Bekah Brunstetter and Dylan Dawson (both NYC based writers), supported by two fabulous directors and four fearless actors, spent four days at SPACE writing and work shopping their newest plays. Keep your eyes peeled for Poor Alex by Mr. Dawson and Take her to the See the Maco Lights by Ms. Brunstetter.
Here are entries by Bekah and Lauren Blumenfeld (an actress in the workshop).
From Bekah’s Blog:
I must tell you what an incredible time I had at Space at Ryder Farm. I spent my five days with some of my favorite theater people. Space was started by friend Emily Simoness, who restored her family farm to host artists for retreats. Favorite things about Space include: rooms stuffed with beautiful old pictures and pianos and books, weird and lovely creaky floors, sleeping buried beneath a pile of pretty old blankets, bonfires, dinners family style with crockpot feasts and wares from the farm, CHICKENS AND GOATS, afternoon rehearsals followed IMMEDIATELY by cocktail hour, running like there’s nowhere to be, time to lay on the grass, or stare at sun, for no reason whatsoever, trips to town, and most importantly, the most perfect combination of work and play.
I can’t wait to go back. Can I go back yet, Emily? Emily, I’m outside the door. Let me back in, Emily.
Did I mention we watched the Shining? Did I mention I wrote 75% of a new ghost story play?
I’ll see you in your waking dreams, Emily.
Late in the afternoon on September 29, 2010, eight caffeinated city kids set foot on Ryder Farm to begin a five day retreat that would culminate in the development and early drafts of two original plays. This motley cru of playwrights (Bekah Brunstetter and Dylan Dawson), directors (Stephen Brackett and Adrienne Campbell-Holt) and actors (Lucas Kavner, Vella Lovell, Eric Clem and myself, Lauren Blumenfeld) arrived on the farm, still buzzing with the manic energy of Manhattan, unused to this fresh air and beauty. The leaves were just beginning to turn red and yellow. Apples and root vegetable were being sold at the farm’s produce hutch on the side of the road. Old rocking chairs creaked in the breeze. And off in the distance, I swear you could hear a rooster crowing. Where were we? How did a short train ride transport us to a beautiful oasis where the air was clean and where trees outnumbered people? Accustomed to creating and developing work in tiny expensive rehearsal studio spaces on the 16th floor of ugly gray midtown buildings, we all ventured shakily onto the farm, filled with a strange mix of wonder and gratitude—excited and thankful for this respite from our crazy lives.
Within a half hour, I found myself laughing and running through the hills with Adrienne, Eric and Bekah. It was actually absurd. Our joy was palpable … We were almost possessed. That night we ate a delicious home cooked vegetarian meal and drank wine at the long wooden dinning room table. We built a bond fire and told ghost stories. We convinced ourselves that we heard scary creaks and cracks from the woods surrounding us. It was one of those blissful evenings, filled with a unique mixture of terror and thrill that would later seep into the two plays written during the retreat.
The next day, it rained and rained. There was something delightful about being inside the farmhouse, with the single task of developing a play (and lots of coffee and snacks too). The house creaked and cracked as we spoke about the themes and ideas of the two plays—scary roommates, frightening “to do” lists, possessed people, ghosts, train accidents. A fire crackled. Without the crazy distractions of the city and all of the daily tasks that consume but rarely fulfill our lives—we were free to create. The air inside the farmhouse was quite electric that rainy Thursday.
And then there was the great Church Tag Sale, hosted by the fine town of Brewster! Let me tell you, I have never seen more treasures under a dollar housed beneath one roof. We woke up early in the morning and hit the tag sale before a day of writing and development. The tag sale was truly inspiring. We each drew a name from a hat and had to buy a present for our secret Santa, a present under a dollar. That night, Christmas came early. Gifts were exchanged! Amazing gifts—sweaters and matching polo shirts for the boys, toy xylophones, strange cookbooks for Jell-O preparation … The giving, joyful spirit infused our work and consequently weighed down our bags with unnecessary but totally amazing knick-knacks.
Then of course, there were the goats and chickens! We got to carry the goats from their pens and then collect beautiful warm brown eggs from the chickens. To a city girl like myself, this was remarkable.
The final showing of the two new plays was completely in keeping with the joyful spirit of the weekend. They were performed with a roaring fire burning in the fireplace (making the house comfortably smoky). The plays themselves—one about a train accident that occurred in the 1950s, the other about two ill-matched roommates and a possessed “to do” list—were both noticeably and beautifully influenced by our experiences on farm. They felt like ghost stories and old houses creaking and leaves falling and old relics at a church tag sale and crowing roosters.
Yes, Christmas came early this year. Thank you SPACE and RYDER FARM for a magical retreat! It was truly a gift!