Beth Marshall invited me down to the Orlando Shakes on November 3rd to experience the creative process of Play in a Day. Play in a Day kicked off the festivities for Playfest, the Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays which ran from November 3-6. When I entered the Shakes, actors were already divided into six groups and they were doing the initial read throughs of of the scripts. Play authors had been given the theme of unexpected transitions and a twist, no props allowed, the previous day. Most scripts had been written overnight right up to the moment they had been turned in at 7am. There was then a thirty minute pow wow between the writer, director and actors. Then the writers were asked to leave to avoid endless re-writes. I decided to sketch actors Sarah Lockhard, John Connon and Steve Middleton who were reading and laughing. The play was short, only about seven minutes, but it was fun. Someone in the lower lobby shouted, "I don't know what's going on, but it's funny!" Beth Marshal who had just sat down said "That is the perfect review." Rob Ward had also stopped in to read the part of Michael Wanzie. He did a hilarious, spot on impersonation.
The short play, titled, "Family Road Trip" was about a family road trip to Orlando. Sarah was the daughter riding in the back seat and John played the mom while Stephen was the dad behind the wheel. David Lee the author now lives in NYC but he had a long history at the Orlando Shakes. Beth explained the piece to the actors, "David writes for the audience, the whole thing is a poem. He's not Anton Chekhov." She asked the actors to try a read through with British accents which she didn't like, then Southern accents which worked better. When they pointed out specific Orlando venues, like the Orlando Science Center, the Orlando Rep and the Orlando Museum of Art, she asked them to loose the accent. Stephen asked for some clarification so he could better memorize the lines. Much of the dialogue centered around groupings of three.
David Lee texted Beth from NYC, "Do they like the skit?" Beth texted back, "Steven found all the deep meaning, Sarah is playing Veruka Salt and John is playing me! "When asked to describe the short play she was directing, Beth said, " It is HA-Larious!" I decided to stick with this group of actors and see how the rehearsal progressed. They would have to be ready to perform at 7pm that night.