Let it be this time.
It was a year ago today, February 25, 2017, I was on my way back to Scotland for spring break to begin workshopping and devising the new show for Pepperdine Scotland 2018. As we boarded the plane I was experiencing several emotions: I was excited, anxious, nervous – I had no idea what to expect going into this week. Being a part of the The Interference, Pepperdine Scotland’s show in 2016, I was familiar with workshopping a new script, however I had never done script development for an unwritten play before. A flurry of questions were running through my head: “What is the playwright like? How am I to contribute? Oh god… do I have to improv? What even is script development?”
AND, let’s not forget to mention the Alt-Right, which happens to be the subject matter for this new play. The Alt-Right is a far right political extremist ideology that has begun to spread across the United States. Going in, I knew little to nothing about the Alternative-Right, and if I’m being honest, I’m still learning. This movement is broad and vast and frankly, quite terrifying. About two months leading up to the trip, fellow Pepperdine Theatre students – Jacquelyn Ferguson, Buddy Kennedy and I would meet weekly to go over articles, books, and videos that we had been researching. We wanted to be well informed and prepared for the work we were going to be doing. It took no time at all for me to realize how much of a challenge it was going to be to tackle this subject matter.
As we walked to the rehearsal hall for our first day of script development all those feelings of uncertainty and nervousness were still alive in me. What was going to happen next? Would we talk? Is he going to want to see a monologue? Would we go around and introduce ourselves? Would we start writing our own material? I couldn’t stop thinking about how this process was going to work.
When we arrived at the rehearsal hall we met up with the rest of the script development team. There were four students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, our Producer Alex Fthenakis, and of course, Davey Anderson, our playwright. The energy in the room was buzzing – all of us had no clue what was going on, or what was going to happen, yet everyone was excited. We gathered around in a circle of chairs and began to share our story and our thoughts on the new work.
The words from Davey Anderson were captivating and compelling. I don’t know when it happened, but I realized after a couple hours that all my worries and anxieties about the process took a back seat. Hearing Davey give his thoughts about the Alt-Right and the new script gave me confidence. Davey made sure we knew that we weren’t there to do anything other than to create a story. He encouraged us to take risks, to be bold, to make mistakes, to say the wrong thing, to say the right thing. This week wasn’t going to be about performance, so there was no need to feel like it was.
It was as simple as that. We spent the next five days sharing and collaborating with the beginnings of this new work. The room took on an atmosphere that was open and vulnerable, and ultimately formed itself into a space where we could let ourselves feel the intensity of the subject matter manifest. It wasn’t always easy, there were several times when we felt overwhelmed from the nature of the Alt-Right ideology. It wasn’t always hard either. I remember times where we were rolling around on the floor and laughing for no reason. Throughout the whole week we kept reminding ourselves that this week wasn’t about performance. All we needed to do was be present and be willing to share.
At the conclusion of the week, I found it hard to walk away from the project. The work was exhausting and demanding no doubt, but we had only just begun and I wasn’t ready to stop. This is why I am excited to delve into this process yet again. To have the opportunity to return to Scotland with this new piece and this new group of bright, creative minds, is inspiring.
Fast forward one year and…here we are, back in Malibu, about to embark on our week of spring break workshopping. I am very excited to see where Davey’s script takes us during this break. I encourage myself and my fellow company members to just go for it, let it open, let us create with each other, and let it be this time.