Cindy Lawford gives talks on plays. She gives them pre- or post-show, in theatres and in schools, wherever there is an audience that wants to learn a little more and try to experience a play more fully. She also hosts question-and-answer sessions, and she interviews directors, playwrights and academic experts. Further, she regularly writes programme notes and articles on theatre. She is convinced that there is no play, no matter how modern or familiar the setting, on which she cannot find something to say that will help people enjoy it more.
Cindy believes passionately that watching a play is a great challenge as well as a pleasure, and it is a challenge that we all, at times, find difficult to meet. Most of us cannot expect always to be able to walk into a theatre, switch off the noise in our heads, and open ourselves emotionally and intellectually to everything that is happening on stage. There are lines we don’t hear, lines we don’t quite understand, and lines we miss because maybe we were thinking about what was said ten seconds before. We fail to note expressions on some actors’ faces or are perplexed by them. We may not recognise the music, and we usually don’t grasp all the humour present in a play. We typically don’t know much about the historical and political background of the characters or even about the playwright.
Simply gaining more knowledge of the politics, history or science behind a play can help us not to miss so much that passes on stage. Sometimes anecdotes from a playwright’s life can illuminate a scene, and controversial issues of race, religion and sexual orientation almost always cry out for more exploration. In her talks, programme notes and articles, Cindy seeks to address this gap in knowledge and add piquancy to our experience of plays – easing the way, she dares to hope, for the production of more laughter and tears.
Her talks are short, usually about twenty minutes. They are relaxed, informal and, like her articles, packed with information but as un-academic as she can make them. She continually finds herself reflecting on the near impossibility of the task that most theatre audiences are faced with: at first sight and hearing, they are being asked to absorb completely a play that actors have worked with for weeks and a director for months or longer. Cindy aims to make the accomplishment of this task a little more possible.