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2nd play

Well, my feeling when I reviewed my script for Three Brothers when I was in Albuquerque that it was shit was pretty well held up by what I saw on stage. I wanted to cancel it but my brother had already bought a ticket, so I was committed. It was so depressing to see something so bad in front of me when I knew I had nobody to blame but myself for its horrible core of wandering dialogue; but I also had the actors to be angry at for some performances, when lines were dropped left and right and the whole thing was just a giant mess.

I had someone from the literary department of Royal Court come by and watch it and I don't suspect they'll be calling me any time soon. It's a learning experience, sure, but I wish they'd seen something I wrote more recently, and I have very much improved over the last two years.

Writing updates

My second play (the first I wrote) is going to be on stage the end of May and beginning of June, for four performances. In preparation for this, I'm ramping up for rewrites. I had to make some changes to get it down from a 90 minute show with five actors to a one hour show with three. Then that version of the script had a reading on Saturday. I've got all sorts of ideas about how to improve it now - add a bit more background about the failed marriages of one of the character, insert some monologues (to make it beautiful), give it an even more intense sense of place .... it's a lot of work but it should help polish it up by a whole star. Right now it's one verging on two, but I can get it up to three. After that, it's all about the actors and the director, none of which exist right now.

Meanwhile my heart is really focused on the new writing I want to do, for Mountains of Madness. I spent some time working on it over lunch today. I have so many ideas in my head, about icebergs and the sound of a ship being crushed slowly and movies of doomed ponies being loaded on that ship - it's hard to get it all out there and put the magic on paper. I thought it would be easy but I've just not been working on it at all. New writing requires energy and I only have it on weekends. Well, I guess that's what the trip to Albuquerque is all about, getting that magic to happen.

Then there's my idea bubbling around in my head, for a four woman show about the life of Queen Elizabeth done with original music of the era. I have a lot of research to do for that. No rush to write it - I expect I might be ready to start on in in June, when I go to Sardinia again.

And of course there's Space Age Love Songs, which I haven't even finished transcribing, much less started rewriting. Really, it seems like I have so much to do, but having the day job isn't really holding me back ... most of these ideas need to cook anyway. I do really hope this is the year I get three plays written, since last year was not.

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The play is out there

My first play has been on stage.

So many people came and saw it. It was awesome. I felt so supported.

I will do more. But I'd like to have other people producing them and not me - it's a headache!

Play planning

At the end of last year I planned to write three plays: Sins of the Mothers, Money Good, and A Dickens ' Christmas Story Adaptation tba. The year is ending with me having written Coffee Bean, and aiming to finish Space Age Love Songs and A Genderswitched Lovecraft Adaptation TBA. Next year I'm imagining Lovecraft II, Sins of the Mothers, and who knows what else new but a major rewrite of 3 Brothers in preparation for the Camden Fringe - maybe I'll get to do my Queen Caroline opera if my housemate has time to collaborate. Then 2017 will be Three Old Ladies TBA and La Bete Humaine as a ballet. Three new plays a year seems about right but what I never expected was for me to have to spend so much damned time doing rewrites!

Learning how to write

I've spent the last week sick as a dog (with tonsillitis), and it's given me lots of time ... well, to sleep, but in reality it's also given me the time I need to finish my Xmas Carol rewrites, if not the brilliant brain I'd like to make all of my writing coherent.

I've had a bit of time to think about this whole rewriting process. I expected that I'd write a play and then I'd hear people read it and I'd think, this bit is missing, this bit doesn't make sense ... but I didn't think I'd have to keep rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Maybe I thought I'd have to add 20 minutes to fill out a minimum length, or five minutes to let a character get off stage and change her clothes ... or rewrite something from 5 actors to 3 so it could be done affordably in a fringe environment. but I didn't expect I'd be rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, a million things changing again and again ...and the whole experience of writing on a computer is not what I was expecting, I can't just easily find the changes I made and I'm going back to old printed out bits when I'm looking for something I cut earlier so I don't have to make it back up again ...

But I guess what I'm doing is trying to learn how to write plays that work on stage. I know I'm on the right track, because I hear people say things I wrote and they make me laugh and even nearly make me cry - it's the miracle of having actual actors take my little scrawlings and give them life - and there is a monster there that will sit up and walk when they breathe on it. But making actual plays, real plays, not literary works in the form of plays, there's a magic in the flow from one sentence to the next, a lack of room for flab, a feeling of inevitability that has to be conjured in a short time on stage ... and I can't lose my audience or they'll walk out, which is actually a bit more heinous than having someone put down a book as they can come back to it if they want. If I were in college, I would have had several years of my things being done to learn what tweaks help to make it happen, but now I have to learn the much more expensive way, with actors that need to live off of their work, and me just grinding and grinding away in hopes of making even one hour that shines. And I don't think my Xmas Carol will be as good as I want it to be, three stars at best, and it's because it's fatally flawed as a script and I can't figure out what I need to do to make it right. But I'll get it as good as I can before we go on stage in December, and I'll have learned a lot by doing this, and for my next plays, they will be better for it as well. And I'm learning what I need to do to make a play happen: keep your eyes peeled for Three Brothers at the 2016 Camden Fringe, and a cross-cast HP Lovecraft adaptation at the 2016 London Horror Festival.

