Theater: A step in the journey from page to stage
October 6, 2005
By Anna Marie D'Addarie
(From left) Rob Beitzel, Jeanine Serralles, and Johnny Sparks rehearse "Dark Matter," opening tonight at the Vineyard Playhouse.
Photo by Sally Cohn
For a playwright, the road from idea to opening night is a long and often lonely one. Writing is a solitary process, but when writing for the stage you must eventually release your work to other professionals (directors, actors, designers) who all add their own vision to your work. A workshop performance is an important step in the playwriting process. The Vineyard Playhouse will have three performances of Hugh Bush's play "Dark Matter" beginning tonight and continuing through Saturday.
Workshop performances are a new venture for the playhouse. A professional development period allows the playwright to work on the text while a director and actors stage the play for the public. In the case of "Dark Matter," director Michael Barakiva and cast members Jeanine Serralles, Robert Beitzel, and Johnny Sparks have spent the past two weeks in rehearsal, preparing for this weekend's performances. Mr. Bush spends his days in rehearsal and his nights rewriting the play. The following day the new pages are rehearsed. The workshop is an invaluable part of the playwriting process. Mr. Bush, who has had readings of his work in New York and London, said the Vineyard Playhouse is "a very relaxed environment. The theater is casual, open and more nurturing, family-like." The director and two of the actors have worked at the playhouse before, and Mr. Bush's play had a reading here in the summer of 2003.
"They are at the top of their game," said the playwright of his director and cast, who are graduates from the top theater training schools in the country. What the audience will see is a script-in-hand performance where the script will not interfere with the storytelling. A final production might include more special effects, but this weekend they will not be missed.
"Dark Matter" is a bit like a pulp fiction who-done-it with suspense, excitement, and humor, according to the playwright who prefers the storyline be kept under wraps for the audience to discover. Mr. Bush predicts the workshop performance will be "very entertaining; the audience will see the creativity and enjoy the show." "It feels like the play I set out to write," he said. After each show the audience will have the opportunity to meet the playwright and discuss this play. Audience feedback is another valuable part of the process.
Islanders can add workshop performances to their live theatre experience. "Dark Matter" is the first, which will be followed later this month by "Rum and Vodka" by Conor McPherson. See one of the workshop performances and become part of the process.
"Dark Matter" Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Oct. 6, 7, and 8, 7:30 pm at the Vineyard Playhouse, 24 Church Street, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $15, general admission. "Rum and Vodka," Oct. 20, 21, 22. For more information, call 508-696-6300 or visit www.vineyardplayhouse.org.