Posted by Siobhan Lockhart, Artistic Intern, 7 February 2008
Tuesday, January 15, was the first rehearsal of Paradise Park, the final play in Signature Theatre Company's Charles Mee Series. It was a packed house (well, packed room) as the cast, creative team, and the entire Signature Theatre Company staff, including interns, gathered at the rehearsal studio at Manhattan Theatre Club to hear the first reading of the play. Also in attendance were members of True Love Productions, the producing partners of the show, and a class of extremely engaged ninth graders from Brooklyn Generations Charter School, accompanied by Signature alum, actor Chad L. Coleman (August Wilson’s Two Trains Running). So it was an excellent crowd, a mixture of old faces (to note just a couple, Satya Bhabha and William Jackson Harper, cast members from Queens Boulevard) and new faces to Signature, all unified by a great deal of anticipation. And before the actual read-through began everyone chatted and ate the very nice spread of bagels, pastries, and coffee. It also ended up being an interesting meet and greet for me personally because I ran into both someone I went to college with and someone who attended the same high school as me...it really is a small world. But I digress...
This being my second first rehearsal at Signature, I was definitely excited, remembering the Queens Boulevard read-through and how much of a difference it made hearing the play read out loud by actors rather than just reading it on my own. It’s strange how you can already start to hear/feel how the play will begin to shape just in an initial reading by actors. It’s definitely a great way to kick-off (excuse the football lingo so close to Super Bowl time but it can’t be helped…Go Giants!) and inspire not only the cast and creative team, but also the staff to get even more geared up for a production. I’ve already been feeling a special kinship to this play. Over the past few months I have been helping out with some of the initial research for Paradise Park and have been feeling somewhat immersed in the world of this play—reading up on many of the references and inspirations in the text. Having the opportunity to sit in on the reading was a chance for me to see the beginnings of the production take shape.
Until Tuesday I mostly had vague visions, characterizations, and factoids of Coney Island, Esther Williams, and Devonshire circling my head. Hearing actual voices put to the dialogue helped to really bring a lot of it together for me. And the design presentations helped bring these initial visions together even more. I can’t wait to see how this production will develop. I miss Queens Boulevard, but this first rehearsal really fueled everyone’s enthusiasm for the upcoming show.