Meeting Lee Blessing at The Playwrights’ Center
Quote of the Day: Gender is our place in the world. Character named Mandy, or Randall, in Lee Blessings’ newest play, Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers were invited to a reading of his latest work, and a discussion with the playwright afterwards. The rest of the line goes like this You’re expected to like this. You’re reliable for that. Timely theme, don’t you think? And, the title refers to the twin cities in Minnesota that are separated by the Mississippi River. Some people don’t cross the river. St. Paul folks like St. Paul and complain about the driving and parking, crime, etc. in Minneapolis. Minneapolis folks stick to their side of the river and have similar complaints about their neighboring city. It’s kind of like the Chevy/Ford debate, or the iphone/android preference (the kids will understand this one better).
Author Mary Higgins Clark writes in her memoir that when she’s thinking of a story, she says to herself, “Suppose…and What if?” Blessing’s new play does that. Suppose a man has a dual identity. What if he acted on it? And, suppose that in doing so it gave him a fulfillment in life that he never experienced before. What if he’s found out?
That’s all I can really say about Minneapolis/St. Paul. It’s a work in progress. Mr. Blessing met with us after the reading to discuss his ideas, development, and what happens next. He’ll be work-shopping the play in various locations. He said, “You never really know a play until you have an audience.” I like that. He goes on to explain that we writers have an idea in our head. We write it out. It makes sense to us. But, it takes these readings, workshops, and the audience for him to see what works and what doesn’t, and maybe even what the play is really about. I’ve experienced this on a much, much, much smaller scale with two of my plays. I’ve had exactly two readings where I invited my theater friends over to my house and served them a delicious brunch. They brought those words that were stuck on the page…off the page and gave them life. They laughed at places I didn’t know were funny, and cried more than I thought they would. They stumbled at times in the reading, questioned a few things, and asked for more in some places.
At the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, playwrights have a chance to work on their scripts. The Playwrights’ Center will connect them with the right people for their project. Jessica Franken, our PR contact at the Playwrights’ Center, visited with me a bit about what happens there. She said that some playwrights come in with ideas, no real script, and want to spend the time writing and developing their work. Another one might work with a puppeteer to develop a story. And, some come with full scripts and want to have them read and worked by professional actors and directors from the twin cities. Mr. Blessing has worked with a dramaturg as well as directors and actors in developing his plays. He is a Core playwright at the Playwrights’ Center, meaning he comes in at least once a year to work on scripts. He has also done mentoring at various sites.
I asked Lee Blessing which of his plays is nearest and dearest to his heart. (Rookie question, I know. When I asked my piano students what they would ask them, they had the same question. That, and, “What’s your favorite food?” which I forgot to ask.) He gave the typical response that it would be like picking his favorite child. Although, he has a good answer now to that question. “Chesapeake,” he said, “Because I want more people to read it and produce it. It’s a one man play, cheap to produce. And, it’s funny!” I’ll be ordering that one to read next. You can read a mini interview with Lee Blessing at The Playwrights’ Center website. In the interview he says he likes themes that make the audience a little nervous, or not quite sure how they feel about it. Minneapolis/St. Paul accomplishes this! I hope you all can see it some day soon on stage near you.
I plan to write a little more about this experience for the next posting of the Insecure Writers Support Group, June 1.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you have a Suppose…and What if? question that you’re pondering? Have you turned it into a story? What do you suppose your favorite author is doing right now?