Day 1: Becoming the Midwives

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To the casual theatre-goer, the magic of theatre comes to fruition in a final product: brilliant lights, vibrant costumes, incredible sets, engaging soundscapes, and fine-tuned characters all rehearsed to perfection and executed flawlessly to an adoring audience. But to the artist, the real magic happens long before any of that is even possible. It happens in a small rehearsal space furnished only with a few tables and chairs, some scripts ready for marking, and a team of passionate and driven people united in the singular goal of refining a story so that everyone can feel it as deeply as they do.

This lovely Monday evening, this process began for the Bridge Initiative’s development workshop of Alyson Mead’s new work, The Flora & Fauna. The creative team for this endeavor gathered under one roof for the first time, introductions were made, and many laughs were had. The mission of this workshop was laid out: that of supporting the playwright and her story however she may need, to the best of their combined abilities. Director Stefanie Sertich and Producer Tracy Liz Miller have set this up as the explicit goal of this project, allowing for a free approach for the rest of the creative team.

Because the team is not under pressure to create something perfect, or put up a show complete with full staging and so forth, they can truly lend themselves to the needs of the playwright in the further development of this beautiful piece. Whether this means rewrites, timeline alterations, experimenting with different looks, playing with elements of design, or so forth, the team will focus on what the play most needs in its current form. As Tracy Liz Miller put it, the team will act as “midwives” through the birthing pains of the playwright’s brainchild.

The Flora & Fauna is one of those rare pieces so brimming with reality that it touches everyone on a deeply personal level, a fact the team discovered very quickly upon sitting down for the first evening. After introductions and a discussion of the goals of this fast-paced process, the cast read through the show for the first time in its entirety, with the creative team taking their notes, jotting down questions and observations as Mead took her own notes for the improvement of the piece.

At the close of this first reading of the powerful, emotional story, the room seemed collectively stunned and short of breath, falling to silence as the recognition of exactly how moving this new play can be hit each individual like a ton of bricks. A deeply personal, vulnerable, and at times emotional discussion followed, as Sertich lead the team with thoughtful questions on character, structure, and the roots of the play itself.

The development team, comprised entirely of powerful women, left feeling revived, empowered, and confident that this project is something truly special. There’s no telling what this whirlwind week will hold, but on the solid foundation laid in this first night of forceful words, open minds, and bared hearts, it’s sure to be something magnificent.

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