As we prepared for the Chicago workshop of No Home For Bees to open (which it did last night), Emily - the playwright - and I wrote about the value of workshop productions and why they are an essential step that a great deal of the American theatrical ecosystem is missing. I think this is a topic for wider discussion (as well as a good excuse to resurrect this here space for thoughts), so I'm sharing it with y'all here, too.
“Playwrights are only dreamers. Nothing we create is real - it's just a blueprint. It's the actors, director, designer and audience that make it into flesh and blood.” - David Ives In our current theatre ecosystem, plays often get stuck in developmental limbo with actors around a table - or they are rushed into productions and live and die with critical reviews. What’s missing is one crucial step: allowing the play to change over time with an audience. We make guesses and assumptions in a rehearsal room, but until the audience is involved we're clueless. We don’t know if the work we’re doing is going to have the impact we’re after. And the only way to gain that knowledge, and adjust our work to make it more closely fulfill our intentions, is by bringing folks into the room and learning more about the play through their eyes and heads and hearts. Plays are not novels or poems or pieces of visual art. Making a play is more like building a house. The playwright creates the blueprint; the designers and actors and director build it - but no matter how beautiful or artfully crafted - it's just an empty house. When the audience is invited into the process, the house comes alive - full of the breath and life and experiences each member of the audience brings with them. This is how we can turn a house into a home. Doing this work without the stakes of formal reviews in a generative, generous, process-driven environment allows us to make choices and learn from them in a way that furthers and deepens the work. This is what the workshop production is about.
There are nine shows left! Plenty of time to come be part of the continued life of this beautiful new play.