Jess the Mastodon Stomps Through The Hub

This weekend, The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons will be featured as part of the Hub Play Fest down in Fairfax, Virginia outside of DC!

The public reading of my piece takes place at 2:00 PM on Sunday, February 8th at the John Swayze Theater in the New School of Northern Virginia.
If you misread that theater name, like I did, you might assume that dramatic lifts and/or ghosts were involved, and unfortunately you might be a bit disappointed. There is, however, a reading of a new play about Albert Einstein and African American opera singer Marian Anderson on Saturday, and a mixer on Saturday night, which is pretty much the same thing, right?

Now, this reading is awesome and exciting news on its own, but it is extra exciting because it means reuniting with two friends and collaborators, which I always, always love to do.

Last spring, Mastodons was selected for a First Contact Reading with The Inkwell, a marvelous development organization out of DC. I came down for the weekend and got to spend hours in a room with a crackerjack creative team playing with the script and expanding the world of the piece. We focused on exploring the actual physical presence of the mastodon. What's it like to have something that size in the room? How could she move? How would you show her affection?

Without a puppet-maker (or a budget or any time at all), we ended up using the actors to build our mastodon. (photos by dramaturg and mastodon wrangler Anne Meredith McCaw) They lumbered in tandem, knocking things over and reaching out with their trunk. We improvised a disastrous meeting with Delores and an ill-fated date with Clint, and painted and stomped and trumpeted and really deepened and strengthened the piece. One of my favorite moments came when Ricardo, who is reprising Clint in the workshop this weekend, was improvising a scene relaxing with Jess, played by the lovely Sarah Tisdale, and he suddenly started petting her. It made complete sense - she's a big soft fuzzy creature, she's become more of a pet than a girlfriend. And, it gives him simultaneously a new way to interact with her, and a new way to absolutely drive her crazy. It was a great insight and just a little example of what a roomful of smart collaborators can lead you to.

For Play Fest, the Inkwell and I are undergoing a longer, more involved rehearsal process that I fully anticipate will kick my ass. I can't wait to see what we come up with.

And speaking of continuing collaborations, the lovely Emma Kate Jackson will be reading the role of Jess! Emma and I go way back. She was Neil Swantrick Harris in my adaptation of The Ugly Duckling with Serenbe Playhouse, and Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time when I assistant directed at Theatrical Outfit, and one of my go-to smart actresses when I was workshopping new scripts in Atlanta. When we workshopped Mastodons with the Collective Project and the script grew 25 pages overnight, she was our Jess, and I am absolutely thrilled to have her back.

Here's to old friends and new drafts! Hope to see you at The Hub Play Fest this weekend.


Popular Posts