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Naked in Ashland

October was shaping up to be a pretty good month for this Medford retiree.

The Atelier in Ashland was going to present a staged reading of my play “The MacArthur Grant” Oct. 26. SOCAN’s Rogue Basin Climate Summit Oct. 13-14, in which I participated, was a spectacular success, and now my first play was to be read by real actors before a real audience! I was excited.

A staged reading is performed by actors standing at lecterns. There are no sets, no movement. A narrator recites physical action, such as a kiss or someone’s pants falling down. (My play is not elegant.) This first reading gives the playwright a better understanding of what works and what needs to be rewritten.

Sitting at my desk in the Tower of Plays in the cold light of reason, I knew that “The MacArthur Grant” was just another play, somewhat humorous, and the chances of it ever being performed on a stage were roughly the same as winning the lottery. But that’s no fun. A mischievous imp perched on the bust of Shakespeare on my desk and whispered, “This is a fantastic play. Audiences will love it. You will be the toast of Broadway. I see a Pulitzer prize in your future.”

I was eager for my friends to see what I was beginning to believe was a wonderful play, so I sent out emails. To some I called it “the theater event of the year.” Sharie would prepare her usual delicious spread of goodies for intermission. It would be great.

It was my job to recruit actors to volunteer to perform the reading. This was not so hard as there are a lot of good actors in the valley. Actors love to act, and the (free) time commitment is not great. Will agreed to direct. We would have one rehearsal, usual for an Atelier reading.

We had the rehearsal. It did not go well. My play had no laughs. Timing was off. I was sick. The reading would be a disaster.

Neighbor Barb said, “Seeing your words read on stage by actors with an audience watching, you must feel really naked.” I now felt unclothed and sick.

One of the characters in my play is an arrogant, self-important playwright who writes crappy plays. I could now see this character as unintentional self-parody. I would be the subject of ridicule by my friends.

No one else seemed to be too worried. “First rehearsals are always like that,” they said. The actors would take what they learned at rehearsal, practice their parts and be ready to go.

So the actors read my play as I sat watching, naked among my friends. The actors were terrific. Sharie’s spread at intermission was great. The play was not so bad, I thought. I saw some things I could fix. Actually I saw a lot of things I needed to fix, but I can do it. And they give Pulitzers next year, too!

David Beale lives in Medford.