Writing

Had the reading of my 2nd play last night. Man, I have a lot of work to do to make it better, and I may not have it in me to make it really good. But I'm committed now. It was kind of amazing to hear my words spoken by the talented people who were on stage and go, "Oh, I see, now it makes sense, when a person who can read these words says them."

Also I'm frustrated about how much rewriting I'm doing in general. Now, the Finborough says you shouldn't send something to them until it is about the fourth draft, but as soon as I put something down I'm ready to work on the next thing. Right now it's totally killing me that I'm doing Xmas Carol rewrites instead of working on Space Age Love Songs. Except, well, right now, really, I'm bubbling over with ideas for Xmas Carol and want to get them on paper. But the point is: I'm frustrated that I'm supposed to spend so much time doing rewrites. I want it to be right when I write The End and then just move on. But I suppose in theater more than any other kind of writing, this really just isn't possible, if you want to actually take the words you put on paper and see them as the heart of a creative endeavor - you must keep the work moving forward just as much as the director needs to do the actors and blocking.

Anyway - time to find my pocket copy of Xmas Carol and head out to work.

More writing firsts

I sat down yesterday and talked with a director about my play Xmas Carol. It was a really emotionally difficult meeting because, well, I was having someone talk to me about my baby and my decisions and questioning one after another choice I had made. But for me it was amazing how, for nearly two hours, I was able to explain why I had made so many of the choices I had in the script. "See, here Cameron is starting to be repulsed by Thatcher's philosophies and he's starting to draw away ...." It was hard to believe I'd thought so hard about it while writing it but also hard to believe I'd remembered so much about the process. We had one dispute, though, over the use of Jimmy Saville as a character: he thinks it will cause me to lose my audience. I can't tell. So we're intending on having a staged reading in October to find out. I love it - we're going to do a test with a play!

Now I have lots more work to do but I'm excited about updating it and pushing some of the relationships to raise the comedy level. The whole idea, though, of having script writing be an interactive activity is a very odd one for me - but I'm writing plays, not books. They need to read on stage and I can't see that on the page.

space age love songs

I'm telling people about my new story and the characters and mandroid dance routines and suddenly it feels like I'm about ready to start writing my next play.

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Building my writing muscles

I'm having an interesting time learning how to write. I thought my ideas would spring fully-formed out of my forehead, but what I'm seeing now is it's more like a pen of puppies in Darwinian combat, tussling with each other, growing bigger and stronger until one of them reaches critical mass and I have to pick her up out of the pen and take her home with me. I have a pretty constant stream of idea coming out - the Madness musical actually set me off with several, and then over dinner last night with J a few more percolated out - but they just seem to need a whole lot more care and feeding before they're actually ready for me to work on them.

Last night's idea - kicked off by the Madness musical - is Space Age Love Songs. It's a romance between a boy and a girl living in a dystopian future where they're being brought up at a school for clones/replicants/meat puppets/"mandroids" - he's a robot in love with this girl who works there as a cleaner. He is being trained for a horrible job in the mines of the moon - I imagine this being Roy Beatty's childhood - then after discovering a horrible conspiracy/saving the world, comes back to Earth to be with his love - only to discover they were both part of an experiment in which human and clone "children" were switched to prove that clone education does actually produce human-normal responses in its subjects. And she's a clone and has to go work off-planet as a prostitute, and is taken away from him forever.

But then I thought I could blend this with another story I've been thinking about, which is about me growing up and being an unloved nerdy goth in Phoenix, my friends and romantic fancies all being gay men, and I'll just switch back and forth between one story and another. The end will be college, or something. There will be lots of excellent 80s music. I'm excited. I think I may be ready to write.

A week of milestones as a playwright

This morning I'm having a meeting of my production team - essentially Jason and Arwen - who are helping me get my playreading together for tomorrow. My housemate, David, the theatrical accompanist, jumped in on it too - enticed in by waffles and bacon, I think.

It's the first time I've ever seen my work rehearsed - on Sunday, the ten minute reading for Blackshaw. It was freaky to have a director talking about the characters (who are all people I knew - or am) as if she knew them herself, but she saw them very differently than I did (and I couldn't help but think she saw them wrong). She said the character that was me was "delusional" - and, in addition, she was played by an actress who was a different race from me, which caused extremely interesting feelings of seeing myself in a very different mirror. The actress was very good, even though seeing her painfully revealed to me what a saddo I was at 23. I just very generally just had to let go, of my life and of the work - and learning to let go is, I guess, part of what I have to learn about how to "be" a playwright.

I've also been learning about being a playwright from listening to the Exeunt Magazine podcast about playwriting, which has given me the opportunity to listen to all sorts of other writers talking about what they do and why and how. I don't really know many other playwrights, so this was a really amazing chance to pretend I did and they were talking to me and warning me a bit about what was to come.

One of the big takeaways from this morning is, though while I really want to get out of the reading tomorrow is some feedback about whether or not the musical bits are working, we're not going to be able to do that - I need to focus on dialogue. I'm dying to know if the scenes with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Don't Think Twice," and "Punk Rock Girl" actually work right. In the staged reading on Wednesday, I specifically asked the audience if they understood what the meaning was of "Don't Think Twice," but sadly because of when the music got cut off I'd be surprised if they even figured out what the song was much less what it meant.

I've been too busy to write about anything much lately but I wanted to hit this. Life is changing. It's all a very exciting time.

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