Gwydion Suilebhan is the author of The Butcher. The Butcher was workshopped as a part of Gulfshore Playhouse’s 1st Annual New Works Festival and will be opening its World Premiere production at Gulfshore Playhouse on February 28th. Gwydion‘s work has been commissioned, produced, developed, and read by Centerstage, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the National New Play Network, Forum Theatre, Theater J, Theater Alliance, Active Cultures, and the Source Theater Festival, among others. In addition to his work as a playwright, Gwydion lectures and writes widely on the intersection between theater, the arts, and technology.
Do you watch Star Trek? Did you ever? Bear with me here.
In Star Trek, all the characters from the planet Vulcan—you might be most familiar with Captain Kirk’s right-hand man Mr. Spock, played with grace and intelligence for decades now by Leonard Nimoy, but there are plenty of others as well—have this telepathic ability to share their thoughts. One character places his or her fingertips gently on another character’s face, utters a short incantation, and the mind-meld, as it’s called, begins. It’s beautiful.
For as long as the mind-meld continues, the two beings can read each other’s thoughts… but what’s really cool is that they can actually think together. The distinctions between their individual minds fade away, and ideas arise in both minds simultaneously. It’s not as if the two people cease to exist as separate beings, mind you. It’s just that, while they’re connected, the connection matters more than their individuality.
This is how it makes me feel to work with really talented actors—like the five people I’ve been working with at Gulfshore Playhouse—in rehearsing and revising a new play like THE BUTCHER. It’s a bit of an awkward comparison, but me delivering the first draft of the script? It’s like pressing my fingers on an actor’s face. (Metaphorically. I did ask you to bear with me.) The actor reading and thinking about the script? That’s the incantation. And after that, if all has gone well… our minds become one.
Collaborating with actors in that way is a beautiful thing. When they’re rehearsing—when they speak my words—it feels very much like they’re completing the half-formed thoughts I began when I drafted the script. The longer they work on a scene, furthermore—discovering the truths I wrote and creating new truths as well—I begin to feel more and more connected to them. Playwrights all talk about the crushes they develop on the actors they work with, but that’s a crude way (to me) of thinking about the creative bond I often get to form with a good cast. It’s a unique kind of intimacy that I’ve learned to treasure, because it doesn’t come often.
It has with this cast, though. (I wonder whether they know? I suppose they do now, if they’re reading this!) I’m thinking of the one moment at which I knew we’d achieved the mind-meld. Chiara Motley, who’s playing Jane Horvath, was rehearsing this one intense moment of what can only be described as beatification, and just as she was reciting what might be my favorite line in the play, my heart began swelling. I was feeling exactly what she was feeling. Her thoughts and my thoughts had together become Jane’s thoughts. It felt like speaking some deep truth AND like being genuinely heard at the exact same moment. I’ll never forget it.
Of course, the person who makes all of this possible—the Vulcan elder, perhaps, who helps us achieve the mind-meld—is our director, Kristen Coury. She’s been kind, patient, selfless, smart, and unflappable. And she was really the first person I shared thoughts with, as it were. Our minds are so deeply one with regard to THE BUTCHER that I know, without a doubt, the play’s in very good hands.
May it live long, as they say in Star Trek, and prosper.