THE DARK HORSE: The staged reading of my play, The Dark Horse, by Theatre Gael here in Atlanta was...well...surreal. Disappointingly, we had small audiences for both readings. On Sunday night, it was the Super Bowl and there were other events happening around the city. We only had 10 people in the seats, but it was nice to see a mix of old and new faces. Last night, there were 15 I think, but they were all friends and co-workers. I take most of the blame on myself for not pushing harder to get it in the local papers and build a bigger buzz. There was nothing in the media about the reading, and I can't fault Theatre Gael because they were in the middle of trying to get Dancing at Lughnasa ready (and it was great, especially Marci Millard playing the chain-smoking, wise-cracking, and ultimately melancholy Maggie). Once again, proof positive that if you want publicity, you have to do it yourself. Of course, while I was in LA, I should have been calling back to ATL and harassing newspaper and magazine editors.

Theatre Gael director John Stephens took an interesting approach to casting the reading, by giving himself the part of 17-year-old Tyler Drake, who comes to a remote island in 1925 with his mother Elizabeth in search of reclusive artist Jessica Hardwick. John is in his late 40s or early 50s, so that was interesting. But even more interesting, was giving the part of Jessica (a white woman in her 50s) to Gina Guesby, a black actor in her 30s. While I always support color blind casting, it was hard to suspend disbelief when Jessica is telling Tyler and Elizabeth she had a son named Edward who died and closely resembled Tyler. While both John and Gina read well, several people told me afterwards that is was just...well...weird. A fellow playwright and director in the audience, who has organized many staged readings, said she was even thrown off by this choice. Everyone was in agreement, however, that my pal Lisa Allender has some serious acting chops on her. Even though she was standing behind a podium, she was totally into the character of Elizabeth. If The Dark Horse ever gets another reading or full production, she simply has to play the part.

When you get right down to the heart of it, the main point of the reading was for me, the playwright, to hear the dialogue and see how it sounds. The version that was read at Theatre Gael over the weekend is not quite the same version that won the two awards back in the 90s, nor the one that received a production in 1998. I had tweaked the dialogue to make it even more confrontational and to move the story forward, and I gave Tyler his own monologue at the end, something missing from the other versions. I heard a few places where some more tweaking could be done, and that will probably happen again at some point. I must thank John and his managing director Sarah Dasher for agreeing to give The Dark Horse a voice once again. The production in 1998 was my last hurrah in theatre, and my life was in complete chaos and turmoil. Hearing the words again brought back many memories of 1998 (most of which I'd like to forget), but I am still proud of this play. I think the message of hope...and carries are needed now more than ever.

I also want to thank artist Mike Sawecki for re-creating his painting of The Dark Horse. Mike had painted a lovely portrait for the production seven years ago and then sold it. Using a slide, he painted it again and the work was on display in the lobby and then on the stage during the reading. I hope he sells this one, too!

And last, but certainly not least, huge thanks for the brilliant Beth Gylys for being the featured poet who read after the play reading. She read from her collections Bodies That Hum and Spot in the Dark. She writes in form, but her poems are so in your face and blunt...not to mention dirty. Which I love! Beth joined me and some other folks last night for dinner at Einstein's after the show and she had us in stitches. Beth is reading tomorrow night at Callanwolde with Mike Dockins (the loverly poetry editor for Terminus). Should be a great evening of poetry. I'll be there!


Anonymous said…

Sorry I couldn't make it down for the reading. I did see it advertised in Southern Voice so I am VERY surprised that there was such a low turnout. The advertisement in Southern Voice even had your photo.

Bookfraud said…
This post reminds me of 1) how hard (and important) it is to promote one's work; 2) a play demands to be read for it to take life; 3) how the Super Bowl sucks most all intellectual life out of America for four hours (and this from a football fan) and that you must have some loyal (or non-football-loving) friends. Fight the good fight indeed.

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