Waltzing Mechanics

Chicago's Home for Documentary Theatre

The Romanov Play: Thoughts on a First Read-Through

Alright, guys. Here's some Real Talk: a First Read-Through is scary. Even if your play doesn't open for another year, it's still scary. Here are the three steps I have found to be essential to survive one: 


STEP ONE: Start by carefully tricking a group of incredibly talented and kind people to be in your theatre company.  

This takes years.  For myself, I can neither confirm nor deny the use of kidnapping.

STEP TWO: Proceed to talk non-stop to these people about whatever it is you want them to read.

This way, when you finally get around to actually asking them to do it, there's a part of them that will be willing to do it just so you'll stop talking about it. This is also a trick, because mwahahaha, you're never going to stop talking about it - but you can totally imply that you might, and they will totally believe you.

STEP THREE: Once aforementioned company members (and if you're lucky, maybe an additional friend or two) are gathered for Desired Reading, bring them cupcakes.

You won't need them, especially if you were smart enough to have tricked Carinne Uslar into being in your theatre company (you can't it's too late she's ours mwahahahah again). She will already have provided wine and snacks because she's an amazing hostess. HOWEVER - and this is very important - bringing cupcakes will ease your conscience. As you listen to friends who have worked two double shifts in the last two days and who should be at home asleep but who are instead are sitting next to you asking you how to pronounce Tsarkoe Selo, you will at least be able to say to yourself, "Well, Self. At least you brought cupcakes."

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Now, having taken these three steps, a First Read-Through happened to me last Sunday, and due mostly to step #1, it was SUCH A FUN DAY! Thank you so so much to Shariba, Kanome, Zack, Joey, Bryan, Carinne and Lew for your help. It occurs to me now, I'm not sure if I hugged you all. I meant to. I meant to give you all giant, warm, grossly fuzzy hugs, so be prepared the next time you see me. 

As far as How the Play Is Going, here is what I will say for the record in This Here Blog Here, if only for the amusement of Future Keely, that she may chortle heartily. (For some reason I always picture myself as a very hearty chortler in the future.) What I learned - or perhaps, if I am honest, what I confirmed, because I suspected as much - is that I am one transparent writer lady. The scenes I was less interested in - well, they weren't as interesting. I'm a bad faker. The good news is: the excitement I've had by myself about the stories I love the most - stories I couldn't tear my eyes away from when I first read them in the source materials - became excitement I got to share. Here's one of those stories: After the revolution, when the Romanovs were in captivity, Nicholas II (ie the deposed tsar) was very aware that he was an ex-tsar.  He even tried to find the humor in it. "Don't call me tsar anymore," he'd say. "I'm only an ex." One day, in the early weeks of their confinement, the family gathered for lunch and found that the ham they were intending to eat was burnt. Nicholas said, "Well, this may have once been a ham, but now it's nothing but an ex-ham." And the captive family laughed together.

I mean.  I just.  It's such a piercing moment of self-awareness to me. Such a raw picture of someone's fight to find an equilibrium. And it's also such a Dad Joke. Ex-ham. Ha! Who would have imagined the last Russian emperor telling a Dad Joke? 

There's more where that came from, but I'll leave it there for now. There's something else I have to tell you guys: I still have no idea what the heck to call this play. Like for realsies. I'm taking suggestions. Once upon a time I was going to call it Fall. Like fall of the Romanovs, fall from grace, fall from power... omg do you get it? You get it. Do you really get it, though?

It seemed so elegant, so simple! One word! It would say so much! It would be so easy to put on a poster! But alas, I awoke one day and realized, all that title really says is OMG LOOK AT ME I AM SO DEEP I'M LIKE THE DEEPEST and it's got to go. So if somebody has a better idea, please send it my way and I will shamelessly steal it. 

One last note (especially if we're talking about the Deepest, because you guys, I am NOT) - here's a picture of Rasputin and also of Viggo Mortensen. Why do they look so similar, and should I re-write the play to be a prequel to Lord of the Rings? I leave it to you to ponder.