“Script Tease” just ended its third-year run, this time at Unexpected Productions. The concept of “Script Tease” is that a playwright writes the first six pages of a play, and the performers see the script for the first time just before they go on stage, where they do a staged reading of those first six pages and then improvise the rest of a two-act play. Each week this year featured its own playwright, director, and cast. Each year, I slot myself in to the lineup last, to fill in where needed or to fill in if one of the artists has to bow out due to unforeseen circumstances. This year, I wound up serving as the script coordinator during the first week, and as the director of both the second and third weeks.
Every performance was great, but each of the three weekends featured one performance that was truly special. Looking at those three performances, they all featured wildly different styles and plots. But they all had one thing very much in common. A few diagrams to illustrate:
Week One, from a script by Benjamin Benne, directed by Catherine Blake Smith, featuring Tony Beeman, David Bestock, Ashley Flanagan, Jana Hutchison, James Katica, and Elicia Wickstead, set on Noah’s Ark starting on day 39 of the flood
Week Two, from a script by Scotto Moore, directed by Dave Clapper, featuring Adrienne Corcoran, Kate Drummond, Chazz Kaskes, Lauren Skelton, Bryan Sullivan, and Tim Tracey, about a quest by a dying mother and her family to make the fanciest hat ever (Kate was the narrator version of Adrienne’s character)
Week Three, from a script by Maggie Lee, directed by Dave Clapper, featuring Mike Glissmeyer, Troy Mink, Jordi Montes, Phoebe Richards, Laurel Ryan, and Doug Willott, a post-apocalyptic Samurai Western
Whew. Got all that? The commonality? In each of these three shows, every character had very strong feelings toward at least one other character, whether positive or negative. In some of these cases, those feelings were built into (or at least hinted at) in the script. In other cases, they were entirely chosen by the improvisers. Either way, having that strong emotional base to inform one’s choices makes the improvisation a million times easier. You know the adage about getting out of one’s head? This is about the quickest way to do it.
There were three major notes that I emphasized in directing both weeks:
- Plot is the footprints characters leave in the snow (via Robert Heinlein). The genre/style of the script is the framework within which the plot happens.
- Make big, bold character choices.
- Know how you feel about other characters, and feel strongly.
There were other notes, of course (don’t upstage yourself, be aware of stage picture, project, etc.), but these were the notes that I emphasized, and they all come back to one thing: Care. And in each of the standout performances, the characters cared deeply, sometimes to the point of murder or suicide. And because the characters cared, so did the audiences, sometimes to the point of tears.
A couple quotes from artists involved:
And my time at the theatre was.. magical. Doing the show Scriptease with a talented and fun cast and director. We did a super fun show on Friday night and the show on Saturday was a reminder of why I do theatre. A beautiful night that touched the performers as well as the audience. I hold it as one of my favorite performances. – Adrienne Corcoran
Thank you Script Tease Seattle for an awesome weekend! Last night, I threw my samurai buddy cop/Old West mashup idea into the fray, and it blossomed into a hilarious and touching play beyond my imagination. Thank you so much to the amazing improv cast for diving headfirst into my weird worlds. – Maggie Lee
So damned proud of all these artists.