I've gotten to see three performances of Constant State of Panic, and will go see the 2pm Sunday matinee in a couple hours. They've done a great job with the show. We're getting very strong performances from all the actors, and the set is amazing. This is a show with some tricky technical demands, and they've really wowed me and pulled off some very fun stage magic. (I don't want to give away too much, because it's fun to be surprised. Even when I got there Friday night, I said, don't show me all the mechanics of how this stuff works--I want to be surprised with the audience.)
We had two good panels yesterday. After the 2pm show, we had a discussion on Methods and Models of New Play Development, with six artistic directors and directors from around the DC area. They all had different experiences with new plays and we had some good spirited discussion about how much a writer should keep practicality in mind while writing a script. There were about a dozen people who stayed for the talkback, which was fine. It's tricky to get people out to a Saturday afternoon sometimes.
Last night, we had a very warm audience, including a group of 22 MIT alumni (my alma mater) who stayed afterwards for a talk with me and the director and the cast (who were very kind to stay, despite have a super long day). We had a lovely talk, and it was nice to learn that some of the people there had never been to a small theatre like ours before, usually attending the Kennedy Center and the like, and they were very impressed with the quality and intimacy. That was especially rewarding,
On opening night, I had a good chat with several young audience members about how the issue of race is handled in the show. The audience members were a mixed-race group, and they really enjoyed seeing a mixed-race couple on stage, for whom race affected their lives, but the play didn't necessarily have to be "about" race.
It's these kinds of conversations that stick with me as a writer and help make all of this worthwhile (in addition to the free brownies and champagne on opening night).
Now when I'm watching the show, I'm sitting there with my notebook, trying to make sure I understand what I see as the strengths and weaknesses in the show. I'm grateful for the opportunity to see four performances of the play, but that's all I get, and in a few weeks, it'll be closed, and it'll be up to me to figure out what changes to make that will help the play continue to move forward in its life. So as much as I'd like to just sit back and watch, I need to be paying close attention and make sure I'm soaking it all in.
I'll very much miss the Madcap folks when I leave. They've been tremendous to work with--extremely thoughtful and dedicated.