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7/23/06

Dear Kim:

I want to write about collaboration today. Collaboration in its best possible form.

Like all artists, I have had some collaborations that were pure power plays. Collaborations that ran so far afield from my optimistic intention that it still smarts to think about them.

The other day, I had the first read through for a script I have been developing that was commissioned by the federal government on sexual orientation and homophobia in the workplace. Yes, I kid you not.

It is fascinating to think about how to write about tolerance and inclusion for a government with an official "don't ask, don't tell policy". But I am so thrilled the feds want to explore this essential topic in some capacity, I determined to find a graceful way through this.

At the read through, Kendra, one of the actors had come with notes about a monologue I had written that she felt did not cover the subject of transgender with sufficient depth. She raised the question gingerly, respectfully.

I told her to bring it on.

As we continued to go through the script, I said, "Pull out your pens, friends. Some of this hangs heavy on my ears. I want this to be as conversational as possible. No high fallutin' language to show how smart we are, or trying to look smarter than the audience."

After the read through in which we found a lot to change, we decided to try to put it on its feet. We did what is called a stumble through.

Greg, another one of the actors said, "What do you want me to do here?"

I told him I had no idea. That he had a great talent for movement. and that I wanted to see what he might find interesting.

He seemed taken aback.

I said, "Surprise me. Let's try all kinds of things. If I think something isn't working, I'll tell you."

The energy seemed to change in the room. It was a hot Friday night at the end of a long week. But suddenly, everyone seemed to sit up straighter, including me. He and Kendra kept trying various physical bits fearlessly. They would show me something and I would tweak it.

When rehearsal was over, he said, "Directors rarely tell me to do whatever I want. And I often sit there gritting my teeth because I have ideas or I don't like what they want to do."

(Kim: You are a brilliant teacher...partly because of how your value the worth and opinions of others. What I'm curious about is how much could a not so brilliant teacher change? What would it take?)

I told him the decisions would ultimately be mine because that is my job. To provide the crucial outside eye. But that we were all smart people and the purpose of having actors is to see what they bring to the table on their own.

He left rehearsal whistling.

Later,

Joan

Monday, May 29, 2006

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