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Revamped 'Here Lies Joyland' has First Reading

Bailey Rose Steinke stares into the unknown as Jenna at Joyland Premiere.

Monday marked the first reading of the brand new draft of Here Lies Joylandwhich has undergone a notable make-over since its humble beginnings in Kansas City, MO. 

Joyland takes place in a real abandoned amusement park in Wichita, Kansas, where four teens break inside the rusted gates for a night of adventurous mischief and hopefully the rekindling of a friendship. Yet, innocent adventure turns swiftly to emanate danger, and the secrets of the past become secrets no more.

Joyland premiered at the 2017 Kansas City Fringe Festival where it was awarded 'Best of Fringe' for its venue at the Westport Coffee House. It is set to be produced as an Undergraduate Stage Reading at the University of Central Missouri in the Spring. Genre: Super-Naturalism/Macabre theatre.

I was both encouraged at the reading by the overall flow of this new version, which is much more unified than its previous incarnation, as well as informed of the 'holes' that still exist within the script. These informal readings are invaluable to playwrights, especially in the early stages of a new draft. 

The people involved in a reading, both actors and listeners, can make the difference between a successful and informative session and something less-productive. I am incredibly grateful for the friends I have made in Chicago and their professionalism. I am especially grateful for my dear friend and actor, Darrington Clark, who helped organize the event and led the subsequent feedback session. 

The actors reading at Monday's event included Christie Coran (Sam), Sam Massey (Doug), Stephanie Bignault (Jenna), Darrington Clark (Avery), Celeste Richard (Louis the Clown), and Andrew Garcia (Stage Directions. 

The new Joyland contains some additions that would be unrecognizable to audience members of the production in Kansas City. Perhaps, the most prominent example is the inclusion fo a new character, Doug. Doug is the older and less-mature friend of Sam's who provokes the group and serves as Jenna's personal tormentor. Other changes seen involve a newly directed plot that focuses less on the presence of ghosts in the park and more on the misguided desires of the teens themselves. The character of H. from the original play has been omitted entirely. Another notable alteration pertains to the character of Louis the Clown, who is featured in this version and has speaking lines. 

Following the play reading, the actors and myself reconvened to begin a guided critical response session led by Darrington Clark and utilizing the Liz Lermon five step process. I have been a huge fan of the Lermon CRP, and have used it in all of the readings I have hosted. Usually, I play the part of the moderator, but given that we were discussing my own play, it no longer seemed appropriate. Darrington, also a fan of Lermon's process, guided the group through each of the five stages by rigidly dictating what types of comments and questions are allowed, and when to make them. And, as usually, the firm structure of the CRP allowed for fun among the participants as well as an incredibly helpful discussion for the playwright. 

I thank all who were involved in the reading on Monday and who stayed after for drinks and socializing. I am excited to continue my work on this play.

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