Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Creator as Collaborator

Mac Rogers is feeling overextended this week. Between his company Gideon Productions in New York, about to produce the third play in his Honeycomb Trilogy, SOVEREIGN, and our world premiere production of ASYMMETRIC, Mac Rogers has that most magnificent of problems: a lot of people want to produce his plays.

Of course they do. ASYMMETRIC, a late-Bush-era political drama receiving an update to the Obama era for New City's production, takes us to the secretive Fifth Floor, where a disgraced interrogator has only less than half an hour to elicit a confession from a former colleague accused of treason - a colleague who is close to him in more than one way

The play also marks the genesis of Mac Rogers' recent forays into science fiction, featuring a high-tech weapon whose capabilities should be the stuff of scifi, but in fact feel dangerously familiar; a throwback to 1960's CIA exploding cigars with a nod to 21st-century political realities. New City's production, directed by Russ Widdall and starring Kim Carson, Kevin Bergen, Ross Beschler, and Eric Rolland, began rehearsals last week. To kick off Week 2, we had the extraordinary good fortune to spend a few hours working through the play with its creator.

Mac Rogers has the authorial quality of always seeming to be on the cusp of the perfect sentence. Even in conversation, he measures his diction and phrasing, with the understanding that any utterance is subject to subsequent revision and clarification. In ASYMMETRIC, characters indulge in shop talk, gallows humor, and glorious profanity, always and only in the service of theatrical truth. As Rogers woefully lamented when examining a re-write, "Any time you make a cut for the sake of character integrity, you're cutting a really kick-ass joke." Whether he's paraphrasing William Faulkner or waxing about the inexplicability of Greyhound policy, Rogers has a casual humility incongruous with his recent successes.

During the readthrough, Rogers had the air of a proud parent, perhaps surprised by the skill of a child for whom love has always been unconditional, but admiration and respect now crystallize. He considered questions of chronology with Director Widdall, measured the merits of repetition with the actors, and gracefully excised his darlings when necessary. He was protective of every page, and as one might expect, he was in the right more often than not.

In the long tradition of parents allowing their children to mature and grow, while quietly supporting every step, Mac Rogers prepared to see his characters take shape in these actors.

But, he said during a break, "It's always thrilling with actors this great."

ASYMMETRIC opens May 19 at the Adrienne Second Stage. This blog will periodically update the development of the play in rehearsal.

Kevin Rodden is a production assistant for New City Stage Company.