EDEN Playwright’s Log – After Opening

Producing a new play is a very risky business. It is untested material and not known to audiences. It also feels like a shot in the dark, not knowing how it will play before an audience until it is actually in front of the audience. After the countless hours of work leading up to opening, it feels odd to settle in to a run. The work doesn’t stop on opening night though. The show keeps growing as the actors discover new moments and different audiences bring different energies. As a playwright, you learn something new about the piece at every performance. You get lots of feedback from the audience and from watching moments played over and over again.

And then there are the reviews! One of the most difficult parts of the business. Very necessary but can be very difficult. Many theatre artists, particularly actors, choose not to read them until after the run. A good review can make you over confident and as a result you stop working at it. A poor review can make you second guess everything and begin to hesitate in performance. In the long run they can be informative, but also need to be taken alongside the larger feedback of audiences. I’m grateful that Winnipeg allows for a diversity of responses to produced plays. Many of my colleagues in New York have found a single review from the New York Times can make or break their play. A scary thought as I’m sure everyone has had the experience of seeing a show that was poorly reviewed and loving it. Good theatre is certainly not an objective thing. I’ve always loved discussing plays in class with my students and finding widely different responses. That is the beauty of art.

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam; photo by Janet Shum

Last week I went with a couple of actors to talk to youth in a drama club at IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba). They are coming to see the show next week and we wanted to introduce them to the play first. They had such great questions about theatre, both the profession and the behind the scenes magic. They were shocked to hear how long I’d been working on the play. To date they said the theatre they had seen was boring. We certainly don’t think they will be bored by EDEN, so I challenged them to let me know afterwards what they think. One young man replied that it would be horrible if it was boring after all the years of work I put in. Others jumped in by echoing something I had said earlier, as artists we learn from all experiences and the only way to develop our craft is to take risks and learn from them. In fact, I just read an interesting article by Nicholas Kazan (Elia Kazan’s son). Apparently Arthur Miller was told to make many changes to Death of a Salesman because it was unproducable with the flashbacks. He decided to go ahead as written and if it failed at least it would fail as he intended it rather than making changes and never knowing if his initial impulses were right. Such is the leap of faith we make as playwrights!

Many have been asking what the next steps are with a new play after the world premiere. In most cases, the playwright learns a lot from that first production and makes changes afterwards. This new version of the script is then sent out to other theatres in hopes of a second production. Something that is rare in Canadian theatre. A world premiere has a certain cache but second productions are very difficult to secure. Ideally after the premiere you can also get the script published, which opens it up to other markets including the possibilities of it being studied in classrooms and read by theatre lovers who may never have the opportunity to see the show. With a piece as large as EDEN, a second production in Winnipeg or a tour of this production are not likely to happen. That means that the odds are this will be the only chance for Winnipeg audiences to experience the show!

With 11 more shows, I hope to continue to learn from the piece, the audiences and the beautiful work the actors are doing! I would certainly love thoughts from anyone in the audience!

Full details on the EDEN web page including a photo gallery with new images from our dress rehearsal.

Tom Soares and Marsha Knight in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum