The last show of GCTC’s season is a new play by Toronto’s Rosa Laborde, Like Wolves. Although rehearsals for the show won’t start until well into the new year, the creative team has already been assembled and is already hard at work. As playwright-in-residence, I was given the opportunity to peek in on some of the production’s goings-on earlier this week during a workshop that brought together the playwright, director Peter Pasyk, the show’s cast, and GCTC’s artistic director, Eric Coates (who displayed some pretty impressive acting chops himself) for two days of work with the current version of the script.
The point of an exercise like this is to help the playwright with that last bit of work the script needs before handing it off to the director and actors when they begin their rehearsals. The focus here is on the words, not the acting. Rosa has been developing the script for some years, including a stint as a previous playwright-in-residence at GCTC, and she and the actors have already sat down to work through an earlier version of the script. So the starting point for this week’s exercise was an already quite well-crafted piece of writing. She already knows the story she wants to tell, the characters in the story, and the relationships that are revealed in the course of the play. Because she’s already worked with the actors involved, she even has a good senses of what they’re going to look like together on stage, and what kind of chemistry they’ll have based on what the actors are bringing to their parts.
For an outsider fly on the wall like myself, watching the process of the workshop unfold was great fun – not just as a playwright seeing how a colleague works, but as a theatre lover seeing how a play is created. For example, at one point I asked Rosa whether a certain plot twist was really necessary to her story since the ending didn’t seem to depend on it. It was, she replied, arguing that its presence made the protagonist’s final choice of action far more compelling than would otherwise be the case.
By the end of the exercise, watching Rosa’s smiling face as the actors read through the revised script one last time, I could see that she was having fun too. But the bit in between is incredibly hard work for the writer: listening to the scenes being read, figuring out what’s still not working and why, and then figuring out how to fix it. I was impressed with how Rosa applied herself to the task, which sometimes meant reorganizing an entire scene, sometimes just the addition or removal of a single word of dialogue. Shining throughout was her attention to detail and her efforts to ensure that every last bit of the play serves her purpose, which is to tell a very specific story about very specific people.
I can’t wait to see what the play looks like in June!