As White as O…No

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on October 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I love new plays.  I love playwrights.  I love the excitement of the theater and the celebration that comes when a fresh voice gets its first hot lights…  But there’s a lot to be said for the process one takes in earning that spotlight (both personally and materialistically – a playwright and his/her material must survive the vetting process for a reason!) and I don’t love when something not yet ripe comes along and eats up my time.

Because I wouldn’t do that to you.

But let’s slow down.

The play is As White as O, and bless their hearts, the actors and director put a whole lot of love into it.  I can understand why- it’s a play about artists and art… and if there’s one thing we artists love, it’s to  wax poetic about… well, ourselves.  The play also explores themes of guilt, familial duty, madness, and love, all tied up in an awkward bow of synthesia (the title a much repeated mantra of both the suffering main character and his mother since, to their Synthestethic (spelling?) minds, the letter “O” is an alluring, brilliant white)  But this laundry list of themes is just the problem- the play is all over the place, looping and spiraling among them, never taking the time to land and explore fully why these people, why this world, why right now?  Making me believe that the playwright didn’t hone her work.  She didn’t go back into this blocky sculpture and carve away at the excessive bits.  (And at 2 hours, 30 minutes there’s much to be trimmed)

And while happy are the actors who are handed self-indulgent material like this, the two simply feed on one another, making for especially seat-squirming melodrama.  The actors believe and bleed for her, but they cannot make up for the fact that this script simply was not ready for performance.

Which is why I got so grumpy.

Because, as a playwright, I strive to make something the best I possiblly can before I ask anyone to read it, much less think to ask anyone to pay to see it!  That’s my job!  If I am so bold as to sing “Let me entertain you!” I better damn well be entertaining!  And whether it was because she simply hadn’t the dramaturgical chops barking at her for a new draft, or because she in her exuberance thought the script was ready, I’ll never know.  I do know that it was her first play (those lovely program notes) and that is exactly what it felt like.

Which isn’t to say the play doesn’t have promise, just that its self-indulgence will take more than a few more rewrites to write away.

And I hope it doesn’t come across as snide or distasteful to discuss here… it’s just that I’m at a stage in my theatrical life that I can see the difference now. That I can even look back over my own body of work and see some of the early youth and naivete – and I can smile.  Because that means that I am growing, as a playwright and hopefully too as a person, which is a wonderful thing indeed.

…The kind of thing that I hope this playwright learns…

It’s the kind of thing that makes you go “O!”

  1. I know that I have a tough time sometimes “seeing” the excess without “hearing” the excess. But isn’t that what readings rather than productions are for? Call me old-fashioned, but that’s what I always thought!

  2. I ain’t arguing that! I think the director (also an actor) just fell in love with it and went crazy… It’s the only thing I can think- otherwise, workshop that puppy till it’s in better shape!

  3. I know one of the actors- apparently they weren’t “happy” about the self-indulgent material, and they were longing for cuts. It’s a shame, considering the caliber of the talent involved.

  4. Ahh, considering that I think they did an excellent job not showing their ire. The actors really did give their all to that show… it’s one of the reasons it was so obvious that the playwright hadn’t done as much as she could.

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