Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Grassroots Workshops Began: Throw a few cue scripts out and see what happens

Who in their right mind wouldn't want a crack at playing Hamlet?

Last summer, during our tour of Much Ado About Nothing we found ourselves with an open week in the middle of June. Several of our cast members had committed to other projects and were unavailable to perform and we had all this great momentum coming off our first two weeks of shows. We were so excited about the response Grassroots was receiving, and we wanted to keep the excitement up in any way we could.
The following is a gChat brainstorm between Mark Oram and myself where we discuss how to get the word out about Grassroots during our week without shows.

8:27 PM
mark: i want to organize some kind of advertising blitz. see if we can get fans to help spread the word... so if you think of any ideas along those lines, let's talk about them. i was thinking maybe another event, uploading some posters and flyers to the blog, and urging people to help us get our name out...a grassroots campaign, if you will. thoughts?
alex: hmmm.
an event this week is out--unless we combine it with one of the shows at one of the fests...
we could have some sort of non-performing event next week...?
mark: oh, i just meant a facebook event, but a bbq or something for the fans could potentially be fun, although probably not cost effective.
unless we made it a fundraiser too...
alex: what if we held some sort of workshop for people who were interested
mark: ooooooh, that's a cool idea!
alex: I've had a lot of people come up to me at shows saying "I want in, how can I get involved?"
mark: yeah! same. we could totally do something like that... throw a few cue scripts at them and see what happens...
alex: yeah, that could be super fun to try out another one hour cutting via cue scripts...
really time intensive to prepare, but it could be a blast
and could help us fill that dead week
mark: right. right.
alex: and cast attendance would of course be voluntary
mark: yes. (totally unrelated ps)\ - did you watch this yet?
it's hilarious.
anyway, i think we should do this. totally.
alex: what if: we get a list of people who would be committed to participating, and divvy-ed up the script and had each person only memorize one scene--switch out roles every scene.
that's a riot
mark: it would be easier to hand out cue scripts at the event, but it would be more fun if we had committed people who could come memorized... do you think we could get such people?
alex: if they only had to memorize one scene--yes
mark: okay, let's try it.
alex: but for that to work, we need to either a) get a LOT of committed people so that we'll have enough for everyone to play one scene or
(more likely) b) we'll have them memorize some of the more exciting/memorable scenes from the play and just fill in the others on book.
by the by--if you have any down time at work, there's a book you've GOT to read
it's worth ordering off amazon
Peter Brook's 'The Empty Space'
just brilliant, you'd love it.
he's a former RSC director and the book is a collection of lectures he gave on the nature of theatre--really incredible insights
mark: thanks for the recommendation, i'll look it up!
also, b) sounds like a good mix.
alex: yeah, I think that could work.
I think it could be fun to pick a tragedy
mark: i was thinking the same thing.
alex: awesome. I knew there was a reason we were friends.
mark: hamlet, othello, lear?
alex: what about a week from thursday, in the evening. 6-10
mark: let me check that date...
Yep, June 18th looks good for me.
alex: just thinking out loud--a week day could be better than a friday or saturday evening because no one wants to give up date nights
mark: yeah, i think you're right.
alex: and good luck doing anything with a large group of people on sat afternoon--it's the default scheduling landfill of the week
what about trying a lesser known
there's so many that I've never even seen before
I'd love to expand the repertoire
and workshop could be a good time to do it
mark: sure, but we don't want to spend all our time untangling a plot at the expense of fun characters...
alex: true true
so true
mark: so histories are out.
alex: for sure
what about winter's tale?
on second thought--hamlet could be a great draw
who in their right mind wouldn't want a crack at playing one scene as hamlet
in fact what if we only gave out hamlet's lines to memorize?
everyone else plays auxillary lines on book
mark: that sounds GREAT. also, gender-blind okay with you?
alex: absolutely! that's what would make it fun!
mark: fantastic.
alex: also, what if we ask Chris Clark if we could have permission to use the Young Company cutting of hamlet?
mark: good call, that would save untold hours.
alex: so we can spend our time on cue scripts versus cutting
mark: yeah. 
alex: I'll bet we can get all the c-web kids in on this
fading flower cast members too.
mark: Absolutely. Yes. Oh, this is going to be good.
alex: we should try to extend individual invitations too before we send out an e-blast
could help our attendance
mark: for sure.
alex: ring. "Hello?" "hi! we want you to play hamlet!"
who wouldn't bite on that?
mark: agreed. it's a great draw. i'll get that script from Chris and start the cue scripts cooking. tonight we could get cast members calling around, and then this weekend we could create that e-vite to get everyone else...
alex: SO
let's start calling/messaging peeps and see what kind of a response we get
then we'll distribute cue scripts on monday(?) to give everyone enough time to memorize a scene for thursday
mark: hopefully i can get them out before then, but yeah, monday is a good deadline.
alex: and on second thought, perhaps we should try to get entire scenes memorized--I mean all the parts--it would work so much better for a workshop format
that way we can actually block and tweak some scenes
AND get through the whole play
mark: it would definitely work better. are we supposed to cast it, then?
alex: let's see who we can drum up--and then draw names out of a hat
I don't know
mark: :) casting is always the best part.
alex: yeah--let's cast it
we know we want to.
mark: alright, and depending on interest, we have a different cast for each scene? or at least different principles?
alex: yes--I think that's a great idea
mark: alright. let's get our list of takers, divvy up the parts, and make it happen.
alex: done and done.
now to figure out how to sell it...
9:16 PM

And that was the beginnings of our workshop experiences. Hamlet turned out to be such a great success that we kept on doing workshops all year long, following with A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Julius Caesar.
Last week we opened enrollment for our eighth Play-in-a-Day production by revisiting A Midsummer Night's Dream in a new workshop cutting--which will rehearse and perform on Saturday July 31st.
Participation is, as always, open to all.
Come play with us!

Check out details for A Midsummer Night's Dream on Facebook, then sign-up here to participate as an actor!

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