I met Mark Brown at Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s PlayFest: The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays, in 2011. We were doing a Workshop of his new play, Don Quixote – The Reckoning and he was our Key Note Speaker for the event. Previously, I had enjoyed his play The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge at Orlando Shakes in 2008. He has also written China – The Whole Enchilada and Around the World in 80 Days. I was very excited when Mark agreed to talk to me about how Actors have influenced his work.
Brooke M. Haney (BMH): What traits to some of your favorite Actors have that really help you when you’re working on a new play?
Mark Brown (MB): Some good Actors when I give them a line, they will ad lib a little or riff on it. I’ll hear something good and write it down. Some will find a line that is difficult and tell me they aren’t sure if it will work. If I think it’s a mediocre line, I’ll cut it. If I think it’s good, I’ll ask them to try it for a few more days. A good Actor will struggle with it for a few more days, and often have a break through.
BMH: What are the best things an Actor can do to help your process in a workshop?
MB: Be fast on their feet. Get off the page quickly, and make strong full choices. I do a lot of rewriting, so it’s great when an Actor can forget the last draft, and jump forward with a new draft immediately. It’s really helpful when he or she says yes to any direction and goes full-out, so that the Playwright can see a choice at it’s full potential.
BMH: What are other tips you would give actors who are working on a new play?
MB: Don’t have an ego and trust the Playwright. I try to build a relationship with Actors who I work with a lot. I find that they trust that I’m not going to put them out there and make them look stupid. In return they have the attitude: I’ll do whatever you ask so you can see it, the best that I can.
BMH: Is there any communication that you and Jim (Helsinger, Director of Don Quixote) set up in the rehearsal room?
MB: Jim has always done a really great job of mediating communication. One thing he always says that I find helpful is that he encourages the actors to feel free to give suggestions without taking ownership. He says that they shouldn’t expect to get anything for it. Other than their name in the published script possibly, but they aren’t trying to be Playwrights and get a percentage of the revenue from the show.