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Community Performance Inc.

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May 03, 2010

Real People, real Stories
Jules Corriere - Franklin County, Georgia

I finished the last of tablework yesterday for "A Shot in the Arm". I think Saturday was the most tedious work I've done on a play, in a while. Maybe a couple of years. I really wanted to get down to the essence of the story and the characters. What is stressful for me during table work is not that my words are getting changed. Heck, that even happens after the show opens. Brackley often quips "Jules, none of these projects ever have to worry about paying you a royalty, because no one performs what you write". We laugh at this, because people do take liberties, once they have the roles. IT's a good thing, because often, what happens is an actor will have known a certain person that a character was based on, and do it up a little more. I love it when that happens.

Where the stress comes in, for me, is when i use stories from people who are still living. I did that a lot in this play. I also used a story from one of our own cast members, Zadie Gaines, who grew up in a funeral home. Her story is central to the play. It's not just stories we are working on during table work, it's people's lived experiences. I work on the transcripts from the stories I'm given, and then turn it into a dramatic piece. Sometimes I have to take a few liberties. I always want to be conscious of the fact that real people are attached to these pieces. Doing table work, when the real person is right there, is both an honor and a stressor. I often use actual quotes inside of the dialogue. In usual tablework, it's easier to say "Eh, that just doesn't sound right." or "That sounds convoluted", or whatever else may be said. Sometimes, I'm the one saying those things in table work, like "Wait, let me fix this language". But when the real people are there, in the room, at the table, it can be awkward to say "Wait, this just doesn't sound right" when they are the ones who said it.

I didn't have to be too stressed out. Zadie is incredibly gracious. She is an awesome source and a great storyteller. I guess I've become ultra-sensitive. I want her to like the portrayal of her, but more than that, I need her to know how much I honor and value her and all of the other story tellers, like Doc Sullivan, Barbara Brown, Dr. Harrison, Dr. Thompson (whose son is in the show), Dr. Ridgway. THey or their relatives are around.

So far, I think the community and the storytellers like what's been written. Dr. Sullivan sent over his personal Doctor's coat with his name on it, and wants the actor playing him to wear it. We've got Louise Wray's lab coat from her drug store for another actor, and the Ty Cobb museum is letting us use Ty's original Detroit Tiger's uniform. What I think we will do is put it on display, and make a replica for our actors to wear. All of this is to say that this year's play is really tangible. The characters are close to the community. Tonight, we all get together and read through the play to see how it sounds after table work. I've got a good feeling about it.


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