The reading was great-which means that the actors were good, and they gave the play their all, and now I see more clearly what still needs to be fixed in the script to prepare it for production.
First up, Ella needs a new context or event, a trigger that will bring the audience directly into her world. I had written her speech as if she addressed a PR rep, but the stakes are not high enough. Heidi had an idea that I think will lend the speech more urgency. So I'm working on that.
As I think about Ella (which is section one) I realize that I have contorted the play's context because I have been in love with the first lines I thought of for the character. If I throw out those lines in Ella-more poetic than the rest of the play, and always a bit out of sync with it-and put the character in a new situation, it may work much better. This speech needs a fierceness of tone and imagery that it doesn't have at the moment.
Paula (section two) is in good shape. I will trim as much as I can in the next few weeks, to speed up the action.
Madeline (section three) works, but needs some cuts and a better transition into the final scene.
It will be truly funny if I cannot make any of these things happen, and people who read this post come to see the production in June, and see all the problems I have mentioned unresolved! That's the exciting thing about writing drama: the risk involved forces you to keep refreshing your artistic tricks, instead of going along relying on things you do well and comfortably.
Ideally, what I write ought to be something I would like to see or read. That is not always the case-and I can measure my displeasure with the printed or staged work by the degree to which I tried to make it something it wasn't. I think I am making Ella something the section doesn't want to be. The material's resistance to all my efforts tells me that I am not saying what I actually need or want to say with this script. What is needed is for the author and the character to let rip. I think Paula and Madeline are almost there. So Ella has all of my attention now.