In our first blog post, actor Karl Schackne reflects on his experiences with PCSF and PlayOffs.
For me, and for many in the Bay Area theatre community, the PCSF is a vital incubator with a reach and influence extending far beyond its seemingly modest presence. When I joined in 2012, I was a budding actor and playwright at heart, though I had no idea what satisfaction I'd get out of it beyond improving my writing. After the first few scene nights (for a time I rarely missed one), I quickly realized that for this close-knit community of writers and actors the PCSF is a home, and in a very real way. And while some of us may drift in and out, we never really leave.
What's been impressive to me is how the PCSF keeps reaching and growing. It's an ambitious thing for a small non-profit arts organization with a very modest budget, maintained for 30+ years almost exclusively to nurture play-writing at its early stages, to then branch off into full productions and all that involves. It's been a great effort by some very dedicated artists, and I'm proud to be among them.
Other than a very fruitful developmental reading of a full length play, and having a short play in one of the 2016 PlayOffs preliminary rounds, I'd been rather absent the last couple years. Being a busier actor, and branching out as a playwright, I'd been less involved in the PCSF and didn't expect to participate this time around, but when I was asked to take some roles in round 3 of the audience-judged readings it was a no-brainer. And I was so impressed and excited by the quality of the plays, and had so much fun rehearsing and performing, that I knew right away I was going to audition for the Audience Favorites.
And here I am, working with an amazing team to bring my characters to life - Washy in "Bloodletting", Tom in "List", Jan Van Eyck in "The Arnolfini Portrait", and Barry in "Formerly Known As". They're all challenging roles to play in different ways, and to build them I rely heavily on the physicality of each character and responding to the other actors. For that reason, I put less attention to learning the lines early on until I can spend some time finding the intent in the dialogue and let that intent inform movement during the first couple rehearsals. Also, I want to test my instincts along with my fellow actors and see how those work with the director's vision until we have the blocking down. Then I go into line-pounding mode with my note cards everywhere I can, mostly at the gym & riding the train, until I can walk and talk them at the drop of a hat. If I can move around doing daily stuff in character and rattle off the lines without thinking about them, I know I'm ready. Fortunately, my lack of self-consciousness knows no bounds, even when the people on the ellipticals next to me are weirded out.
Coming up, I have a project called being a dad. It's a long-term development thing I'll be starting around mid-February which will no doubt have the PCSF seeing an influx of plays about babies and their maniacal machinations.