“You know, maybe I should just go to New York,” I mused, scrolling through an email chain of schedules, conflicts, and cancellations. I was trying to organize a reading for a new play I had written—something casual, something in my living room with the actors and a bottle of wine—yet it was proving quite difficult to find five Filipino actors and actresses in DC to come together for one evening.
“That’s a thought,” my friend said. “It’s a quick bus ride from DC, you could do it over the weekend.”
The idea germinated. In the life of a play, after a draft is completed, it is ideally read aloud by actors so that the playwright (and director, if the playwright is so lucky) can get a sense of the language as sound: all the poetry to the eye now becomes lyrics to the ear. The playwright can hear where something sounds awkward or doesn’t ring true, whether in a word or an entire scene, and revise accordingly. The process repeats as necessary (or as time and budget allows). This collaboration among theatremakers is essential to bring a script to life.
As a playwright, I am more comfortable with writing in a coffee shop than taking the producer’s role of casting performers, booking spaces, publicizing the show. And yet—why not take on that producer’s role? At the La MaMa Umbria playwriting retreat that I recently attended, the idea of DIY theatre and self-production was posed to us. As playwrights (or artists in general), we tend to be so creative on the page, why don’t we get more creative when it comes to getting our work on the stage?
So I reached out. My friend Don Michael Mendoza, producer of La-Ti-Do, who regularly brings the spoken word and musical theatre series from DC to New York, gave me advice on production and casting. I sent an email to Ariel Estrada, an actor, singer, producer, and activist for Asian American involvement in the arts, who also happens to be the Founder and an Executive Board Member of Leviathan Lab, a creative studio for Asian American performing artists. I had met Ariel at the 2012 UniPro Summit: Renaissance in New York City, and when I emailed him with questions about how to send out a call for actors and where to book a space, he replied promptly with a wide list of resources.
The play was cast within four days.
I was amazed. I was also amazed at the ease of booking a space—in DC I had puzzled over public library schedules, contemplated asking local restaurants for a room, even considered booking an AirBnB—but in the theatre capital of the United States, I found a rehearsal and reading space in no time. The project was coalescing in a way that I can only describe as serendipity.
And yet, waves of serendipity can be set in motion from years ago. Did recent college grad Amanda think that attending UniPro Summit would be integral to setting up a staged reading in New York four years later? 2016 Amanda can confidently say: no, she sure didn’t. As a friend once told me, “It’s not always one big dramatic decision you make and your life changes – it’s all the micro-choices you make day-to-day.” To that I also add, it’s a grateful spirit and our bayanihan, open to possibility and eager to help, that sets our lives and art in motion.
Join us on Saturday, 10/15 in the Bruce Mitchell Room (3rd Floor of Spaces @ 520) at 520 8th Avenue, New York, New York 10018 for a staged reading of Crocodile (The Last Escape) by Amanda Andrei. Set in the Agusan Swamp of the Philippines, this full-length drama follows a woman who falls into the belly of a crocodile, the man she meets inside, and how she attempts to survive.
Directed by Nana Dakin. Stage directions read by Chris Castiglione.
$10 cash cover charge at the door.
RSVP to Amanda Andrei at firstname.lastname@example.org. The space only holds 40 people, so come early!
Light refreshments will be served.
Doors open at 7 PM, reading begins at 7:30 PM.
Short discussion and mingling to follow after the reading.