I spend a lot of time working on very old plays, from the Greeks to Shakespeare, so I am always excited to work on something new. It’s a special treat to be part of the actual creation process – to be there before the play even exists and help it come into being.
This week I’m working with Out of Hand Theater and learning about the Joint Stock Method of play development. Roughly, this method involves gathering research and ideas from all members of the company, then sending the playwright off to create an integrated piece from this collected wealth.
Some of our work is straightforward intellectual digging: talking with experts about our topic, reading articles and books, watching videos and taking notes. Some is discussion of the topic, our experience with it, our sense of how it plays out in our lives. And some of our work is creating physical vignettes or compositions — little embodiments of the topic that help us discover a tangible vocabulary for the play.
Our playwright, Steve Yockey, has given us a set of words to explore in imagery and action. Yesterday I found myself hiding under a table, untangling a clothesline, defending a photograph, and jumping rope. Today we all stood outside and watched as Adam Fristoe released a blue balloon into a blue sky and followed it with his eyes until it completely disappeared. Maia Knispel and Joe Sykes, our other collaborators, have created haunting images of fear and loss with only their bodies and a simple prop. All in the service of this yet-unborn play.
I love this. I am so grateful that Atlanta has a company like Out of Hand, and that I get to play with them.
Let’s make more theater, shall we?