While he was referring to someone watching an orgy take place in front of them, I think the notion holds just as well for theater. It’s a similar idea to Heisenberg’s Observer Effect in quantum physics, which states that the act of observing an object changes its behavior. The performance of a play with no audience will be very different from a performance with a full house of lively, critical, and compassionate community members. Indeed, a performance with you in the audience will be different from any and every performance you are not in attendance. The energy you bring into the space with you affects the experience of your fellow audience members as well as the actors on stage, and the technicians behind the curtain. Whether you are aware of it or not, your experience is being shaped by what everyone around you brings to the performance as well.
This is what makes the infamous “ephemerality” of theater so exciting! A play is not just the words in the script, the gestures of the actor, the textures of the set, or the reactions of the audience. A play is greater than the sum of its parts, because theater only exists in that intangible place where all our individual experiences become one, however briefly, connecting us all and irrevocably changing everyone who chose to participate.
Board Member and Associate Artist LOUIS PARNELL is a longtime 3GT collaborator, director and actor for too many of our readings and main stage productions to list. In 2016 alone, Louis directed both of 3GT’s main stage productions at Z Below: LOW HANGING FRUIT and ENTANGLEMENT.
The first couple times I read a new script, I try to visualize the play. I imagine who the characters are, what it looks and sounds like in their world. Once I have a good idea of characters and the play, I start thinking about casting. 90% of a director’s job is casting. If I can find actors that really connect to the characters, the play takes on a life of its own. If I can’t, my job may be next to impossible!
In the rehearsal room, I try to focus on activating the actors and scenes. Some audience members like to listen to the language of script, let it wash over them. Others, like me, like to see the characters being active and engaged in their lives and their world. That’s why I like to have the actors moving around during readings. When an audience is engaged, the actors become more engaged, which makes the audience even more engaged, which makes… you get the idea.
Things that work for an audience tend to be really good for a production. It’s really helpful to watch which moments land for the audience of a new play. It makes telling the most compelling story I can that much easier.
3GT Associate Artist actor HEATHER GORDON is a graduate of Harvard University and the Moscow Art Theater, and has performed in numerous 3GT productions and readings, including starring roles in Robin Bradford’s LOW HANGING FRUIT and AJ Baker’s ENTANGLEMENT.
When I pick up a script I’ll be acting in, I read it from the point of view of the character I’m playing. What is she thinking and doing while she says what she’s saying. Then I read the play a few more times from the point of view of the other characters she interacts with. I see my character from many points of view, which helps me to understand what motivates her, what she fears, what she dreams about.
Every playwright has a different voice (obviously!), so I use a lot of different techniques to try to understand how it feels to be this other person with experiences that may be very different from mine. I’m a kinesthetic learner, so I discover by doing, getting on my feet and getting my character into my body. Some actors like to know ahead of time exactly what’s going to happen from moment to moment. I do my homework, but I like to be surprised when I’m working with my scene partners.
Working on a play in development is especially exciting, because I feel like you are always discovering new things. It keeps things fresh. It’s also really cool to feel like my interpretation of the character can give life to the character for a playwright. They discover new things about their work by watching me discover new things about their work. How cool is that?!
Patron PAT MCELROY is a long time fan and charter member of 3Girls Theatre. When not serving as Chair of the 3GT Board of Directors, she is a Hearing Judge of the State Bar Court of California.
My mother used to take me to theaters all the time. I remember one of the first plays I ever saw was Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf by Edward Albee. It was too much for someone as young as I was at the time, but I kept coming back, and have been a season subscriber to theaters around the Bay Area most of my life!
I love 3 Girls Theatre’s work, not only because I think it’s important to give women playwrights opportunities they don’t ordinarily have, but because I love being able to be part of the playwright’s process. I had no idea what a staged reading was before I became a 3GT regular. I thought plays came out of nowhere, then I found out they didn’t. I think it’s so interesting to watch plays get better over time, to watch the characters grow from caricatures into fully developed human beings.
It’s also really fun for me to be able to be a part of that process during talk backs. It feels good to know that I helped make a character richer, made the world of the play more realistic.