Boise Contemporary Theater's new original play, The Uncanny Valley opens in less than three weeks and the script isn't yet finished. The new original play is a work in progress we’ve been following for a few months.
Just last month actors gathered for their first table read. This was the first time writers and co-directors Dwayne Blackaller and Matthew Cameron Clark showed all the actors the play. Clark is also acting in this show.
What the five actors sat down to read was a little more than half a script. It included a first act and a rough sketch of what the second act would be. After the read, the cast spent nearly an hour asking questions and offering suggestions for the writers.
Here’s an example. Throughout the first half, some of the characters tell stories about things that have happened to them. That includes Sydney, a brash photographer with no tolerance for pretense, played by Carie Kawa.
“Regarding Sydney,” begins actress Tracy Sunderland a familiar face at BCT and The Idaho Shakespeare Festival. “I wonder…maybe…her poetry is in her art,” she continues. “It’s not coming out of her mouth. So I kind of challenge you guys to think about how she articulates that story and just the way she speaks in the world.”
The problem Sunderland says, is that though the speeches are gorgeously written, they sound like they were written by the same person. The different characters need different voices.
“It seems like there’s a similarity with everyone,” Sunderland says. “Everyone is beautifully poetic and has the same access to metaphor.”
She especially thinks Sydney needs a distinct voice, perhaps one that’s less eloquent.
“Honestly that’s a tough thing to hear because I really love that language,” Clark tells me after the discussion. “That’s going to be a difficult thing to go back through, because she’s right, she’s absolutely right that there needs to be a different voice that’s unique to Sydney.”
Clark and Blackaller are enthusiastic about this first reading and the discussion that followed even though it means more revision on the first half as well as all the work it will take to put the second half on paper. "There are adjustments to be made but overall it was very encouraging," Clark says. “It was super scary. It could very easily have happened today that we realized it really doesn’t work."
That didn't happen. The existing scenes didn't fall flat. The story stayed intriguing from the detailed beginning to the, still slightly nebulous, ending. And everyone in the room seemed excited by it. That’s important to Clark.
“We need everyone on the team to love the thing for it to be good and that’s a lot to ask,” he says. Clark says he wants every designer, stage manager and actor to contribute ideas to shape the story. But in the end it’s he and Blackaller who are writing it.
Blackaller promised a second half as complete as the first by the start of rehearsals, but he says that does not mean it will be a finished script. “I know that we will be making adjustments all the way through to opening night,” Blackaller said. “Language and even what happens plot-wise can change depending on what feedback we’re getting from the group.”
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