Top row L to R: MoMo Holt, Amanda Welly, Holly Crowe, JohnMark Ennis.
Middle row L to R: Kathy Voytko, Eric Kunze, Sila Shaman, Anita Riggio, Jo-Ann Dean.
Bottom row L to R: Gabrielle Barlatier, Keith A. Bearden, Karen Dearborn, JaRon Gilchrist.
Yesterday, December 4, 2023, HEAR ME had its first cold reading of my newly revised script, with our new creative team and full cast. I started us off by welcoming everyone, especially our new cast members, Holly Crowe, Gabrielle Barlatier, JaRon Gilchrist, Ian Sanborn and Max Clayton.
I talked about the beauty--and necessity--of having Deaf creatives on our team, and how director, MoMo Holt had kindly let me know that no Deaf person would "be cursed" with the name sign I'd given to "Tessa," our 11 year-old, hearing, CODA character. Instead, MoMo suggested a gorgeous name sign that made my eyes fill with tears.
People, authenticity is key.
Next, MoMo gave a slide presentation for the cast, suggesting that fear, sorrow, anger, distrust, etc. might motivate their characters, and asking the actors to consider what "beast" they might be up against. MoMo also shared her vision of how sliding projection screens would be part of the set design to facilitate clarity for Deaf and hearing audience members.
The script reading began precisely at 3:25, even though we'd received word three hours earlier that Max was stuck in an airport in Mexico, and Ian, who was sick and feverish with flu, slept right through the reading. We'd been lucky to snag actor Keith A. (for A Hero) Bearden to fill in for absent Max, MoMo subbed for sickly Ian, and the reading proceeded as scheduled. MoMo Holt runs a tight ship.
There was a bit of awkwardness as we began Act One, but after a couple of scenes, everyone settled in. Stage Managers, Miriam Rochford, and Emily Hart deftly handled the challenges of a Zoom reading, and ASL interpreters, Amanda Welly, and JohnMark Ennis helped communication flow seamlessly.
After the reading, the cast gave me feedback on the script, which the creative team discussed after the cast was dismissed. All in all, it was a very successful reading that laid out a roadmap for our two-week workshop at IRT Theater in NYC, in March, just as we'd hoped it would.
Last night, after it was all over, I received a text from actor, Keith Bearden:
Hi, Anita! Was very fun being part of the read today!!!
What a special project you have on your hands!!!!
I laid every one of those exclamation marks on my pillow, and tucked myself in bed, a relieved and happy writer/producer.