Laura Dickinson-Turner for Prospect Theater Project
By Summer Krafft
Laura Dickinson-Turner is a local actor, director, educator, and the General Manager of Prospect Theater Project’s 2016-2017 season. Her work with Prospect began in 2010 when she was cast in Beyond Therapy. Since then, she’s continued her involvement with PTP in multiple capacities. In addition to being General Manager, Laura acts in approximately one PTP play per season, and she directs the PTP Play Reading Project.
Of the Play Reading Project she said, “I inherited the Play Reading Project. It’s a staged reading, which has variations. It allows actors to have their scripts in front of them. It throws more of the focus on the text itself and the emotional content within the text. Even though it’s still an embodied work, it really does throw that lens on how the story unfolds. There’s generally little to no stage movement, or blocking. A traditional staged reading will be a row of actors seated or standing in front of music stands. In those cases, they’re very often minimally dressed so the focus is more on their faces, their expressions. . The Play Reading Project was initially created by stage veteran David Keymer.” When Keymer decided to move to Cleveland, he and Jack Souza, Prospect’s Artistic Director, were looking for someone to take over. “I immediately volunteered. Keymer curated the seasons and I directed all but one, and I curated this season and am casting and directing it.”
Two of the season’s four Play Readings have already taken place. The first in the series was Well by Lisa Kron, which Laura described by saying “It deals with illness, and it deals with how well people see sick people, and it deals not necessarily with illness of the body, but illness of the soul or of community.” The second show in the series was Joyce Carol Oates’ I Stand Before You Naked, which is a series of monologues.
Next up will be Stop Kiss by Diana Son, which Laura summarized, “It’s about two women who fall in love and share their first kiss, but immediately after there’s a violent attack that sort of shatters their world for a moment and the aftermath of that. The play deals with issues of sexuality, but it also deals with issues of identity. Not necessarily gender identity, but the identity of ‘Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Where am I going? What’s my trajectory? How much control do I have over my own trajectory? And do I want to risk?’ Because doing anything that has risk involved with it can be dangerous. Very often, risks can have high stakes and theater can do very well when it has high stakes risk.” Laura’s history with Stop Kiss actually goes back to her reading the play for the first time while she was working on her BA of Theater Arts. The non-linear format of the script then inspired Laura to write the play that became her senior project.
Stop Kiss will be presented at 2:00p.m. on Sunday, March 19th at Prospect Theater Project. The final show in the Play Reading Series will be an original adaptation of Laura’s, which will be performed in May. Of this final show in the series, Laura said, “The last play is actually not fully done yet, because also as an undergrad I read a book called Letters 1925-1975 by Hannah Arendt and Martin Heiddegger, who were two of the foremost philosophers of the 20’th century. Martin was her teacher, Hannah was his student. He was married, and I think she might have been engaged, and they fell in brain love. They’re both very smart, so there was that attraction, the mental attraction, but they were also romantically attracted to each other. They had this very passionate love affair for a number of years that eventually broke off but their friendship and their mentorship remained. Their correspondence spanned from post-WWI, through WWII, and the aftermath. I have always wanted to adapt this dialogue of letters into a two-person play, after performing Love Letters multiple times, which is also a play of the letters of two people, and I thought ‘Oh, I could totally do this.’ I asked Jack Souza about it, and he and I will hopefully do these parts.”
In selecting the plays to be read this season, both Jack Souza, and Laura paid special attention to equal representation. Laura said, “This season, the Play Reading Project, the way that Jack and I have talked about it, is that it’s contrapuntal, meaning that it runs in counterpoint. It highlights and complements the regular season. The regular season for 2016-2017 has a lot of male voices in it, there are really great female roles, but I think all the playwrights this season are males, and there was a majority of male roles. Jack, as an Artistic Director, wants to have an equity in presentation, to see a spectrum of voices represented. But fitting a season together is tricky work, so when he put the season together, he said ‘I don’t know what I could take out and put in that would have the same continuity and impact.’ So, he turned to me with the task of ‘Let’s add to this season with our Play Reading Project focusing on female voices or marginalized voices or both.” All four shows in this season’s Play Reading Project are written by female playwrights and have several female roles, and they hope to continue on with the Play Reading Project next season with a different focus.
The Play Readings are presented on specific Sunday afternoons with hors d’oeuvres and wine for forty-five minutes before the show, which is included in your $10 ticket. The show starts at 2:00p.m. and runs without an intermission. Laura added “There’s always a Q&A about it afterwards for theater lovers, for the audience and actors and myself to digest the text and discuss what’s going on emotionally and what’s going on in the world. It’s a really nice event, getting to come and spend a few hours having brain candy.”
For more information on the Play Reading Project, Prospect’s regular season, or special events, visit prospecttheaterproject.org or call their box office at (209)549-9341.