Tonight I was lucky enough to drop in on Southbank Theatre Company’s staged reading of “Hello, Tommy?” by local playwright, Mary E. Karty.
As a passionate outside observer, I’m always struck by the depth of the processes that go on to turn a play, written flat on a page, into a multi-dimensional, full blown stage production. I had a chance to talk to director Marcia Eppich-Harris and she shared a lot of the insider processes that go into a work like this and wouldn’t be obvious to the average theatre-goer.
Writing, she said, is a sometimes lonely process. But readings like this one are key to the overall development process. What might seem like a good idea at the keyboard, doesn’t necessarily work out with real actors breathing life into those words. A play might go through several revisions before it’s ready to be finally produced and it cannot be published until it has been produced for the stage.
When I entered the reading space this evening, two things struck me. Firstly, it was just how much humanity had already begun to appear in the script. The actors had only had one previous reading together over zoom. This was their first time together in a physical space. Despite that, you could already feel the bones of a visceral, living stage production forming in the air.
The other keenly noticeable component of the event were the varying aspects of attention and the pool of human minds working to collaborate on the work. Writers were heads down tracking how their on the page sounded when spoken into the air. Other actors were in the wings awaiting their turn to read while assessing the tone and context of those that came before. More others were reviewing or studying for their own parts. It is a delightful and complex ecosystem to be allowed to observe.
It remains to be seen if “Hello, Tommy?” will find its way to a stage and even more unknown if the current form is the one it will take. It is a living, breathing organism that from this point will become whatever these minds mold it into. Tonight is a delightful reminder that theatre in this city isn’t just pulled from a box, delivered by Amazon, ready to be put on display. It is the culmination of the work of so many minds constantly awhirl to produce quality entertainment just for YOU.