Donna Hoke is the playwright of TEACH which will be presented as a staged reading on Friday, October 5th, 2018.
On Tuesday night, we had our first rehearsal for TEACH, and even ten minutes in, I was overwhelmed by how fortunate I am to be offered such a wonderful collaborative opportunity, particularly for this play. TEACH has had several readings before it was invited to Gulfshore Playhouse, but what it’s never had is time for more than just rehearsal for an audience, preparation of the words that were already there. Any post-reading revisions I made came from my own observations or were prompted by audience questions. This Festival offers the luxury of time, and time coupled with an insightful and intuitive creative team is playwright gold. For this play, it’s probably even platinum.
TEACH is an unusual play in that there are five actors but only three characters. I don’t want to give too much away but suffice to say that some actors play the same character. As such, it’s imperative that those actors know the role through both their own lines and those spoken by the other actors in the same roles. In previous readings, there were issues with actors who hadn’t read the other actors’ lines, or who made choices that were wildly divergent from their counterparts and therefore didn’t unify the character they were both playing. From the first reading, it had been my dream to have enough rehearsal time to allow actors to swap, i.e. read their counterparts’ lines to gain a better understanding of the whole character. I thought the discoveries gleaned from such an exercise would have to wait until the play was in production, even though I knew it could be beneficial at the development stage.
On day one, when Gulfshore Playhouse Artistic Director Kristen Coury, who is directing TEACH for the Festival, generously asked me if there was anything specific I wanted to do in rehearsal, I shared this idea. She was totally game. At the first rehearsal, we read the play with assigned roles, and then the actors swapped. It was eye-opening. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but the exercise gave all of us windows into our own biases. This will affect how the actors play their roles, how the play is directed, and even lines I assign to one character or another. It underscored the need to allow sexual chemistry in this play. Most of all, it illustrated how well the play works. If you attend the reading and find yourself exploring your own biases—and I hope you do—keep our exercise in mind. I think it will deepen your experience in the same way it did ours.
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