By Julia Morizawa
I have been a proud company member of the Knightsbridge Theatre for about 3 and a half years now, having performed in maybe 9-10 of their productions. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the productions I performed in last year: Twenty-Two, Romeo & Juliet (a disco drag farce), and Macbeezy: the Macbeth Hip-Hopera. (Editor’s Note: Julia’s thoughts on Twenty-Two follow below; check back over the next two days for her thoughts on the other two productions.)
Twenty-Two: Definitely the most, well, “serious” of the 3 shows. And the most personal. I also wrote and produced this original one-act, which I had workshopped and tailored throughout all of 2009 before opening it up to the general public.
Let’s see – it all started over a normal Denny’s dinner with co-producer and company member, Shaina Vorspan. We had both joined the company at the same time, had performed side-by-side (quite literally) in our first KB show together, and generally got along. And somehow it got decided that we should work on an original piece together. Twenty-Two is based on a true story and basically follows a young woman’s descent into cocaine addiction. It was very dark and very realistic. I suppose it was a story that had been brewing inside of me for a couple of years. Well, it was a true experience, so it was just a matter of turning it into a relatively cohesive narrative. I have notes of the story outline from 2006 that I hadn’t touched in a while. There’s always something very disorienting about finding old notes for a creative idea. It’s like finding an old diary. Anyway, so I brought up this story idea to Shaina, she liked it, I think I completed the first draft sometime toward the end of 2008, and voila, we were ready to find someone to help us kick the shit out of it.
In comes Raymond Donahey, director and former KB member. He’s the one who started calling Shaina and I the “Filthy Lovelies” and this name kinda stuck. And there started about 1 year of weekly-ish meetings in which we played improv games, wrote fake (depending on how you look at it) character diary entries, and sometimes just vented about life in order to get our creative juices flowing. This all sparked many rewrites on my part of the script.
Then sometime around the end of the summer of 2009, we brought in James Patterson (company member) and Matt Black (non-company member, but we’d just seen him in KB’s production of As You Like It) to fill the other two roles in the play. Matt was the only person we actually “auditioned.” And that just entailed him coming over to one of our weekly pow-wows, reading some sides, and finding out if he was actually interested in committing to a show that didn’t actually have any official performance dates yet. And our small cast came together. We rehearsed in the recreation room of Raymond’s giant apartment complex for the standard six weeks. This was all in preparation for a single invite-only performance in which mostly KB members would be invited, including Artistic Director, Joseph Stachura, in order to sort of pitch the play to him for the 2010 season. Rehearsing in the rec room not only got us some enemies (apartment managers), but also gave us the idea of the theatre-in-the-round-audience-in-the-middle-of-the-action thing. If you saw the show, you’ll remember that the stage was set-up to look like the main room of an apartment and that the audience was seated on the stage with the actors on various couches and well, mostly fold-out chairs. This allowed the actors to weave around the audience members and forced the audience to be right smack in the middle of all the action. This was purely for realism-sake and to make you really, really uncomfortable. But it was also really cool (patting self on back) and something I’ve never personally experienced (or even heard of) in a theatre before. Anyway, after the invite-only show, we got a lot of great feedback which led to another, pretty major, round of rewrites (special thanks to company members Paul Miailovich and Shari Shattuck for their specific, elaborate and very helpful critiques). Well, Joseph liked it enough that he offered us the opening slot for the Knightsbridge’s 2010 season (running alongside Theatre’s Classic Hits).
We gave ourselves another few weeks of rehearsals to learn the script changes, re-block it for the KB stage, and try to get the word out there ASAP. We had a great resp0nse, almost sold-out for most of the 8 performances (well, with the audience-on-stage-thing there were really only like 30 seats, but hey), and had a short, small extension. We got a couple reviews (one who thought it was absolutely brilliant and the other…not so much). Overall, it was an amazing experience and one of my proudest accomplishments ever.
Some lessons learned include: powdered milk is the least difficult and least uncomfortable item for prop cocaine, herbal cigarettes are yucky and only make me want a real one more, and the James Patterson in our show is not the same man as the best-selling author of those detective novels. But in all seriousness – Twenty-Two was an effing awesome show. You can still check out some video and photos and press online, but the domain expired, so you have to go to: www.juliamorizawa.com/TwentyTwo/homepage.html.