Monday, October 22, 2012

Setting the Story: Playwright Bill Cain on Writing and Watching "How to Write a New Book for the Bible"

Playwright Bill Cain he takes us inside his thoughts on SCR’s rehearsals for How to Write a New Book for the Bible.

SCR: I sat next to you during rehearsal and it looked like your mind was moving the whole time! What do you see when you are in rehearsal?

BC: In rehearsal you watch a few people—actors—trying to understand what life means—how life works—by living it intensely, bravely, openly and without reserve. They work out our meaning in their bodies, their minds and hearts. It’s quite a thing to be part of. My role in that as a writer is to try to provide them words and situations worth examining—both for drama and comedy. I watch their very brave, often joyous work and keep trying to improve the text they have to work with.

SCR: Can you talk about the relationship between playwright and director?

BC: I have worked with Kent Nicholson on several projects at this point and Kent and I have come up with an image of how we want to work. Back home, Kent and I go out to breakfast with some regularity in a diner and we talk—about life and theater. Kent is a wonderful person to dialogue with. The conversations are wide open, funny, challenging, un-programmed and free ranging. With Kent as director and me as writer, we try to keep that discussion going in the rehearsal hall. We like to think of rehearsal as a long diner breakfast discussion—now involving everybody. We explore the play together and, usually, what ends up on stage is the result of Kent’s shaping everybody’s contributions. It’s a joyous way to work. Kent’s openness to all of our input—while maintaining his own vision—is extraordinary.

SCR: You laugh a lot during rehearsals; it’s really a delight to see! What prompts the laughter?!

BC: I don’t think of myself as laughing a lot during rehearsal, so that’s good to hear.  I like the rehearsal room. I think discovery makes me laugh. It’s what the rehearsal room is for. There aren’t too many places in the world that really encourage experimentation, so I prize my time there.

SCR: In writing How to Write a New Book for the Bible, did you have favorite scenes or dialogue that you ended up cutting? 

BC: I cut my plays pretty carefully in writing them and then further cuts occur in workshops that happen before a play gets produced. My problem is more frequently how to get something into the show when it doesn’t fit. In an earlier version of Bible, there was a line I was trying to get in. I couldn’t find a comfortable place for it, so I offered the actors a hundred dollars if any one of them could get it into the show. When the lights went down for dress rehearsal, at the end of the usual announcement about turning off cell phones, etc., one of the actors added my line. And won the bet.

SCR: What’s been the most gratifying feedback that you’ve received about the play?

BC: People come out of Bible frequently talking about their own families rather than the play.  I think that’s what art is for. To take us more deeply into our own lives.

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