‘Everything you thought you knew about the story of You Lost Me could be completely different’
Every writer’s process is as individual as the writers are themselves. Theatre is a collaborative experience. However, the playwright is often doing their work in isolation. The joy of new-play development comes from opening up the process to other artists who bring their own selves and discipline to the craft of creating new work for the stage. Throughout that process, actors will ask questions concerning their characters’ background and intentions; dramaturgs will examine the text for clarity of storytelling; and directors will explore the various ways to tell the story visually – first in a reading, and then with designers in production.
At the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit. two completely different versions of Bonnie Metzgar’s play You Lost Me were read on the separate weekends that made up the festival. The first was basically a direct transfer of the work as it was presented in the 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference after its inception in the spring of 2013 at the University of Iowa as Metzgar’s MFA thesis. One intention behind this was to discover what of the existing iteration still felt true to the story she wanted to tell.
Sometimes the writer needs to hear a scene read aloud to understand what’s missing, needs to be added or should be cut. Metzgar utilized this technique during the Summit as the characters’ relationships were informed by a past event that was never represented in previous drafts, so she filled in the unseen scene. But after hearing the actors read the dialogue, she learned all she needed to know about how the future scenes should play out and, ultimately, cut the added scene. As the saying goes, “sometimes you must kill your darlings.”
The audience feedback is also essential in the creation of new work. Once the creative team has had an opportunity to digest audiences’ comments, they bring the lingering questions up in the rehearsal room so the ensemble can discuss how best to address them.
The grand experiment continued as the second weekend of the festival brought in the attention of national theatre industry professionals, all of whom are well-versed in the new-play development process. Groomed to give helpful insights from an unbiased perspective, these audiences are primed for conversations about the growth of the play and its future life on the stage.
A theatre company’s commitment to produce a world premiere is not one taken lightly. When an artistic team is planning a season they must look ahead to see the potential of a new play. It is always a risk that a company has to agree to take on if they want to champion new voices.
In its path from staged reading to full production, research was a major component in this new-play process. For You Lost Me, that included a trip to the location where the play is set, Newfoundland. This not only deepened the artist’s understanding of the culture and history, it also inspired a new round of rewrites that put the environment as its own character with its own aesthetic language.
From the first reading in front of an audience to the opening night of the world-premiere production, the writer is free to make any changes they wish. This production of You Lost Me will not be the same for audiences who attended the Summit readings. By the time you read this, everything you thought you knew about the story of You Lost Me could be completely different.
“From the waters of the Avalon, to the shores of Labrador,
We’ve always stuck together, with a rant and a roar.
To those who’ve never been, soon they’ll understand,
From coast to coast, we raise a toast, we love thee Newfoundland!”
– From ‘Sagas and Sea Smoke,’ by Susan Nicol
Lynde Rosario is the Literary Manager for the DCPA Theatre Company. She has a B.A. in Drama from Hofstra University and an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy from The American Repertory Theatre/Moscow Art Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. She is a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and an Associate Member of the National New Play Network.
You Lost Me: Ticket information
- Dates: Performances January 17 through February 23 (Opens January 24)
- Where: Ricketson Theatre
- Genre: Poetic drama
- Tickets: Start at $30 and can be purchased at 303-893-4100 or in person in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at 14th and Curtis streets or online by clicking here: