This year, Steve Eley asked Jared Axelrod and I to participate in a live Escape Pod reading of Charlie Stross’s story “Rouge Farm”. Jared and I were cast as the leads – a couple who were struggling with themselves and each other.It was such an honor to read this story – knowing I was reading it before a live audience, for the huge audience that listens to Escape Pod, and for the author, was very exciting.
Jared and I knew that there were going to be lots of ears listening to this story and we wanted to make sure we did the best we could in honoring the text and the listeners. We decided to read through the story several times, and then to go through line by line and mark the beats and actions (minus the actions) in all of our lines. This is a technique that actors use in order to infuse their lines with more power, emotion and meaning. Boiled down, this means that you write out what your character is thinking when they speak. For example, a line like “Go get the car” might really mean “Fuck you, you stupid whore.”
In one way, it takes a lot of trust to do this – trust in the author that they really know what they are doing, that there are deeper meanings to the work. Of course, we were reading Charlie Stross, a brilliant author, so we knew what we were reading was excellent. It also led me to look deeper into the piece than I might have. Usually, when I read, and I read a lot, I read for sheer pleasure, for delight in words. I seldom go through a work line by line, taking apart motivations and thoughts of each individual sentence. It made me appreciate the story all the more, and appreciate how much of a craftsman Charlie Stross is.
This working of the story takes creativity for the interpretation. I did an experiment, where I read the lines in the most expressive way I could, not using this method, just trying to be animated. Then I went through those same lines and wrote out the beats. The difference was about a thousand times better. I hope this carried through in the reading. The cast was an all-star cast from the podcasting world and I was thrilled to be reading with them. I’m both nervous and excited to hear the final result. When it goes live, I'll be sure to post here with a link.
Photo by Sheila Dee