Working on taking my play back to the polyp stage!
Immortal Jellyfish is a work about the ancient theme of fearing death, and everything that entails. I was basing it off of the myth of Gilgamesh at first, and wanted the characters to run parallel to the characters from that story. That said, I didn’t want the piece to feel ‘grand’ or ‘sweeping,’ this was intended to be maybe an hour long play about people, not Kings or Gods. The work is about real people doing real human things in an implausible time.
So far, Jellyfest has kind of reflected that. I got together with four very real people last night and sat down for what wound up being about two hours of reading. I am immensely grateful to Randy Snight, Elizabeth Hansen, Robert Bouwmeester, and Kristen Pilgrim. Randy and Elizabeth get extra snaps and the special mystery prize box because they were there on time, waited for like half an hour, and didn’t even know each other.
Granted, we met at the marvelous Soho Tea and Coffee shop on 2150 P St NW – a little hub which has basically become Avalanche’s unofficial incubator space – so you really couldn’t have picked a better place to have to wait.
Meanwhile, the rest of us got wonderfully lost. Kristen was taking a car through rush hour, and Rob and I took the metro in to Dupont and then made like Alice in Wonderland going the wrong way down P street. The numbers should be going up to get to 2150, just you remember that. Because I didn’t. And it was COLD. Like, NASSA cold. That cold.
So we wound up starting around 7:30pm and got to reading around 7:45pm, armed with tea and food and brilliant people. I do believe Randy’s Torry voice may be one of the strongest choices I have ever heard for Tara. Really entertaining stuff.
Now you may not know this, but Randy and Rob are both working actors, meaning that they both act for work and make it work. There is one kind of person I admire most in this world, and that is the working actor. Kudos to both of you gentlemen and my thanks for joining me on this largely social outing. Randy was able to fit in my reading between choreographing FOUR SHOWS and I caught Rob just before he left to start in a Main Role in an Off Broadway show. I count myself blessed to have gotten such brilliant men to read for me, and more so for getting a chance to see them in the mad dash that is our lifestyle.
Kristen, Liz, and I are in this Jellyfest bash for the long haul, so we’ll see plenty more talented readers together. Liz, as you all know, is a co-Company Director with Jon Jon Johnson and myself, and Kristen is my director for Jellyfish next fall. Liz is the fuel behind the fire of Avalanche, to put a phrase ironic on it, and Kristen is one my favorite directors. She can fight, she can build props, she can get results out of her actors. You go girl. I couldn’t ask for better pair to have joined me on this first night out the gate, either. Both Kristen and Liz have keen critical eyes and solidly grounded personalities, so they give excellent constructive criticism while still making me feel like I’m Neil Labute.
Liz read for Tara, Rob read for Will, and Randy read for Kid. The work ran about an hour and a half, thanks to a few starts and stops for notes, and one vital phone interruption from the inimitable Mary Myers in Italy (joy, and sadness).
In the script, we found places of repetition, snipped at the odd phrase, jumped on a few lines that could definitely become pregnant pauses, and discussed areas that could be more fleshed out. Randy helped me keep on where and when the scenes were occurring, and I’ll be adding those notes into later drafts. We all had a good discussion on the world of the play and its myths, as well as places where I could build character development to make the choices have a greater contrast. We had a good look at what’s eating Will, being as his character is like, the supreme jerk overlord. We decided to flesh out Tara’s past a bit, and to give Kid a bit more backstory, while cutting some scenes which really repeatedly get into ‘sex versus death.’ It’s a heavyweight match that really doesn’t need to go longer than three rounds in the ring.
In other words, we made The Immortal Jellyfish act like its namesake, taking it from the adult stage, putting it under stress, and reverting it back to infancy. Kind of fun, really. I found a good number of places to expand the world I’m making while getting rid of repeated themes and lines (i.e. the phrase ‘speaking of…’ swear to God, that was said four times in the span of two minutes, and both Liz and I just looked at each other and wrote it down as a note).
What I liked about the reading was that despite all the corrections we had for the work, people still seemed to really like it. I am definitely looking forward to retooling this number and getting more readers exposed to the work.
Thanks again, Randy and Rob, and to Kristen and Liz – cheers!
Those of you who like the sound of this Jellyfish thing, support us on Kickstarter!