We’re starting off our blog on the second day of workshopping the script of Epimythium. Day 1 was filled with hellos and how-do-you-dos, a full read-through of the existing draft of the script, questions, and feedback.
Today was a productive day for playwright Daniel McCoy. Between our first and second rehearsal, we have 50 new pages to play with. Epimythium combines threads of multiple different stories, overlapping the life of Marie de France as the Abbess of Shaftsbury with the tales she wrote of imprisoned maidens, shape-shifting princes, betrayed lovers, birds, bees, bears, foxes, flies, flowers, and a rooster rooting through a pile of dung. The first two days have focused on Marie’s life, as she navigates the politics of the medieval church and balances her mysterious past with her hopes for her future.
It’s that very mystery we’re trying to get a better hold of. What was Marie’s life before her time as a nun? Where did she gain her gift and her passion for storytelling? And what is the nature of her relationships within the Abbey that has served as her home, her refuge, and her prison?
Part of the process is fleshing out and giving depth to backgrounds, and part of the process is paring away the superfluous. We say goodbye to some favorite lines and hello to some new ones. It’s an exciting thing to see a script as a fluid, growing organism. The dialogue shapes the actors’ performances, which influence the next round of edits. Intentions become sharper, stories become richer, and a whole new play starts to come into focus.
Director Hondo Weiss-Richmond has known Daniel and Epimythium for a long time. He directed a reading of the play last year and has been a key part of bringing about this second workshop and reading with Simple Machine. The workshop has been unfolding like a table read, with Hondo encouraging the actors to try different tactics in their readings of the lines. He’s very careful to give every scene and every beat a lot of time and consideration so Daniel can get a real sense of how they land before he makes any changes.
One of the truly phenomenal things about this script is the way it makes use of different storytelling modes to bring Marie’s fables and poems to life. The action of the play might be interrupted by projected animation, shadow puppets, or a silent film. It means that sometimes in the middle of rehearsal, we’re singing as insects to the tune of “Sandra Dee.” But soon, we shift to a lonely gravesite by the side of the road on the way to an unnamed pagan village. We travel across kingdoms and through time at a moment’s notice to visit whole new worlds in Marie’s imagination.
These fables and stories collide with the events of Marie’s life in unexpected ways. By the end of the play, the fantasy becomes truer than the reality. We won’t spoil the story here, except to say that it’s an ending that honors and celebrates what theatre, what art, can do. It answers some questions for the characters, but raises more questions for the audience. Questions that can never be definitively answered. But it is in the asking of these kinds of questions that we learn most about ourselves.
“There are so many greater things than miracles.”
FREE STAGED READING
August 24, 2014 @ 4PM
Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown, MA