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More Short Plays Shine in the Best of the Rest!

For this year's 8 Tens @ 8 Festival, our reading committee selected 24 plays to send to the 16 directors. The plays chosen by directors received a full production in this year's festival, and the 8 runners-up are coming your way the last two weekends in March as staged readings in a show we like to call "The Best of the Rest." [Get Tickets HERE]

We receive many fine scripts for consideration for 8 Tens @ 8 and Best of the Rest allows even more of them to hit the stage. The staged-reading format also allows us to give a different kind of experience to our theater audiences.

Directors Cathy Warner and Rebecca Haley Clark, who helped us relaunch the Best of the Rest last year, return to direct this year's show. We asked them to share their thoughts about the challenges of bringing these 8 short plays to life in the staged reading format and the joys of co-directing.

REBECCA: I’m so excited to be back at Actors’ Theatre co-directing and collaborating with Cathy Warner again! There’s a lot of freedom that comes with working on a staged reading instead of a full production. You are basically building the bare bones so that the audience can understand what is going on plot-wise without all of the costumes, sets, lighting, sound that might come with a production and aid in that process. It is really stripped down so you can focus on the acting and storytelling, in the same way that you would do in full production, before you take the scripts away. It is so fun to jump from one story to the next as we are working on all 8 pieces that you will see together, versus one as part of a collection in 8 Tens @ 8.

CATHY: When Rebecca and I chose to share the journey of directing last season, we were launched into a process of discovery that allowed us to work in tandem to support the acting ensemble while continually learning from and inspiring one another. The collaborative nature of this show is both challenging and thrilling. Unlike most productions, the eight plays that comprise Best of the Rest are all co-directed. This means that we, the directors, each have the gift of sharing what we individually see with the actors in addition to sharing what we glean from our collective understanding – functioning as a sort of living directing prism that is giving feedback and support to the performers. We interact to distill the essence of each moment with the ensemble, and work together drawing on everything that we know to orchestrate each play to “read” from the audience’s perspective. The actors are then challenged to go deeply and focus on the layers of their characters and relationships without the pressure of memorizing lines. All but essential sets and props are abstracted, and conjured by the imaginations of the performers. The limited nature of the rehearsal process pushes all involved to work intensively and dive directly into the essence of the story, with a strong focus on to how make it real for the audience.

REBECCA: One of the most interesting parts of this process is being able to co-direct. Most directors do not get the chance to be in a room with another director and engage in their process and I get to do that every rehearsal. Cathy and I have found a way to work where we flow together giving notes and direction to our casts, trying different tactics that play to each of our strengths. It is great to be able to rely on someone else in the room to observe all that is going on, and that if I don’t catch something, I know Cathy will. In this way, we really complement each other, and I learn something new from her almost every day. I’m excited that I get to learn how to work with and play off of another director as I will be co-directing again this fall at the Western Stage on their production of Emilia, and my experience at Actors’ Theatre will be fundamental to that work.

CATHY: I never cease to be amazed by the fact that although these 8 plays were not selected with any particular theme in mind, when I step back and reflect on the underlying truths that seem to be connecting each piece, many of the same ideas keep bubbling to the surface. Ultimately, the stories this season moved us, made us think, tugged at our hearts, and made us laugh. I invite you to join us on this amazing journey!

REBECCA: As this is my second time working on Best of the Rest, I have found a pattern in that the pieces chosen for this production have an interesting set, casting, or story challenge that might make them less feasible when staging for a full production with limited time. We get the unique opportunity to issue the call to action to the audience to really use their imaginations, suspend belief, and go along with us on the ride for 8 completely different stories and what they could be!

CATHY: Ultimately, the stories this season moved us, made us think, tugged at our hearts, and made us laugh. I invite you to join us on this amazing journey!

This year’s Best of the Rest features work by Jediah Craig, Pamela J. Haskin, Guy R. Newsham, Liam O’Grady, Kye Roper, Nancy Watkins, Karin Diann Williams, and local Monterey Bay playwright Conrad A. Panganiban.

Tickets are only $15, and can be purchased HERE.

Photographs from the 2023 Best of the Rest rehearsal process by Johathan Carter Schall.


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