ICWP Playwrights Retreat
at Ohio State University

I just came back from the ICWP Playwrights Retreat at Ohio State U, presided over by the wonderful Professor Alan Woods. About 20 of us were in residence, writing in the theatre dept's computer lab, watching presentations Alan arranged for us, and hearing actors read our work in the black box classrooom; with feedback from the group to follow. I got to wear both actor and writer hats, and had the indescribable thrill of being the first human to speak the words of an amazing array of freshly minted characters! I played everything from a pre-teen to an 80 year old diva, and I was in Actor's Hog Heaven.

Afterwards I was told that the other writers and actors had gotten together and decided to award me the title of "Best Cold Reader Anywhere, Ever"! They said my intuitive ability to "get it" was almost uncanny-- and I feel the same way. The experience of picking up a page and reading the first few words and discovering that Somebody has taken over my voice and body and is immediately and intensely involved in something that it would never have occurred to me (personally) to want or to do--!-- I can only describe the experience as verging on the supernatural.

My critic friend Will Stackman says, "You've been doing cold readings of writers' new stuff for 40 years. It's no wonder you're pretty good at it." But it's a wonder to me every time it happens. I don't feel as if I'm practicing a skill. I feel as if it's Voodoo: I just make myself empty, and the newborn character uses me to live her/his life.


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