Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maternity Wardens

So, due to - y'know - moving to New York City, holding down a full-time job before that, and then directing/producing A Midsummer Night's Dream prior to that (phew!) all in the month of August, 31 Plays in 31 Days has gotten less attention from me.

Wall and Thisbe from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 2012
However, I did manage to write a play based on something I saw on the NYC subway a few days ago.  There was this real Wall Street guy sitting across from me.  Handsome, but with a very stern face, like he was refusing to grant the world a smile.

However, next to him was this adorable little Oriental girl in a stroller.  She wasn't doing anything particularly noteworthy, just sitting there being four years old, but she caught the eye of Wall Street man.  And he started grinning at her.  A little duckling of a grin.

His eyes became softer.  One could almost see stars and pink roses and fluffy forest creatures emanating out of his gaze as he looked at her.  It was both beautiful and highly amusing how much Wall Street Man melted.

We came to a stop, and Wall Street man immediately put on his sour look again.  He caught my eye, and his face become more poker like.  Not trying to dissuade him, I glanced away - still keeping the guy in my periphery - and sure enough, as soon as the train started up again and everyone become pointedly anonymous, his gaze went right back to that little girl and his face expressed "Oh!  If only!"-ness.

A few stops later, Wall Street Man went off...and was immediately replaced by Wall Street Man #2.  This fellow was buffer, cooler looking.  He didn't look stern; his poker face read Bored, Now.

But sure enough - one look at that little girl in her stroller, and Buff Wall Street Man melted into daisies and candy canes and wistfulness and yearning as much as Dour Wall Street guy had.

Hence, this play.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Directors can be Playwrights, too!

Preach it, Jeffrey Sweet!

There's a saying that never, ever, ever under ANY circumstances should a playwright be allowed to direct their own works.  And while it's true that some of the pieces of mine I've directed I need a little bit more time and perhaps another pair of eyes to help out in round two, by and large, I find that I can playwright/revise better when I do it in the rehearsal room.  As Mr. Sweet put it:

Also it mustn't be forgotten that some people write in rehearsal as they direct.  Their writing process is to direct....Writers who are also directors may indeed face the problem of objectivity as they stage their own stuff, but many others have the discipline and professionalism to know how to adjust for this. That's what you have other collaborators for – the actors, the designers, the producer, and the rest of the people in the room who are presumably there because they know something about how to make theatre.  Directors with any sense will pay attention to and solicit advice from colleagues.
 Check out his entire article!  And then his blog. Good stuff!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Write What You Know...But Don't Post It

So, as many of you know, I've joined the 31 Plays in 31 Days group, which is basically NaNoWriMo for playwriting.

And as many of you also know, I think I can safely brag that I'm no slouch when it comes to writing new plays.

So imagine my surprise, then, when on the first day of writing...I found myself completely out of ideas.

Ladies and gentlemen, This. Simply. Does. Not. Happen.

Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors of All Time, writes several times in his novels (such as in Wyrd Sisters) that he believes the universe is full of ideas that just sleet down through the sky.  Most people may only be hit a few times in their lives - while there are some other (un)fortunate few who, like specially tuned magnets, are pummeled with this ideological sleet nearly every moment of their lives.

He then goes on to make fun of William Shakespeare and the musical Cats, which can only be to the good, but the idea of ideas sleeting from the sky has always seemed an apt metaphor.

Most authors lament that the first question anyone wants to ask them is: "How did you come up with that idea?!?"  Much like the actor's dreaded, "How did you memorize all those lines?!?!?" this question is both impractical and infuriating to answer.  How did I come up with that idea?  Why the idea has been there all along.  It lodged itself in me, and I've been trying to exorcise it from me ever since!  (Actors in this regard have it considerably easier, since they "merely" have to memorize someone else's ideas, which they can then keep or more usually discard as pleases them.  Lucky actors.)

So, again, imagine my surprise when on day one of writing, I sit down to my computer...and have nothing to say.

What surprised me, more, is that all the usual suspects bobbed to the surface, only to disappear soon after.  They were all too long; too involved for a day's worth of writing.  Too much for a page or five.

I stared at the screen.

It stared at me.

I waited for the universe to sleet down ideas.

The universe was silent.

And so I was forced to go to that well within me, and lo and behold, I ended up writing a very personal play.  That was followed by a completely useless Mr. Bean-lite, and another David Ivesian pursuit of verbal futility...and then another dangerously personal play.  And one more - a musical, this time, naturally.

As a result, I've absolutely nothing I'm going to show anyone right now!

What surprised me about the need to move inward was that I have long been a proponent of "Write What is True and Mask It."  Being a fan of fantasy, I enjoy a distancing device - be it poetry, or dance, or another country, or another time.  I enjoy style.  I find it stylish.  Nor do I think that there's dishonesty in those pieces I've written stylistically.  As Stephen Sondheim wrote, "Content Dictates Form."

But what style also allows for is presentation.  Should I post at least three of the five plays I've written so far, there are those who would recognize themselves (and myself) right away.  I was interested to see, as well, how much those three plays were done in silence (always saving the musical, where one can sing what one feels). 

I feel like it's been a while since I've really had a good silent scene (a la Hamlet about 6 min in, or Romeo and Juliet about 16 minutes in, or my most recent Macbeth in the silence after we killed all the Macduffs) - and silence is always more revealing.

We'll see what comes in the remainder of the month!  But what about you?  Do you draw primarily from within or are you pelted from without?  Sound off in the comments!  And if you have time, make sure you join up for this great playwriting adventure!