Today, Nicola McCartney visited our company to speak with us about her life as a playwright. After briefly telling us her story Nicola introduced us to her most recent play, a verbatim piece called Rachel’s House. It powerfully displays the stories of eight women who are residents of Rachel's House, a recovery program for ex-convicts. Nicola mentioned that she doesn’t usually like verbatim pieces but that this was the only way she could think to do this story justice.
She also noted her mandate that whenever Rachel's House is performed, the actors must hold the script. Why? To remind the audience throughout the performance that the performers speak the words of real people. I thought that was truly fascinating and a perfect way of keeping the audience engaged but still aware that what they are seeing is all a true story.
And Nicola didn't just talk about the piece, she also gave us extracts to workshop and perform for the group. I was particularly surprised by this portion of the day because despite my regular role in the room as Stage Manager, I was actually asked to read one of the characters. I immediately became emotional when reading over the lines. These women were all so honest and open with the audience, which is not something I am used to. Society has trained us to keep to ourselves, or only share with a select few people. These women - these abused, sad, resilient women - were completely open, letting Nicola jot down the deepest parts of their stories. The fact that she just listened to these women’s stories without judgement, but with a genuine desire to listen and to retell their struggles and triumphs is amazingly powerful.
The women of Rachel's House may be damaged but they are strong. I feel inspired by them and their stories - I am blessed to have been able to hear even small portions of them. I feel honored to have met the woman who wrote them all down. And I feel blessed and driven to simply practice the power of listening.
I greatly enjoyed Nicola’s master class and I know that the entire company is very appreciative of her kind words of encouragement and advice.
~ Chandler Payne