I was thrilled to be asked by Lindsay Taylor at the Prague Film & Theater Center to participate in a staged reading of "The Eden Game," a play about Vaclav Havel by California-based playwright Jock Doubleday.
Doubleday wrote the first act of "The Eden Game" in 1989, inspired after reading Havel's "Letters to Olga." The second act was written in 1997, after learning of Havel's second marriage to actress Dagmar Veškrnová. As Doubleday said in the playbill:
"Unfortunately, no one had any interest in a play about Vaclav Havel. Perhaps his real-life drama was enough. Today's staged reading, 22 years after the play's inception, is a great gift to me. I have written 39 plays, but "The Eden Game" was my first, and it holds a special place in my heart."
The staged reading is a chance for the playwright to see and hear his words come to life for the first time on a stage and to get constructive feedback from the audience and the performers. The performance was filmed and the audience was asked to fill out feedback cards. Sadly, Doubleday couldn't be in Prague for the reading.
I was asked to read the part of the Prison Warden in Act I. I had a fantastic time meeting and working with the other actors. It was the first time I had been on a stage in front of a live audience since 1990 or so, when I was a stand-up comic for a night for a Plimpton-esque first-person newspaper story. (That's another story.)
(Read a review of our performance here.)
The actors sat on stage in a horseshoe around an old bench, where most of the "action" took place. When it was our turn, we entered the acting space to engage with the other performers (mostly with Scott Williams, who played Havel). We were all reading from the script; we hadn't had time to memorize our lines. And while we weren't in costume, we did act the parts as best we could given the limited parameters.
What did I think?
There is much to recommend in "The Eden Game." The dialogue is smart and chewy, and the subject matter is right for the stage. It's an ambitious play, and Doubleday obviously knows his history. But I think it is too long, its structure overly complicated and a tad gimmicky (a play within a play) which, in my opinion, detracts from the power of Havel's story, which needs no embellishment.
I hope our performance helps Doubleday hone "The Eden Game" and that it gets produced somewhere.
Who knows? Maybe even Prague.