Flux Retreat Day Five

(Photo and post by August Schulenburg.)

Our second full day of play development programming featured the second and third acts of Jason Tseng’s Outbreak, Kevin R. Free’s FluxForward play Anatomical Lewis, Nandita Sheony’s Rescued by a Coquette and my play KD and The Band. We managed this abundance of plays by reading the Jason’s pages in the morning, Nandita’s at night, and then staging Kevin and my play’s in the afternoon.

And that, of course, was all before the late night partying and gaming began. The Flux Retreat is not a retreat of sleep…

Finishing’s Jason’s epic Outbreak was a perfect way to begin the day. The generational conflict of the play expanded, as the founders of the zombie-segregated city entered the story, and the spiritual dimensions deepened. There is a dizzy delight in wondering whether a smart-enough virus might very well hijack our capacity for faith as the ultimate tool in spreading itself, while on the flip side finding ourselves troubled by the possibilities of a God willing to use a dehumanizing virus to bring about paradise. Thankfully, Jason doesn’t answer the question, but leaves us wondering, right until the very end, just for whom we should be rooting.

Highlights included:

  • Sol’s gasp of “Jason!” at a particularly moving moment near the end of the play;
  • Hearing Chris and Julian give life to Micah and Brynne after hearing Anna and Alisha read the roles the day before, giving male voice to Jason’s gender agnostic play (the roles can be played by any gender, and it works all ways); and
  • Pete’s terrifying Hex, who made you believe he might very well lead a zombie uprising.

Four Versions of KD and The Band at the 2015 Flux Retreat from August Schulenburg on Vimeo.

We then managed to stage all of KD and The Band by breaking it into four groups. The play was written during the deepest haze of new parenthood, and while it is therefore rougher than many of my plays written during a less harried time, there is some primal thing wriggling around that excites me. It’s also quite a joy to see four very different versions of characters you’ve created all in a single day.

Highlights included:

  • Will Lowry’s serious dedication to the play, as demonstrated by his stepping fully clothed into a shower to provide true verisimilitude for his character being stranded in the rain (while also making one of the more infamous entrances in Flux history);
  • Anna Rahn’s wary vulnerability, and her capacity to play onion-like levels of complexity with ease;
  • Brian Silliman in a scary barn with no light other than a flashlight? Yes, please;
  • Shaun Fauntleroy taking the bungee jump of a stream of angry consciousness monologue that is both emotionally raw and intellectually complex, and bouncing back up again;
  • Mozz, Nandita and Ken grounding a flashback with a daring choice about KD; and
  • Emily, Becky and Julian finding a way to make my crazy closing scene not only work, but jerk some serious tears. I was a lucky playwright!

Retreat15 Anatomical Lewis Read Through

We then jumped into Anatomical Lewis, the play Kevin R. Free is writing for Flux as his FluxForward play. Oh, this was so much unsettling fun! It was energizing to see another playwright create roles for these actors that I love so much; noting where we see similar music within their talents, and delighting in things I could never have imagined to write for them (but which nonetheless feels absolutely right).

The play wrestles with the great pang of history called slavery, and the blank it has left in our collective memories. How do you write a play inspired by a true story when the story has been erased by white supremacy? Well, if you’re the daring Kevin R. Free, you charge directly through the distorting mirror of white supremacy, creating deeply human white characters struck a toxic mix of love and fetishization for black mean, incarnated by the historical man (and slave) at the center of the play. Can we ever truly know Lewis, across the divides of time and pain?

Of course, it’s also hysterically funny, and all the more dangerous and exciting because of that. We can’t wait for more pages!

Highlights included:

  • Beginning a play with a heavy metal song about theatre and the afterlife? Well, of course
  • Lori and Sol battling? I would like nine plays of this, please;
  • Isaiah’s Retreat-string of characters powerfully conflicted by their desires;
  • Alisha tapping into her immense emotional reserves as an actor to shake the earth with her regret and denial (and doing so after a grueling solo dinner prep, no less); and
  • Heather and Jason’s playful creation of an anatomical theatre strewn with body parts.

Resoued by a Coquette(Photo by Shaun Fauntleroy.)

We ended the night by reading Nandita Shenoy’s Rescued by a Coquette.  According to Heather (I was away seeing family perform at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival), highlights included:

  • Jason Tseng speaking his very first word as Mrs. Song to the immediate rapture of laughter;
  • Stephanie Willing’s delivery of “Have babies!” as Mei;
  • Kevin’s hot-under-the-collar delight in Lori’s delivery of what Paner learned in “secret Chinese sex school”; and
  • Nandita’s fearless repurposing of stereotypes to great humanizing comedic effect.

Four plays in a single day? Yup, and we even had energy left over for games!

Retreat15 Game Time

(Photo by Shaun Fauntleroy.)

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