I just started rehearsals for a ten-day workshop a relatively new play of mine: BORN IN EAST BERLIN. The workshop is at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. I decided to blog the first day.

  • I wake up at 5:30AM. Excited to meet the cast but thinking rehearsals started at 10 only to find out later that they begin at noon.
  • To get into the right state of mind, I watch a documentary on Berlin and the Cold War. From that I took away the idea that East Berlin did not just go after real enemies but also potential ones. This idea is one I listened for when we did the table read. Later the director, Jonathan Green, would talk about the play using similar language. Here I paraphrase Jonathan: The play is not a comedy though it’s funny; it’s not a drama though it has plenty of it; it’s closer to a “political thriller” where we are constantly questioning people’s motivations.
  • I drink coffee. Three cups.
  • I fight the temptation to work on a different project. That project will have to wait for my day off.
  • I meet with the director prior to rehearsals and discuss doubling. I have this terrible habit that I refuse to give up: I create small roles — characters that have just a few lines only to disappear forever. I like the world of the play to be rich with people but this makes it a real headache for everyone involved. Figuring out doubling is tough, but it leads us to talking about the play. In discussing the doubling, we talk about certain characters that can’t or shouldn’t play a second role and why that is.
  • I arrive at rehearsals and I meet the company. I immediately make judgements about the actors. I will, of course, be wrong but one can’t avoid first impressions. It’s human.
  • German accents. For some reason I think I can do one. That’s not good. I resist the instinct to start giving everyone a lesson on how to do one.  A professional will help us tomorrow. To be clear, I can’t do a German accent. But maybe I can. Jonathan refuses to tell me the truth.
  • The reading comes in at 2.5 hours with a ten-minute break and ten or so minutes of interruptions along the way. Just what I expected.
  • I don’t look down at the play during the table read – I try to never do that – just so that I can listen to it as if I were an audience member hearing it for the first time. In fact, I avoid reading the play for a few weeks prior to the table read in order to forget as much as possible. Listening to it fresh I notice a few bumps – things I didn’t understand. These may just be the fact that it’s a first read or they may be genuine bumps. I flag them to look at later.
  • We discuss each individual character. We put forth the character and invite the company to flag everything that’s said about the character and what we can then intuit from what’s already on the page. Doing this allows us to discover yet again that no single character is who they claim to be. Not being able to trust people is something that comes up in my work a lot. It’s something to discuss with an analyst but I don’t have one nor am I soliciting recommendations. For now, I will continue to put it in my plays. Get over it, you may be tempted to tell me. Please don’t. I don’t want to trust you even less.
  • Rehearsal ends. There is a meet and greet after with actors from the other plays. This one is unusual in that they have food – really good food. I loved the Moroccan chicken. They also have two kinds of IPAs. I like IPAs.
  • Jonathan and I drive back to where we’re staying. I continue to insist just how good my German accent is. We stop at Trader Joe’s where he gets health food and I buy two jars of pesto and coffee.
  • End of day.
Why This Blog Is Late
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Rogelio Martinez

Rogelio is the winner of the first ever Mid-Career Fellowship at the Lark Theater Company. Ping Pong, his play about Nixon, Mao, and the hippie that brought the two together, is part of this season’s Public Studio series at The Public.  His new play, Born in East Berlin, will be given a workshop at the Arden in April.  Some of Rogelio’s plays include Wanamaker’s Pursuit  (Arden Theater),  When Tang Met Laika  (Sloan Grant/ Denver Center/ Perry Mansfield),  All Eyes and Ears (INTAR at Theater Row),  Fizz (NEA/ TCG Grant/ Besch Solinger Productions at the Ohio Theatre, New Theater Miami),  Learning Curve (Smith and Krauss New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2005/ Besch Solinger Productions at Theater Row),  I Regret She’s Made of Sugar (winner of the 2001 Princess Grace Award),  Arrivals and Departures (Summer Play Festival),  Union City... (E.S.T, winner of the James Hammerstein Award), and Displaced  (Marin Theater Co.) In addition, Rogelio’s work has been developed and presented at the Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, the Magic Theater, and Ojai Theater Company among others. Rogelio is an alumnus of New Dramatists and his plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing. He has received commissions from the Mark Taper Forum, the Atlantic Theater Company, the Arden Theater Company, Denver Center Theater, and South Coast Repertory.  In the past Rogelio has been profiled in a cover story in American Theater Magazine. In addition to writing, Rogelio teaches playwriting at Goddard College, Montclair University, and Primary Stages as well as private workshops. For several years Rogelio was a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages. In television, Rogelio has written for Astroblast, a children’s television show. Rogelio was born in Cuba and arrived in this country in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift.  He lives in New York with his family.  

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