In December, my short play “The Jungle Room” was selected to be a part of the London Writers’ Showcase at the London Improv Theatre. The showcase is a night of rehearsed readings of four pieces of written work by emerging writers in the London area. Unlike other events like this, the LWS invites dramatic pieces in the form of stage plays, television and film scripts and radio plays with the aim to develop new, dramatic writing. The pieces are cast and a director is selected to work on the piece. Over the course of one long day, the actors and directors meet and work through the text for a presentation that evening.
The director of The Jungle Room was Beru Tessema, a RADA trained actor and a writer and director in his own right. London based actor Safron Beck played the part of Jasmine, and American actor (living in London since he was a teenager) Paris Stangl played the part of Bradford.
As a writer, you’re constantly questioning the text you put on the page: Does it sound natural? How would an actor grab onto the text? Does it make sense? Will an audience understand it? I was pleasantly surprised when the actors both told me that the text, with all its ups and downs, was an actors dream. Beru, the director, suggested that there is so much depth to the piece that it should be made into a full-length play.
I was pleasantly surprised hearing and seeing the text brought to life without the spectacle of a fully produced stage performance. It was amazing to see a professional director bring those words to life through the actors, and their choices with the characters. Even though I was the one who wrote the words, I found myself getting emotional hearing these characters come to life.
After at night’s presentation, I sat and talked to some of the audience members. One of the people in the audience, who also happened to be one of the friends I invited, said, “How did you do that? You seem to really understand the female psyche.”. I think that was probably one of the best compliments because as a man, writing a female character, sometimes I question whether my hypothesis, my understanding of the woman in my piece, would actually be real, or true to life, the way I’ve written them.
Another audience member said that I was the writer with the “dirty mouth”. The characters in this piece tend to speak very realistically, they are both drug addicts and certainly not from an upper class family, and they know each other so well that sometimes words aren’t even needed to communicate. The audience member continued to say, “Are there really people like this?” My goal with any piece that I’m writing is to get people think about the other, people other than themselves, and that question made me realise that I was successful.
I’ve been working on some ideas for expanding “The Jungle Room” to a full-length play. Maybe by the spring the full-length piece will be ready to be workshopped.
Kevin Michael Reed is a theatre maker from New York City living in Dublin and London. His production credits have included producer, director, playwright, dramaturg and designer. He is Artistic Director of Squire Lane Theatrical UK, a theatre production company specialising in developing new works for the stage. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a MA in Playwriting from City, University of London, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.