Friday, April 10, 2009

Workshopping Ghostwritten

Posted by Tiffany Villarin (Bea in Ghostwritten)

Phone ringing.

“Hi. It’s Goodman Theatre. Lisa Portes gave us your name. Would you be available for a four-day workshop with Naomi Iizuka?”

“Whoa, whoa,” I thought in my head. “Naomi Iizuka? The Naomi Iizuka?! Yes! Of course!”

It was December 2006, and I had only ever walked into the Goodman as an audience member. As an undergrad at the Theatre School at DePaul, I spent many afternoons digging around the library for any and all plays written by Asian American artists. And now here was my opportunity to actually work with one.

On that first day there was no script, for it had not been written.
On that first day we started with a question:

“What is your first memory of tasting something?”

“Oh gosh. No one’s ever asked me that before,” I said nervously. “Ramen noodles. But the good kind. The Asian kind…um, Ichiban. I had them almost every day after kindergarten when I was five. My sister loved the noodles, but I loved the broth. It was salty.”

One by one, we went around the room calling up the memory files. Files that held our first culinary experiences, our best culinary experiences, our most awkward culinary experiences, the things that haunt us, the times we lied and our recollections of Rumpelstiltskin.

Lisa, Naomi and Tanya Palmer (the Goodman’s Literary Manager) listened, prodded and took notes. It was challenging, fun and sometimes therapeutic (okay mostly therapeutic). But we didn’t know what was going on. I mean, sure my stories are kind of interesting, but I’m pretty sure the Goodman didn’t call me in here just to talk about myself. Isn’t there a script for us to work on?

Finally, after two days of personal story telling and many group and individual improvs, Naomi gave us the first 25 pages of the play. It was thrilling! There were six characters—somewhat like the six actors in the room—very distinct, with strong points of view, and already on a journey somewhere. And we had a title: Ghostwritten. It didn’t make really make sense then, but I liked it. We rehearsed for a day and a half, did a reading around the table for the Goodman staff, and then went home.

That first four-day workshop stayed with me for a long time. I remember reading Bea’s first monologue about her earliest memory and how it connected to my own story of what haunts me. It was strange and rewarding. And I didn’t want it to be over. What would happen to Bea?

Phone ringing. Three months later.

“Hi. It’s the Sundance Theatre Lab. Lisa Portes and Naomi Iizuka gave us your name. Would you be available for a three-week workshop for Ghostwritten?”

More to come…

1 comment:

  1. Tiffany was great as Bea! And how fun for her to be in the workshop in 2006 and then the play in 2009. Enjoyed her comments