If Kimberly Harding limited herself to the third time’s the charm effort, who knows if she would have witnessed her vision manifest.
Harding has spent eight years perfecting her play, “Between Goodbye and Hello,” a drama that follows a married couple, Nena and Phillip Michaels.
The playwright has eight drafts of the play, which is an elongated process many theatrical works undergo. Character development, plot and the ending have been edited in the course.
The work began as a short story, first outlined by Harding in the 90s, following a wife who is living with a secret that her husband seeks to find. The main setting of the tale is in the Michaels’ home.
“I don’t think that people know that a play goes through this process before you see it on stage or in film,” Harding said. “It could’ve taken a playwright 20 years to write it.”
The Essential Theatre’s Play Reading Series, “Writing for Life,” allows for playwrights like Harding to see their scripts spoken aloud on a given platform. The artist can then revise their work once they hear the story expressed.
Actors are placed in given roles and simply read the play. Naturally, little stage blocking is incorporated but emotion and vibrato is a must during play readings.
“This is my first full-length play,” Harding said. “These characters have just been with me for a long time. In my mind I see it as a mini-series, but I thought to at least put it on stage because that’s a language that I know.”
Before putting words on paper, Harding was experiencing much loss in her life. That time gave her inspiration to pull from, using that melancholy to create this fiction.
The full-time professor at Florida A&M said the play is estimated to be two hours.
“I wrote what the characters told me to write,” she said. “I think that it’s a character-driven play and not necessarily a plot-driven play. That may be a weakness, but I don’t know. I guess I will find out.”
Luther D. Wells, director of the play reading, “Between Hello and Goodbye,” said the actors come from all over Tallahassee and neighboring towns. Availability, character traits and chemistry are things producers look for when selecting their reading cast.
“Even though (the play) is not up and running, people still need to be able to tap into the emotions and intentions of the character,” Wells said. “It’s still an oral presentation rather than acting.”
Play reading is a crucial method in getting writers to revisit their plays, Wells added.
“It’s my job to help the writer bring the characters to life,” Wells said. “I also try to analyze the play. I think it helps if the writer (can) divorce themselves from it, hand it over to someone else, and be open to new ideas.”
That last play reading that this tale hit was in 2014, at the Black Theatre Network Conference in Atlanta.
The Portsmorth, Virginia native got her start in theater after being immersed at a young age. Her mother was an orchestra teacher who exposed her students to musicals often.
“I just enjoyed the magic of the theater,” Harding said.
The play reading of “Between Goodbye and Hello,” takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Ronald O. Davis Acting studio in Tucker Hall and Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $3.