Meron Langsner (ML): Most of my plays are built around images or ideas that then have characters build around them. Sometimes I’ll get the idea for an exchange of dialogue and then build a play around it based on the type of people that would say that sort of thing to each other, occasionally the original exchange is not even in the finished play.
My process can be situational, it’s always best when I have access to readings and can hear what I’ve done. That said, I feel that I’ve developed a good ear and can tell when a line rings false when I am rereading something for revision.
BMH: What part of the new play process is particularly helpful to you?
ML: Readings (table or staged) and workshops with intelligent actors are an amazing opportunity because they let you make changes almost as soon as you realize that they’re necessary. Audience response is a tricky thing because you have to train yourself to filter out the worthless responses and only let in what actually helps your process.
BMH: When you go into rehearsal for one of your, what is the best thing and actor can do to help you?
ML: Play the part with the impulse that the script gives you. And be open to suggestion from the playwright, as well as open about the impulses that you are getting from the script.
I once made a major change in a script at New Rep between the table read and the staged reading because the actress (Zillah Glory) practically exploded (in a good way) about what her character did at the end versus the track she felt she was on. She gave me this great honest response about the journey she was on as that character and where she was experiencing resistance to the end that I had in an early draft. I ended up with a far stronger ending because of that.
I’ve also had great feedback from actors about sound and language in a script. Willie Teacher and I once sat down with a monologue of mine and we talked about not just the actions but the sounds of letters and how he was able to use them on stage. That kind of feedback and collaboration is fantastic when you can get it.
BMH: Tell me a little about your experiences at The Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska.
ML: The Last Frontier Theatre Conference was one of my best experiences as a writer in my adult life. It’s a ten day event dedicated to the development of new plays. They have this whole schtick about how they are there to help the playwright and facilitate the improvement of their work and they mean every single word. It is staged readings all day and polished works at night, followed by a fringe festival. It is also theatre camp for grownups, plus beer. I highly recommend it to playwrights as well as to any actor interested in working on new plays.
BMH: Are there any other ways that actors have impacted your work?
ML: A couple times plays of mine have been done because it was an actor who wanted it to happen more so than because of any marketing on my part (that is not to say that I don’t market my own plays, but in the end plays happen because actors and directors want to do them).
MERON LANGSNER was one of three writers in the country selected for the pilot year of the National New Play Network Emerging Writer Residencies, fulfilling his residency at New Repertory Theatre. His plays have been performed around the country and overseas and developed at New Repertory Theatre, the Lark New Play Development Center, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference (which he later returned to a a featured artist), and the Region I Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Publishers of his plays include Smith & Kraus, Applause, JAC, and Lamia Ink. His writing has also won awards and grants from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, and numerous competitions. Meron is also active as a professional fight director in the Greater Boston Area, having composed violence in venues that include Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New Rep, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, the Boston Center for the Arts, and several academic theaters. His scholarly work has been published by McFarland, Oxford University Press, and Puppetry International. Meron is also in print as a poet and journalist. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from Brandeis University and an MA in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Drama at Tufts University, where he has been recognized for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.