Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Turn the Page, Make a Change (Claire)

Whenever we get a new script draft from Cory, it always reminds me of the feeling that came with being 10 years old and opening that last big present on Christmas morning. We've anticipate it for months, talked about what might or might not be included in it, shared ideas that we think might be helpful or interesting, and then we finally get to tear into it and get to see what's there.
There's the blissful free-fall of the first read- usually for me it's done binge style- an hour or so of straight reading with as few interruptions as possible. This usually quickly followed by a brief period of mourning for some of the scenes that didn't make it into this draft and then a second, more careful bit-by-bit reading when I begin to explore this new world of the play.
As the project's dramaturge, its my chance to jump in and ask questions that help us focus our ideas and make sure that we're cleaning up things that might be left from previous drafts. It also means that as we get new drafts, I can see the results of our conversations play out in the conversations our characters have. Now- I know we've written a lot lately about our brand spankin' new second draft, but I wanted to share with you how this process happens in the space of just a few days last week when Cory was here visiting us and how it completely changed the fate of one of our characters, Uncle Ed.

(NOTE: I'm really not trying to give anything big about the script away, but I probably will by mistake. If you are invested in being completely surprised about it, you probably should avert your eyes.)
As of our working draft last week, we know these things about Uncle Ed:
  • He's a ghost.
  • He helped to build the old barn that stands on one of the farms in the play.
  • For most of the play, he only exists for one other character- his descendant, Mitch, the farmer who is currently farming his land.
This character was inspired by the family histories we heard from the farmers we worked with last summer and some of the historical research that we've done, and has been a favorite of mine throughout the various drafts we've gone through. Anyone who has spent any time in Maine can attest to the power of tradition here in the pine tree state, and its been a joy to do readings of the play and watch our actors bring out the voice of this true old timer. He's like everything I love about "Burt and I" rolled up with a healthy dose of the realities of farming in 19th century Maine.
When Cory was here, Jennie and I got to sit her down as ask about some of the changes she had made to the character in the newest draft. A lot had changed especially for Mitch, the character who sees him. We talked about the different stratagies that Cory had tried out to show how those changes would effect Uncle Ed, but they weren't quite... sticking.
Heres one piece of text where Uncle Ed is talking to Mitch:

And so we started talking about ghosts- how our memories of people can change how we remember them, how what we want to remember about people could end up creating a really different idea of who they were than their actual character..... and eventually we asked the question- How is a real person different from their ghost? How do we change someone when we imagine their presence in our lives?
And the next night, at the reading we did with our farmers, I was thrilled to discover that all of a sudden, that portion of the script had morphed into this: (sorry for the blurriness!)

Ta-Da! Dramaturgical process at work!
Thats how it happens, folks. Its details like this that will make our finished product the complete and well developed story it ought to be- and its not even done yet! Will this idea still fit in a week? Who knows! We'll have to evaluate when we get there, but it certainly gave my heart a little pitter-patter when we read it.

Thanks for reading- we'll be in touch soon, but for the mean time, if you're in Portland ME, make a plan to stop in to the Public Market House in Monument Square and check out "Growing Stories; Photos and Writing From the Of Farms and Fables Project" show that will be hanging on the second floor for all of August. See you there!