Friday, August 17, 2007

The reading went fine.

The reading of Pieces of Whitey in Cambridge went fine last night. I didn’t have a chance to talk to (or chew out) the director. He was busy beforehand, and then left early.

There were about a dozen people in attendance, mostly white, but it was a mixed race crowd. As usual with this play, the people of color laughed the hardest (especially at the brochure entitled “shit that might happen to you now that you’re colored.”) I got some nice compliments afterwards and the audience stuck with it. The actors were mixed in their level of experience, but they all gave it their best. It was a mixed-race cast, and that seemed to work fine with this play, which is intriguing to me. (I'd love to see it done with an all black cast.)

It’s a pretty tough piece to do as a fully staged reading, but the director did a decent job of trying to give a sense of it. It's interesting to see that some plays can work well as a sit down reading or as a full-production, but an actual staged reading bumps into some important limitations, theatrically.

The whole cutting issue that had me so riled didn’t end up being a huge disaster. (Though I think the cutting for time with a bullshit excuse, to be honest.) The library didn’t close until 9, which meant we could easily have run the show until 8:30. The cuts that were made were entire scenes (the play has about 30 short scenes), rather than small bits, which was good, and only several were cut. Though one scene was cut in half--the first half is all physical, and that didn't work at all. Trying to take out some of the fairly visual/physical scenes makes sense, in a way, for a fully staged reading (since you can't read stage directions), but you end up losing important bits of the play (in this case, mostly character development). If it had been up to me to choose cuts for time, I would have chosen some of the same scenes to take out, but not all (and I would have cut some others). (Some of you know the play--Betty's Safari and Chicken at Chet's were cut and so was the Fred's Brain scene, Sum of All Fears. I was especially sad to lose this one). Oddly enough, he kept the initial dumbshow at the start of I’m Not Racist But, which made no sense whatsoever. The audience had no clue about what was happening.

The fact that the cuts didn't result in an absolute fiasco doesn't, of course, justify making them, and especially making them without consulting me. That was just wrong, any way you look at it.

It was useful for me to see the reading and hear the audience respond. I don't know if or when I'll ever get a chance to revisit this play, but I hope I will someday. There's been a big discussion about going on at the Binge list, so this reading came at a good time for me. I actually plan to blog more (soon) about Pieces of Whitey, race, and my thoughts around the audience and critical response to the Boston production. (But now I need to sleep.)


Dan Milstein said...

Thanks for posting -- I was very curious as to how it turned out.

He cut Chicken at Chet's? What now?! That was my fave scene in the play. Hrm.

Glad it turned out better than it might...

patrick said...

Cutting that scene was an odd choice, since it's not so physical as the others. I guess it doesn't advance the plot much, but it does help us understand Bill's strong desire to explore what he sees as his blackness (and Betty's fear of her own). Without it, Bill isn't nearly as interesting. Especially since Bill's journey to work was cut (except for the elevator scene--which was weird--it would have made more sense to just cut that entirely). If it was up to me, I would have kept Chicken at Chet's and cut the Scrabble scene (which was kept, though without lights, I found the slow motion violence a little oddly random). Though I still get an awfully good laugh when one of players plays Niveous. (But I'm a writer and how can I not appreciate the chance to use such a word)