It’s startling how quickly certain ideas are emerging as obviously important in the revisions going forward, and more startling how quickly some solutions are becoming incredibly obvious. It’s turning out that the reading did just what I wanted it to do, which was highlight the areas I needed to fix.
One suggestion that’s come up that I’m definitely going to implement is a Puck/Oberon introduction to scene one. As it stands, Hermia begins the work with a rather solemn piece about how upset she is – we find out what she’s unhappy about later. It sets an odd tone for a light, comic piece. That’s struck me as odd before, but I haven’t a better way. Another issue has been the exposition of Puck and Oberon, played by a cello and a marimba respectively, as characters. It’s a difficult notion to grasp for the audience, and when they simply begin their dialogue in scene two it’s a bit abrupt, and calls into question their roles in the first scene. Were they characters then? Were they simply instruments? How do they change back and forth?
The solution, simply having Puck and Oberon do a light introduction to scene 1, seems obvious now. It establishes them as characters, formalizes their relationship to the action in the first scene (one of observation and fascination basically) and creates a lighter atmosphere for the beginning. It will also give me a way to think through a more extensive re-write of the first scene. At the moment it’s a bit heavy compared to the other scenes, and while I want it to be a bit more substantial than the subsequent scenes (all of which are light comic things that flit by quite quickly) I do want it to be the beginning of a light and comic piece.
Another idea is a little harder to explain – especially since the performance video isn’t up yet (I wouldn’t expect that for at least another month – there are technical questions and we have day jobs after all). The issue is one of the first jokes in the show. Lysander hatches a plan and tries to tell Hermia and Helena about it. They’re too caught up in their misery to notice that Lysander is presenting a perfectly good solution. They ignore him until his shouting shuts up the music and they pay attention. Right now the music continues to match Hermia and Helena, even after Lysander’s had his lightbulb moment. The result is that we ignore this strange man yelling, rather than giving credence to this character actually having a solution. The answer is so obvious now. When Lysander has his lightbulb moment, I should have the music change as well, accompanying him instead of Hermia and Helena. That way it’s their singing that seems out of place, and Lysander who seems to have the answer, which they’re ignoring. That joke will just play better that way – no question.
There are a lot more questions than that in how to revise the piece, and how to finish it, but I wanted to write a little about those two. How quickly they became obvious after the reading just underscores how important readings and workshops are in the development of theatrical work.