Earlier this month I went to a reading of a work-in-progress at the Playhouse Recital Hall. The Laurette Play by Vancouver playwright C.E. Gatchalian, is about Laurette Taylor, a Broadway stage actor who was renowned for having originated the role of Amanda in Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie. Gatchalian was inspired to write this play by the fact that few people remember or have even heard of Laurette Taylor, and yet in her day she was legendary. Her work inspired actors, such as Uta Hagen, who in turn became legendary performers and teachers of the next generation of theatre artists.
My first encounter with the work of Gatchalian, was in 2004 when my daughter, Amanda Lockitch played Lucy, the mother of Kieran, played by Ryan Beil in Gatchalian's play Crossing. Written as his thesis project for his M.F.A. in creative writing at UBC, Crossing is an unrelentingly dark piece about a sexually-troubled relationship between mother and son.
This production, directed by Sean Cummings, became the founding production of Meta.for Theatre Company, with Cummings, Lockitch and Melissa Powell as Co-artistic directors. Meta.for Theatre later produced Broken, an evening of other one-act plays by Gatchalian.
Crossing has just been published. The book launch, and a celebration of Tennessee Williams' 100th Birthday, will take place February 26th at Rhizome Cafe. More information later.
The Laurette Play reading was directed by Glynis Leyshon. As Gatchalian describes the script, it is the story of "how Laurette Taylor attempts to reignite the creativity of a frustrated, alcoholic, once-great playwright, unleashing memories and thoughts on the nature of theatre, art, creativity and immortality."
Nicola Cavendish and Allan Morgan read multiple parts, playing characters including the playwright, his parents, and of course Laurette or her ghost.
It is always a privilege to get a peek into the creation of a new work, and then, hopefully, to see a full production of the finished version. That’s why it is so interesting to see the staged readings of scripts that are work-shopped at Playwrights Theatre Centre, for example. It’s sort of like being allowed to read an early draft of the newest novel by your favorite author, and get a glimpse into the way he/she thinks creatively
Only better, because with a play, you can see the ideas brought to the work by multiple artists – the writer, the dramaturge, the director and sometimes composers or choreographers, as well as admire the way experienced actors can bring characters alive while still reading their lines.
This Saturday, Fugue Theatre held a staged reading of Via Beatrice, a new operetta being workshopped under the direction of Chris Gerrard-Pinker, at the Playwrights Theatre Centre. The story of Beatrice Cenci, who in sixteenth century Rome, was executed with her stepmother and brother for the murder of her abusive father, has inspired novels, plays and operas. But for this interpretation, Fugue artistic director, Laura Di Cicco, wanted a feminine perspective and actor/playwright, Jenn Griffin’s script provides just that.