In an unusual move, the new play, “Man in Motion,” written by local stage and television writer D. Paul Yeuell, will be introduced to its first live audience in the form of a table-reading at the Malibu Playhouse this Saturday.
Yeuell chose the format as “a good way to determine whether the material is ready for full production and maybe generate the interest of a repertory company with resources to get the play on its feet.”
Eleven actors will sit onstage facing the house and read directly from the script. Real-life Malibu married couple Jamey Sheridan and Colette Kilroy, both veteran actors, are taking on lead roles alongside a cast that includes TV/film actor Gil Bellows and eight others.
“I asked people who I know are bomb-proof,” Yeuell laughed.
Kilroy plays a professional midwife “in an incredible predicament, being witness to the complications of the household.”
Although she’ll be acting next to her real-life husband, she said, “Jamey and I will not rehearse together beforehand – we’ll see what happens in the group. I steer clear of talking about characters with actors, even my husband … For me, it’s best to discover in the playing together.”
Normally, a “table read” is a behind-the-scenes step in the pre-production process attended only by staff, with the actors bringing their characters to life for the first time behind closed doors. At this event, the audience will be folded into the process.
“Man in Motion” is based on the true story of Eadweard Muybridge, covering 40 years of an action-packed life in California after the Gold Rush. An eccentric English immigrant, West Coast photographer and inventor, he developed the technology for motion picture photography and projection during the 1870s and 1880s, laying the groundwork for the birth of the film industry.
“It’s a great story that Paul skillfully unfolds, interweaving Muybridge’s debut of amazing footage of animals in motion at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his murder trial. The testimony at the trial is the device for telling what happened the night of the murder. It’s a great story, and that’s what draws me into projects,” said Malibu local and successful producer Randy Olson.
Until Muybridge’s invention and the ability to watch frames of film in slow motion, no one could tell for sure whether all four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at the same time. Some of these very short first films will be shown at the reading.
In 1875, Muybridge became the center of a sensational murder trial for killing his young wife’s lover. It was one of the first court trials to receive national news coverage due to another new technology (the telegraph), making him the O.J. Simpson of his day. It’s not a plot spoiler to say the jury’s verdict was just as sensational as the crime.
Yeuell, who was the script coordinator for the TV drama “Damages,” among others, said his work in the TV industry helped influence “Man in Motion.”
“A big benefit of the position was watching the writers – and some of them were giants – revise scenes and sharpen the drama. The way they plotted ‘Damages,’ they gave you what was going to happen at the beginning, so what was interesting was not so much what happened as how it happened. I adopted that approach in ‘Man in Motion.’ You find out right away in the play that he’s shot a man, so the cat’s out of the bag.”
Kilroy said she, “Likes table readings because it’s the first time a group of actors and the rest of a creative team can gather to hear the play. It carries the actor’s first impulse with the material, which is often the best. It’s also the first time you get in the ring together, which can be surprising and fun.”
Yeuell hopes to learn from the live reading whether any parts are too long or too difficult, and gather feedback from the audience at the reception afterwards.
The production team is renting the Malibu Playhouse for the event on Saturday, May 31 at 6:00 p.m. Godmother of Malibu will cater the reception following the reading. Tickets are available online only for $25 at brownpapertickets. com/event/699090.