Posted by Darlene McCullough, WordBRIDGE 2011 Actor
"Do not try to write a story while you're still in it," Bill Harley cautioned at his performance to benefit WordBRIDGE this past Saturday night. Sage advice; given from a gracious and powerful storyteller. Advice that I'm choosing to ignore as I shore up to my keyboard to type these paragraphs. I'm in the middle of my first WordBRIDGE Playwrights' Lab – a process I can claim to grasp but generally wonder if I can really understand until the closing readings when I am freed from the awe-inspiring responsibility of being an actor in a 'baby play'.
That's the metaphor that we've been passing around: that these four playwrights have entrusted us as a company with the care and growth of their children. Their fresh-born baby ideas that we, as a company of actors, dramaturgs, directors, designers, resource artists, drummers, and clowns (yes, we have a clown on staff these 2 weeks!), have been asked to nurture and give ourselves over to. (One writer referred to her play as a 'preemie' the first day since her first draft was finished 15 days before the lab.) And with great power comes great responsibility. Much of our process is protected from the 'outside world' to shield our writers so they may take big, bold risks.
As an actor, I find this simultaneously harrowing and terrifying. We take on the unknown; not only with respect to the new challenges we face as actors (as I am), but also the unknown in the sense that these plays are unfinished. Much of what I've worked on in the past 10 days have been questions about these plays that cannot be answered in text – because the text doesn't yet exist. Joining me on this journey have been not only a great company of actors, but a generous director (I've been blessed (cursed?) to have the same director and a few common actors in both pieces I'm working on here).
So we risk. But what does that mean to someone who's never been to WordBRIDGE and seen what we do? Well. It means exploring dark corners of possibility within the world of the play as the playwright tries to learn what her own play is really about. Sure, these explorations are structured through improv and exercises, but I've never improv'ed quite like this before. It means being ready to come in one day and be working on a draft that isn't just changed; it could be completely different. It means checking your ego and your agenda at the door and believing, as much as you can, that anything that happens has no reflections on you and yours. It's about the play. And, as an actor living 99% if the year in the New York market (where it so often seems every actor is hyper-focused on themselves) it's nice. And it's scary. And it's exhilarating.
Darlene recently made her Off-off debut at the Notes From the Underground Festival premiering the role of Leslie in 'Carbon Based Life Form Seeks Similar', as well as wrapped production as the goddess-turned-super-villain Galatea in the upcoming web series 'Team Allies'. Regional credits include 'REVELATION' at Baltimore Theatre Project with Generous Company (Rebecca), 'Funy As Hell' at Yale Cabaret (Three), and 'Magnificent Yankee' at Monomoy Theatre (Mary). For more information on Darlene's other projects visit DarleneMcCullough.com. Darlene holds a Bachelor of Arts, Acting Concentration from the University at Albany.