One of the things which we need in order to promote Dragon's Breath - and which FringeNYC requires all its shows to provide as soon as possible - is a production still from the show. This is a photograph of some scene from the play, preferably as dynamic and visually striking as possible. For those productions that have been previously staged elsewhere, coming up with a production still is a simple matter of going through archival photos of past production. If, however, you're a world premiere like Dragon's Breath and have no past productions, you're operating at something of a disadvantage. It's hard to have production photographs of a show that doesn't exist yet.
Not that we'd let a little thing like that stop us.
This past weekend, our leading actress Lorinda and I headed to our director's home for an improvised photoshoot. We had costumes made up for a critical scene towards the end of the play, and we posed in front of a black muslin curtain in her neighbor's apartment (conveniently, he's an accomplished fashion photographer). It was more of a party than anything else, an excuse for a bunch of friends to play dress-up, and drink and laugh over this script in which we believed. And during a break in all of this, I glanced over at the image which had now been called up on our photographer's computer screen.
And there was my play.
The figures of this critical scene, which had hitherto simply been part of my cracked imagination, were now staring back at me. I was looking at my play. It wasn't just a potential notion that could happen if we figured out how best to realize the script. It existed.
I'd had a similar sensation earlier in the week, as we'd finally ended our callbacks. The last actors having been seen, Mikaela and I remained in our rented audition studio, laid out the headshots of our remaining candidates, and discussed. And as we went over what we'd need them to do in the show, we slowly (and with a heavy heart) winnowed away the headshots. And eventually, once the last one had been removed, what remained was the cast of Dragon's Breath.
Not a potential cast of the show, mind you. It was the faces of the characters I'd dreamed up, made manifest, and staring up at me from the table.
Of course, the whole notion of trying to turn your dreams into reality is the essence of art. But it's different in theatre, where the collaborative nature of it means that many things are out of your direct control. Every person you collaborate with brings their own aesthetic, their personality, their skill and experience to the table. The production you create together will always be a hybrid, and it's better for being so - but that means that the odds of what you imagine being the literal final product are small in the extreme.
Yet so far, that seems to be happening. And I'd like to think that as I'm seeing these glimpses of the show to come - which you'll be able to see here on the website over the course of the next few days and weeks - they're matching what I saw in my mind because it never was just about what I saw. That I've tapped into something tangible and meaningful, and my collaborators are on the same page as I am not because I'm forcing them to be, but because they see that meaning too. At least I dare to hope that this is the case.
Dragons are real, after all.